Page last updated at 14:00 GMT, Monday, 25 January 2010

Hawick pays tribute to its most famous son

Bill McLaren funeral
The residents of Hawick lined the town's High Street to pay their last respects to the commentator Bill McLaren

By Giancarlo Rinaldi
South of Scotland reporter, BBC Scotland news website

The people of Hawick turned out in force to say farewell to one of their most famous sons.

Some of them squeezed into the little Teviot Church, others stood quietly outside while many lined the High Street to pay their respects.

All this for Bill McLaren, the "voice of rugby", a man they all seemed proud to call one of their own.

A cold, grey Borders morning did not dissuade people from coming to honour the great sporting commentator.

His grandson, Gregor Lawson, told all those who gathered to pay tribute that his grandfather might well have wondered what all the fuss was about and what they were all doing there.

Bill McLaren
Bill McLaren said a day away from Hawick was a day wasted

However, what shone through from his funeral service was that Bill McLaren was something out of the ordinary.

He was clearly well-loved by his family, respected by the sporting world and viewed with great affection by his community.

It was a feeling which was definitely reciprocated for, wherever he went, he was proud of his Borders roots - and handed out his favourite sweets, Hawick Balls.

They were given out to mourners at his funeral.

The service was attended by family, friends and famous figures from the world of rugby.

They were all given a small insight into different aspects of the man.

Great man

His grandson spoke movingly of his "Papa", a man with a sweet-tooth, a quick tongue and great love of his family.

"We're here to lay to rest a great man," he said.

"A great Hawick man, a great rugby man and a great family man."

There was also a tribute in verse delivered expertly by Ian Landles to the "Man that oo ca' Bill".

It captured the spirit of a man who rose to the top of his profession and yet never got "gey big-heided".

Finally, the Reverend Neil Combe drew proceedings to a close by trying to sum up what could be learned from Bill McLaren.

"Bill never, ever took his gifts and skills for granted," he said.

The minister said Bill had nearly been killed by tuberculosis as a young man but used that "experience and adversity" to turn his life in a different direction.

"Had it not been for that we would never have had the voice of rugby," he added.

Teviot Church
People queued to make their way into the Teviot Church for the service

It was a role which earned him tributes the world over but none would probably have meant more to him than to be honoured by his own folk.

He once said that a day away from his hometown was "a day wasted".

That affection was returned by local residents who lined the route of his funeral cortege as it made its way through Hawick.

A round of applause broke out as it passed along the town's High Street towards his final resting place.

All sections of the community appeared to have turned out to pay their last respects to a man who put the town on the world sporting map.

Many bowed their heads for a moment to think of their own favourite memory of Bill McLaren.

There was no dancing in the streets of Hawick - simply quiet pride and respect.

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