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Tributes to Bill McLaren

19 January 10 16:37 GMT

Legendary Rugby Union commentator Bill McLaren has died aged 86.

McLaren, from Hawick, was known as the "voice of rugby" after almost 50 years as a national broadcaster.

In November 2001, McLaren became the first non-international to be inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame.

He retired in 2002, having made his first appearance on BBC radio in 1953.

He received an OBE, CBE and MBE for services to the sport and combined his work as a broadcaster with that of a PE teacher until 1987.

Here, the rugby and broadcasting community share their thoughts on one of the game's great scholars and a gentleman.

SIR IAN McGEECHAN, Former Scotland & British and Irish Lions coach

"For me growing up, Bill was the voice of rugby alongside Cliff Morgan. You will never know how many people Bill brought to the game by the way he commentated.

"He was an absolute gentleman, totally unbiased. He had the knack of always looking for the best in players and had a massive positive impact on us.

"I don't think anyone could ever estimate just what his value has been to the game and what he has done.

"But above all Bill didn't just have a massive impact because of rugby. It was also because of his knowledge and understanding of people."

GAVIN HASTINGS, former Scotland & Lions captain

"First and foremost, Bill was a very proud and passionate Scot but such was his professionalism that you never really have known that.

"He always remained very unbiased in his commentary and I think that that was unquestionably one of his endearing qualities. He was just such a gentleman as well.

"I will always remember I had the good fortune to be along side him in the commentary box on a number of occasions.

"One of the times that I will always remember being there, he said, 'Now son, if you want to speak, just tug away at my coat'.

"I was keen to say something so I kept tugging away at his coat for what seemed like about five minutes before he allowed me to speak.

"It was just the sort of passion of the man that he got so much into the game and that was just the way he was.

"He will be sadly missed. He was a wonderful commentator and he just brought the world of rugby into so many people's homes."

MARTIN JOHNSON, England manager

"He was the iconic voice of rugby who many of us grew up with and he will be sadly missed."

ANDY IRVINE, former Scotland captain

"He had the most magnificent voice, a great Hawick twang. And he had great experience of the game.

"I don't think people understand just how dedicated he was. He researched the game more than anyone I can think of."

GREGOR TOWNSEND, Scotland attack coach

"As a youngster, I used to cut out the articles Bill wrote in The Herald.

"I remember he wrote about me when I played for Gala against Melrose and he had such a technical grasp of the game and was able to offer advice for things for a young player to work on. He knew his rugby all right.

"I first met him when it was my first season for Scotland. As part of Bill's preparation, he would come along and watch the team train on the Friday.

"If you were lucky Bill would give you a Hawick Ball (the famous minty sweets that he carried with him in a tin). I'm a Gala man but Bill would always say to me I was his wife's favourite when he handed over the sweeties.

"Bill was fantastic. A Scot and a Borderer - a global rugby figure that everybody held in the highest regard."

CHRIS PATERSON, Scotland's most-capped player

"I was shattered when I heard the news and I feel so sorry for his friends and family.

"On a personal level, I grew up listening to him and he made rugby sound both entertaining and interesting.

"Later on, I had to pinch myself when I played in games that he commentated on. I don't think there'll be anybody like him again and he will be missed."


"Bill McLaren was for decades the voice of rugby.

"His brilliance, dedication and sheer love of his sport made him one of the most recognisable commentators ever; and the sport of rugby in turn both loved and respected him as their television champion, not least for some of the wonderful phrases he could conjure up in the course of a live broadcast.

"Beyond that, he was one of the warmest and kindest of men, and no one who met him could fail to be impressed by him."

KEN MacQUARRIE, BBC Scotland Director

"Bill McLaren was one of the true broadcasting greats whose voice was synonymous with rugby both in Scotland and throughout the world.

"His knowledge and passion for the game was second to none and his commentaries helped make international rugby matches a major part of the sporting calendar every year for our audiences.

"A tremendously modest man, Bill was the ultimate professional who always went out of his way to help the many colleagues who worked alongside him over the years.

"He also worked tirelessly to support youngsters keen to learn more about the game he loved, especially in his home town. To those who knew him closest though, Bill was known as a wonderfully loyal friend and a devoted family man."

JOHN THORBURN, Hawick club secretary

"We're devastated, obviously. We've got a room named after him at the rugby club.

"It was very close to his heart, Hawick rugby club.

"He's a huge loss to rugby worldwide."

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