William Pollock McLaren rugby union commentator, teacher, journalist and one time rugby player. Known as 'the voice of rugby', he retired from commentating in 2002. Renowned throughout the sport, his enthusiasm and memorable turn of phrase endeared him to many.(16 October 1923 – 19 January 2010) was a Scottish
William Pollock McLaren
16 October 1923
|Died||19 January 2010 86) (aged|
Hawick, Roxburghshire, Scotland
|Known for||Sports commentating, sports journalism, rugby player|
|Relatives||Alan Lawson (son in law)|
Rory Lawson (grandson)
Jim Thompson (grandson)
As a young boy, he was steeped in local rugby stories:
I was brought up on stories of the great Scottish players of the twenties, many of whom I never saw play but knew all about... I used to go with my father to see matches at a very early age, the great Hawick heroes including Willie Welsh, Jock Beattie and Jerry Foster, so I had an all-consuming desire to wear the green jersey of Hawick.
He served with the Royal Artillery in Italy during the Second World War, including the Battle of Monte Cassino. He was used as a forward spotter, and on one occasion was confronted by a mound of 1,500 corpses in an Italian churchyard, an unpleasant experience which never left him.
He played in a Scotland trial in 1947 and was on the verge of a full international cap before contracting tuberculosis. The disease nearly killed him and forced him to give up playing. He spent 19 months in a sanatorium in East Fortune (East Lothian), where he was given an experimental drug, streptomycin, which saved his life. However, of the five patients given the drug, only two survived. While in the hospital, he began his broadcasting career, by commenting on table tennis games on the hospital radio.
McLaren studied Physical Education in Aberdeen, and went on to teach PE in different schools throughout Scotland right through to 1987. He coached several Hawick youngsters who went on to play for Scotland, including Jim Renwick, Colin Deans and Tony Stanger.
McLaren's journalistic career started as a junior reporter with the Hawick Express. In 1953, he made his national debut for BBC Radio, covering Scotland's 12–0 loss to Wales. He switched to television commentary six years later. McLaren was one of many post-war commentators who progressed from commentating on BBC Radio to BBC Television during the infancy of television broadcasting in the UK. These included Murray Walker (motor racing/Formula One), Peter O'Sullevan (horse racing), Harry Carpenter (boxing and rowing), Dan Maskell (tennis), David Coleman (athletics), Peter Alliss (golf) and John Arlott (cricket).
Recognition of his services came in November 2001, when he became the first non-international to be inducted into the International Rugby Hall of Fame. He was awarded an MBE in 1992, an OBE in 1995 and a CBE in the 2003 honours list. A Facebook group, backed by over 6,000 members, was campaigning to gain a knighthood for McLaren.
During his final commentary, Wales v Scotland in 2002, the crowd sang "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow" and one Welsh supporter displayed a banner claiming "Bill McLaren is Welsh".
In later life, McLaren contracted Alzheimer's; he had been renowned for his excellent memory.
McLaren was married to Bette, with whom he had two daughters Linda (born 1952) and Janie (born 1954, died 2000). He has 2 famous sons-in-law, Linda married former Scotland rugby scrum half Alan Lawson and Janie married horse racing commentator Derek Thompson. They had five grandchildren, 3 through Linda, Scotland scrum-half and Gloucester player Rory, Morphsuits co-founder and former Scotland 7s player Gregor and a daughter Lindsay. Then 2 through Janie, former Edinburgh and Scotland 7s player Jim Thompson and other son Alex.
McLaren died on 19 January 2010 at the age of 86 in his home town of Hawick.His funeral took place on 25 January at Teviot Church in Hawick, followed by a private burial at the town's Wellogate Cemetery after his hearse was applauded through the town of Hawick by hundreds of well-wishers who lined the streets to pay their respects to the "Voice of Rugby".
On 11 March 2010, thousands of people attended a memorial celebration of Bill McLaren's life held at Murrayfield Stadium in the week leading up to that year's Calcutta Cup match which was played at the stadium. The event combined show reels of some of McLaren's most famous moments and some of McLaren's favourite music including a specially recorded performance of Caledonia by Dougie MacLean and a performance by Ronnie Browne of The Corries. Many notable names from rugby and broadcasting attended the event with several sharing their own memories of Bill as a commentator, teacher, friend and family member. Among those to speak were McLaren's grandson Rory Lawson who competed for Scotland in the Calcutta Cup two days later.
McLaren has continued to be honoured for his legacy in Hawick and in the sport of rugby. A statue was unveiled in Wilton Park in Hawick in February 2013 followed in November that year by a bust of McLaren in the main reception area of Murrayfield Stadium. McLaren was named among the inaugural members of the Scottish Rugby Hall of Fame in 2010 and inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame during Rugby World Cup 2015.
Bill McLaren Foundation
- Bill McLaren: the voice of Rugby Union, BBC Sport, 24 January 2002.
- Vale Bill McLaren, we'll never see your like again, The Roar. Retrieved 21 January 2010.
- McLaren, p6
- Butler, Eddie (20 January 2010). "Bill McLaren obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- "Bill McLaren". The Daily Telegraph. London. 19 January 2010. Archived from the original on 24 May 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- "Thousands back McLaren knighthood". BBC News. 10 September 2009. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
- McLaren says farewell, BBC Sport, 6 April 2002.
- McLaren, Bill (2003). Rugby's Great Heroes and Entertainers. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0-340-82764-5.
- Bill McLaren: Scotland's legendary voice of rugby mourned across world – The Scotsman
- "Bill McLaren, the 'voice of rugby', dies aged 86". BBC News. 19 January 2010. Archived from the original on 22 January 2010. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
- Stuart, Lewis (25 January 2010). "Hundreds gather for funeral of Bill McLaren, the voice of rugby". The Times. London. Retrieved 25 January 2010.
- "Final farewell for Bill McLaren". BBC News. 25 January 2010. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- "Thousands gather at Murrayfield to pay tribute to Bill McLaren 'the voice of rugby'". The Scotstman. 11 March 2010. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- "Bill McLaren statue to be unveiled at Murrayfield". BBC News. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- "Scottish Rugby Hall of Fame Inductees 2010". Scottish Rugby. Scottish Rugby Union Ltd. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- "Legends inducted into World Rugby Hall of Fame at Rugby World Cup 2015". Rugby World Cup. 21 September 2015. Retrieved 4 February 2018.
- Bath, Richard (ed.) The Scotland Rugby Miscellany (2007, Vision Sports Publishing Ltd, ISBN 1-905326-24-6)
- Miles Harrison, Miles & McLaren, Bill Grand Slam: A History of the Five Nations (1999, Aurum Press Ltd, ISBN 1-85410-653-8)
- McLaren, Bill Bill McLaren's Dream Lions (1998, HarperCollinsWillow ISBN 0-00-218861-9)
- McLaren, Bill My Autobiography: The Voice of Rugby (2005, Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-81558-X)
- McLaren, Bill Rugby's Great Heroes and Entertainers (2003, Hodder & Stoughton, ISBN 0-340-82764-5)
- McLaren, Bill Talking of Rugby (1991, Stanley Paul, London ISBN 0-09-173875-X)
- Massie, Allan A Portrait of Scottish Rugby (Polygon, Edinburgh; ISBN 0-904919-84-6)
- A reluctant legend – Nigel Starmer-Smith pays tribute to his colleague
- Bill McLaren: Legendary 'Voice of Rugby' was a family man above all (The Scotsman)
- Facebook Campaign – Facebook knighthood campaign
- Obituary – The Guardian
- Obituary – The Times
- Obituary – The Telegraph
- Profile on Scrum dot com
- Bill McLaren Foundation – The Bill McLaren Foundation