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Farewell to Bill McLaren 'the voice of rugby'...

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John Beattie | 16:53 UK time, Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Bill McLaren was the best rugby commentator of all time and one of the best men the world has ever seen.

He was unbiased, clear, knowledgeable, and his voice is part of the fabric of rugby in its greatest era. As a player, I was proud that a Scotsman was the best rugby commentator, and he gave the United Kingdom credibility in rugby terms.

He fought at Monte Cassino, one of the Second World War's bloodiest battles, and at one stage found himself in a ditch when he heard German voices just six feet away. He was 20-years old.

Everyone knows that he should have been capped at the game he loved but tuberculosis robbed him of the chance.

We were travelling around Rome in a car once and he turned to us and said: "I've been here before, in a tank with General Mark Clark of the US army."

Then his eyes went back down to his homework and that pack of shuffled cards that was his tool to make numbers become names; "Vaccari to Troncon..." It was astonishing.

mclarentv595.jpgTo listen to his voice, a voice which could be operatic at times, was to understand half the story. You had to see the work he put in to each commentary.

He would watch teams train and then produce a huge sheet with facts, figures, try data, an opener, two closers and phrases all written by hand in multiple colours of ballpoint ink.

He sat up late at night in his room practising, learning and studying.

His fame was international. I watched a Romanian player burst into tears on meeting McLaren as he told him that Bill's voice, in the then repressed Romania, was the voice that arrived bearing a glimpse of the free West when tapes of rugby games were smuggled into his country.

One of the interesting things McLaren was able to do in a rugby commentary was to convey lots and lots of information as things were happening.

If someone was on the ball you would be given a simile as to how he looked. "Scott Quinnell like a raging bull," for example. Then you would be told about the person's father, home club, number of tries, number of caps, height, weight and a little gem of knowledge only he could glean. It was extraordinary.

I've seen the biggest names in rugby loiter close to McLaren in the build-up to internationals in the hope of being proffered one of his famous minty "Hawick balls" from the tin. To get a mint was to be brought into a secret inner fold of respected players.

Most of us involved in rugby grew up with Bill McLaren's voice guiding us through our seminal rugby moments, and my favourite piece of commentary of his is when, in 1976, he was behind the microphone as his son-in-law, Alan Lawson, scored a try at Murrayfield against England. It is a beautifully crafted piece of work.

I didn't know the man that well, but I was in awe of him.

None of us in modern times are fit to lace his boots and I am sad that the campaign to have him knighted did not get success in time. He was an amazing man.


  • Comment number 1.

    I was lucky enough to be taught PE by Bill's nephew at secondary school and you could see the similarities personlaity-wise, analytically brilliant, bags of personality and always fair.

    RIP Bill, a true legend.

  • Comment number 2.

    As a child in New Zealand, one of my fondest memories was getting up in the middle of the night to watch the All Blacks play in the UK and Bill's commentaries were very much a big part of the experience, and the overriding memory. Its says a lot that when kiwi kids were commentating on our own rugby matches in the school yard it was done in our best attempts at a scottish accent. An absolute legend

  • Comment number 3.

    It's ironic that, this week, Brian Moore's book has raised the question as to whether Scottish rugby gets enough respect.

    Bill McLaren personified Scottish rugby and he was undoubtedly respected by everyone in the world of rugby.

    We have lost a legend, but he will never be forgotten.

  • Comment number 4.

    Very kind words for a genuine legend of rugby. No other commentator comes close to Bill McLaren and I am sure they would all admit that.
    Rest in peace.

  • Comment number 5.

    Thank you for this moving tribute, John. I was privileged to have met Bill McLaren very briefly at his Tribute Dinner at Murrayfield after he retired. It was a rare honour.

    When I saw the headline, then listened to some of his commentary, I found myself crying for a few moments. I realised that he hadn't just commentated on rugby matches - it feels more like he commentated on our lives, as he led us through the great highs and lows of being a rugby fan and a Scotland fan. I can trace my childhood stage by stage through the great moments of 1980 (first match vs France, aged 5), 1984, 1990 and the rest, and his swirling, soaring soundtrack which complemented the action.

    A wonderful man, and an honour to have heard him.

  • Comment number 6.

    Bill McLaren will forever remain the best rugby commentator of all time. Sadly the crew currently on SKY have little to commend themselves and the BBC's love/hate relationship between Moore and Butler is tedious to say the very least and apart from anything else they are so bias....and as for Andy Nichol....he can't help himself being overly critical of Scotland.
    'when will we see yer likes again?' never, I reckon.

  • Comment number 7.

    Today the world of Rugby has lost the harmonious brogue of the 'salt of the earth' From the early days of my interest in the sport, McLaren was my guide and inspiration to watching and listening to a game that my father described as 'chess with muscles', for me Bill's commentary made that a reality.

    My condolences to his family and to Scots every where who have lost a real Legend. Being an ardent Welsh supporter myself, Bill somehow always leveled the playing field.

    Thank You Sir Bill

  • Comment number 8.

    For the 1991 World Cup Bill was offered a place with the ITV commentry team but turned it down to remain with the BBC and commentate on the radio. Everyone I know watched the TV with the sound turned down and the radio turned on so that they could get a better class of commentator.
    A great loss to everyone involved with rugby all over the world; if only I could get a tiny bit of the respect he has earned over the years I would be a happy man.

  • Comment number 9.

    Like everyone else brought up in the game Bill McLaren was the epitomy of all that the game stands for and he cannot be replaced or mimicked. It is sad that your blog before Bill's death was on the topic of referees and Brian Moore since Bill's endearing quality above all else was that he never criticised a referee on air. As a result referees remained respected then and the game has always demanded this respect for the referee's authority. What a pity that today's commentators have not learned this lesson.
    The other endearing quality was Bill's impartiality despite being a proud Scotsman. Even when the Rob Andrew hand denied Scotland a win over the Auld Enemy, Bill was not sucked into any criticism or expressions of dismay.

  • Comment number 10.

    My favourite was him describing Simon Geoghan (sp?) like a "mad octopus". Brillant.

  • Comment number 11.

    Winter Saturday afternoons are forever the voice of Bill McLaren. The world is simply poorer for the loss of some people. Bill was one of them.

  • Comment number 12.

    About 25 years ago, I went along to Millbrae to watch the Ayr Melrose game. For once, the BBC cameras were there along with Bill. At half time the P.A. announcer started lambasting the BBC (not gently) and Bill (very gently) for rarely coming down to Ayrshire to televise games. After about 5 minutes of abuse, Bill, across the pitch - parked in a wooden hut that needed demolishing, brought out his white hankerchief and waved it to the small, packed stand across the ways. Queue, much laughter and a standing ovation. Such was the man and what a life he had. Never to get that Scotland cap - but second prize was not so bad. Not so bad at all!

  • Comment number 13.

    Bill Mclaren and Richie Benaud.........the two best sports commentators in my life time

  • Comment number 14.

    How about a "Bill Mclaren Stand" at Murrayfield? Beats "East" or West"....

  • Comment number 15.

    What a loss to rugby. The man was a true gentleman and was equally loved by all fans not just Scottish ones. He was always fair and impartial with his own unique style. Always got excited at start of 6N's games when he started his commentary. He has many great quotes but I always liked his "...on the hoof" :)

    How things have changed with biased impartial likes of Moore now doing the job of the great man.

    RIP Bill. You have were a joy to many and will never be forgotten.

  • Comment number 16.

    Bill conveyed charm, wit and dignity with his rich Scottish brogue. It was a voice that endeared me to rugby in my early years and his sense of fun prevailed throughout. He can never be replaced.

  • Comment number 17.

    I only once met Bill McLaren, as a 12 year old schoolboy at my first Murrayfield international. Thrusting my autograph book towards him he seemed like a giant of a man. He was and has remained so to me to this day. If only Nature could produce more men like Bill, the world would be a much better place for the rest of us.

  • Comment number 18.

    The five nations was never the same after Bill he was rugby. THERE WILL BE DANCING IN THE STREETS OF HEAVEN TONIGHT, thank you for all the memories

  • Comment number 19.

    I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Bill McLaren.A true gentleman and simply the greatest commentator of Rugby Union in my experience.
    Back in my childhood before we had wall to wall television coverage, I would look forward to the five nations with great relish knowing that whatever the standard of rugby, the game would be brought to life by Bill's wonderful commentary.
    He was unique! He really was a legend.

  • Comment number 20.

    He was the reason i started to watch, and he was the greatest commentator ever, for me, in any sport.

    jde1968 - great idea, second this thoroughly

  • Comment number 21.

    Let's not get over-excited but a stand at Murrayfield and a posthumous knighthood wouldn't be so out of order.... would it? (look at previous winners of posthumous knighthoods!)

    Notwithstanding the above, what a terrific way to learn about rugby and the five nations through his unbelievable charm and repartee. Bill McLaren has set the crossbar too high for others to follow I'm afraid.

  • Comment number 22.

    I never knew Bill McLaren. I never met him. But when I heard the news of his passing this afternoon, I was choked up. Not only was he another voice that I grew up with, but he was someone who helped me to understand a game that can be hard to get into.

    He isn't just the voice of rugby. He is right up there amongst the greatest exponents of an incredibly difficult art. He may not have won the Scotland cap that he always wished he had, but what he did win was the affected and never-ending respect of rugby fans and sports fans the world over. For that, the wonderful memories and the love of rugby he helped to develop for me, I simply say thanks for the memories and send my deepest condolences to Bette and the family. The world mourns with you.

  • Comment number 23.

    Bill should undoubtedly be knighted posthumously.

    I have two immediate memories. The first is of watching tv with my family as a teenager and when Bill McLaren's voice came on my heart would beat faster and when Andy Irvine would take a kick my mother was the only one left in the room as McLaren took us to the edge and my father, brothers and I were in the hall.

    The second was of going down to meet him at Hawick for a tv programme. As I walked under the door he whispered to me: "John Beattie, Glasgow Academicals, six feet four, fifteen and a half stones, twenty five caps......but just the two tries.' And then he winked. I have no idea how he retained the information he had it was amazing.

    Just back from coaching at West of Scotland and it's interesting how even the young players know that a great man will be missed


  • Comment number 24.

    Bill's voice brought me into rugby from the age of about ten. Even then I was impressed at how impartial and descriptive he was. My personal favourite was when he described a player as burrowing like a little mole! You will be missed Bill. Sleep well.

  • Comment number 25.

    Cricket is my first love. Bill McLaren was the best commentator outside of cricket that I have heard. He came from a time where radio provided the pictures to the listener. The current trend for ex-players to become pundits and commentators shows the difference between the mundane and the like of McLaren.

    As said above, the notion of a stand being named after McLaren is an excellent idea. Another possibility I'd put forward would be to award the McLaren Trophy to the player of the championship in the Six Nations.

  • Comment number 26.

    Bill's commentaries were in themselves entertainment.

    He always brought a smile to my face with his quips. I'll always remember his opening to a five nation’s game at Murrayfield...'Well, here we are. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and here comes the Scottish pack...big and strong!'

    I was hoping that he was immortal. I will miss him.

  • Comment number 27.

    what can be said that has not already be said about this great man, his voice was a joy to listen to.

    When I was a small boy my dad played for a local team in Derby it was this that got me interested in rugby, but what really raised a passion in me was Bill's amazing voice. Every five nations was relished with joy for the opportunity to here him commentate, every game was given that extra sense of occasion and every minute was given special attention by him.

    Thank you Bill you give me some fantastic weekend's of Rugby and a life long enjoyment of the the game you and I love.

  • Comment number 28.

    Some of my earliest memories are of watching rugby on telly on a saturday afternoon. That was before the days of wall to wall soccer on the TV so Rugby really was about the easiest live sport to watch on TV and Bill MacLaren's voice really brought to life the game for a 6 or 7 year old little boy. I have the image of an Andy Irvine (I think it was) try against Wales (I think it was!) etched into my memory with Bill's chuckling enthusiastic commentary. And I will never be able to here the term 'garryowen' in anything other than a distinctive Hawick accent!

  • Comment number 29.

    Farewell Bill.... say hello to Broon from troon!! Condolencs and deepest sympathy to Bills family. A fantastic family man and the best sports commentator ever!! 'He'd give Billy Whiz a run for his money' about Gerald Davies was a favourite comment. The 6 nations tophy shouild be renamed the McLaren Trophy

  • Comment number 30.

    Thanks for this moving tribute to the voice of rugby. I moved to the USA in 2001 and one of the greatest pleasures was when one afternoon I found a recent recording of a 6 nations game involving Scotland. The commentator was Bill and I had never missed home till that moment. Bill was not only the voice of Rugby but the voice of Scotland. I remember him commentating on the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony when they were in Edinburgh. He was a proud Scot and Scotland was proud of him. Scotland and rugby will not be the same without him. RIP Bill and THANK YOU for all you did for Scotland and Rugby.

  • Comment number 31.

    I'm a League, rather than Union fan, but have always loved his commentaries and will smile whenever I recall hearing him say: "there's been a breakdown in diplomatic relations at the 22" in that lovely Scottish accent as two forwards knocked lumps out of each other away from the play....


  • Comment number 32.

    I remember an anecdote from (I think) Matt Dawson: having started a six match with several dreadful basic handling errors, Dawson was visibly losing his calm. You can imagine how today's commentators would have laid into him. When he went back to watch the video after the game, he heard Mclaren's commentary "..not the start Dawson was looking for."


  • Comment number 33.

    Thank you John - a splendid tribute to wonderful man. His turn of phrase was always so natural and instinctive and yet so descriptive - who else would use a phrase like '18 stones of prime Scottish beef'? A great Scot whose memory all of Scotland will cherish.

  • Comment number 34.

    It wasn't until I looked back at the piece we made on this website that I realised the impact he had made on those overseas - Sean Fitzpatrick for one, and a friend phoned me tonight to say he remembered a South African player he met saying how great it was to meet the man whose voice even brought games to South Africa.

    And Kenny Logan's point on the news tonight is a valid one too - nowadays people express opinions in commentary, while Bill described the action and we made up our minds.


  • Comment number 35.


    Thanks for all the great memories.

    Born in 1973 I grew up on Bill McLaren...and his love of the game and enthusiasm just shone through. Coupled that with his great turns of phrase.... "and there goes Doddie Weir, he's like a made giraffe!" Classic!!

    "and they'll be dancing in the streets of heaven tonight"

    Rest in Peace.

  • Comment number 36.

    I will add that what made Bill great was that he was unbiased and made the players the focus of the game not him.

    He was not hyper technical but rather painted a picture of what was happening. And those wails he let out when a great play was made, like a Campo sidestep for a try in the 1988 Barabarians v. Aus game at the old Arms Park.....never to be forgotten.

    Todays' commentators could learn alot from the great man....and turn down ther egos a bit!

  • Comment number 37.

    I'm not a fan of Rugby by any stretch. I am however, a Scot who always watched the 5-Nations (obviously now the 6-Nations) with my father.

    Bill's voice stayed with me all these years, and I stopped watching the 6-Nations regularly after he retired from commentating. Learning of his death this morning certainly brought a tear to my eye.

    I was reminded immediately of the 1990 Scotland Grand Slam, and his commentary for the Scotland vs England match, particularly when Tony Stanger scored his try. It was a mixture of melancholia and happiness. His voice will always be synonymous with seeing my dad almost explode with joy when the final whistle for the match went, myself, only a boy of 7, and our little house shaking to its foundations as Bill McLaren announced Scotland as the 5-Nations champions and Grand Slam winners.

    RIP Bill. You were missed when you left the BBC, and you'll be even more missed now.

  • Comment number 38.

    Bill mclaren, he will be a sad loss to not only scottish rugby, but to the world of rugby. Its hard to think that a man from the small town of hawick can make such a large impact on the world of rugby, he is up there with the legends of the game without even having too play the game at international level. his name is as well known as jonny wilkinsons in the game. My only memory of ever seeing him would have been at my home 7 aside tournament in the borders, he was sitting in the sponsors area with a tartan towel over his lap, watching and taking in every minute of the rugby, he loved the game, from club to country his passion and heart was on that pitch. To think i was standing so close to a rugby legend is an honour. and to think he would come back to where he lived and the surrounding area to watch 7 aside rugby, well, i think that really does just show what kind of man he really was. passionate for club, for country. a true blessing to have in the rugby world. a proper, true, passionate scottish rugby fan. May you rest in peace bill, its been a pleasure.

  • Comment number 39.

    Who can forget - "it's a bigger Doddie Weir we're seeing here" - a true legend!

  • Comment number 40.

    For me Bill McLaren was not just the greatest commentator ever but my PE teacher and one of the most inspiring people I ever met.

    I must have been one of the least able rugby players (or indeed any sport) he ever had to teach but it never showed in his manner. He was always encouraging, seemed to take as much interest in games involving the fifh and sixth best teams in my primary school as he did in those involving the best players who went on to be capped and even score Grand Slam winning tries.

    His mantra of always trying your best, making sure you enjoy what you do and encouraging everyone to do the same has stuck with me throughout my life.

    Enthusiasm, dedication, modesty, passion... the words that come to mind when thinking of 'Mr McLaren' are many and not one is negative.

    He was a truly special man.

  • Comment number 41.

    Simply the greatest at Rugby commentary. I have many special memories to Bill's soundtrack.

  • Comment number 42.

    Bill's commentary was legendary. I remember watching the World Cup on ITV in 1991, the sound from the television muted, with Bill's tones eminating from the radio. No other commentary ever came close. He does deserve a knighthood for services to rubgy.

  • Comment number 43.

    A sad loss indeed. As a smallboy I rememer being enchanted by his commentaries on Mighty mouse McClaughlin & Sandy Carmichael. He brought me to rugby and it has been a thrill to have played it and a great release to me in challenging times in my life. He was an impossible act to follow, but unlike some of your contributers I think Eddie & Brian have a good chemistry and make a decent fist of it - it would be fatal to try and copy such a gargantuan figure.
    Some would do well to emulate the great man by praising his awesome contribution to our lives, without tainting his memory by criticising others by comparison. As Geechs said the joy of Bill was he looked for the good in everything & everyone and did not draw attentionto the bad. I wish some BBC football commentaters could learn from that. Deepest sympathy to all is connections. They will be in my thoughts and prayers. As for Bill - he's left an impression on us we could never eradicate even if we wanted to. Thank you and rest in peace, Sir.

  • Comment number 44.

    Bill McLaren was not only the best rugby commentator but, in my opinion, the best sports commentator.

    A stand at Murrayfield or a trophy in the 6 nations (player of the series or best newcomer?) would be a fitting tribute.

    He will be sadly missed

    RIP Bill.

  • Comment number 45.

    Bill McLaren was known to the public for his knowledge and wry sense of humour. A few humerous comments attributable to him have already been posted.


  • Comment number 46.

    John Major said on the passing of Brian Johnston "Summers will never be the same"; well, the rugby season will never be the same. We have lost a true gentleman with an extraordinary knowledge of the game and the personalities. No matter what your nationality Bill McLaren showed your team respect and provided an impartial and well informed view of the game unfolding on our screens. He will be forever missed in rugby circles. Deepest sympathy and prayers to his family.

  • Comment number 47.

    When I heard the news I simply said, "That's another childhood icon gone."
    Bill was the soundtrack to one of the few sporting events that my Dad and I ever watched together. He was quite simply brilliant and it never felt like a proper game of rugby if anyone else was commentating. As other people have said on this blog the Punch and Judy show of Moore and Butler is the reason that I don't watch as much rugby. They should listen to the great man's commentaries and learn from them. Bill brought us the game, and through that himself, whereas those two bring us themselves and tell us little about the game.
    RIP Bill. There's crying in the streets of the world today.

  • Comment number 48.

    I.m a Scot now living in Australia and I have only just found out this sad news.Quite simply he was the greatest commentator in any sport.

    His knowledge was legendary and he was remarkably unbiaised in his commentary,My first memory of him was when Andy Irvine kicked the last minute penalty to win the 74 Calcutta Cup.'High enough,long enough and
    STRAIGHT enough.

    Have just watched the tribute - had forgotten what a great try Alan Lawson scored in 76 and watching Stanger's try again brought back great memories.

    He is simply irreplaceable.

    Bill there will be a lot of sadness in Laidley tonight.

  • Comment number 49.

    Bill !

    Equalled by very few and bettered by none!

    The voice of rugby and a much loved and treasured "voice of my youth".

    His wonderful descriptive style brings back some never forgotten quotes:
    Phil Blakeway and "his neck like a bison", the "piratical figure" of Bill Cuthbertson and the "Perambulating lighthouse" that was Martin Bayfield.

    Absolute genius.

  • Comment number 50.

    Truly one of the greatest commentators, and provided the sound track to many generations of rugby fans globally. The first time I have ever been in tears at the news of the death of a man I never had the honour to meet. Best of luck commentating on the great game in the sky, Bill.

    John - do you know if the Beeb are planning a program in tribute? The 5 mins on BBCi is great, but there will be huge numbers watching, and many round the world wanting, I guess to contribute, if the BBC decides to do a short tribute program to a man who dedicated his life to the BBC for over 50 years.

  • Comment number 51.

    A sad day for world rugby as we have lost one of the greats. All I can remeber from my younger days when watching the five nations is Bill's commentary and waiting for one his classic sayings.

    RIP and condolenses to the family

  • Comment number 52.

    What a great loss to the world of sport, and the world of rugby in particular. Like many, he provided the soundtrack to the life of rugby-mad Welshmen like me. His knowledge, anecdotes, detailed research on all whom he commented on, and of course his legendary turn of phrase, was a lesson to all who followed on how to commentate ... one which has never been equalled and never will. He had an instantly recognisable rich voice which, combined with his Hawick brogue, is still mimicked by kids playing rugby to this day

    Who can forget such gems as:
    "Scott Gibbs, he's like the leader of a buffalo stampede"
    as he crossed the line to defeat England at Wembley.

    But I suppose my all-time favourite was his description of Welsh wing John Bevan (back in the 70's) when he received the ball:
    "John Bevan, now he'd run through a barn-door' !!

    It was only 2 years ago that we lost another great ambassador of Rugby, and of the BBC commentary team, when Ray Gravell passed away.

    I can only imagine the bear-hug that happened in heaven when Bill was met on the other side of the gates by Grav.

    We can be sure that Rugby is played in heaven (as it is God's game) and now they have the voice of rugby to commentate on those games in heaven.

    R.I.P. Bill McLaren. A true legend of the game. You will never be forgotten.

  • Comment number 53.

    Thought I would add my own memories.

    As a kid in Hawick I was first taught rugby by Bill (like my Dad before me). I have many memories of that but the story that always makes me smile is slightly differnt. My mother (who was taught hocky by Bill) got a call from him about 20 years ago (when I was being taught by him) asking: "As your daughter is the best hockey player in P6 and your son the roughest rugby player in P7...could your husband come and give me a quote to paint the outside of my house?"

    Speaking to my rugby frineds from several countires there is nothing but the utmost respect and warmth for Bill.

    I love the idea of the player of the 6 Nation being awarded a McLaren trophy.

  • Comment number 54.

    Although I remember the international commentaries, and many great descriptive phrases . . .

    What I remember is racing home after Currie matches, then sitting through the seemingly neverending football reports, until finally the time came for rugby - and Bill McLaren describing the action at that week's big match. He was sitting in a bare studio with no pictures available to illustrate, but his ability to describe what he had seen created mental pictures for us which almost made us think we'd been there and seen it . . . for both us children and our parents.

  • Comment number 55.

    Nhunter - the honest answer is that I am not sure. The BBC has local and national stations and I was talking to one of the producers yesterday in Glasgow. Obviously at this difficult time for the family nothing would happen without talking to them first, and while we want to celebrate their will be close friends and family members grieving. As soon as I know I will try to be accurate in my response.

    It is amazing, isn't it, that a man who started commentating before he was 10 went on to spend 50 years with the BBC.

    Jester 21, you mention John Bevan, one of my heroes.


  • Comment number 56.

    I'll always remember the nicknames he gave certain players.

    Laurent Rodrigues of France was always the Dax Bison.
    Patrick Esteve, also of France, was always the Narbonne Express.

    In fact any super-fast international winger was always the Express from whichever club he happened to play for. The exception to this was Clive Rees of Wales who was always referred to as "Billy Whizz, a real flying machine".

    All priceless stuff. No other commentator in any sport has been able to give his own whimsical nicknames to players the way Bill McLaren did. He seemed to take an almost school boy glee in imparting these names without an ounce of malice or insult. It really made the game come alive.

    Anybody else remember some of Bill's special nicknames for players?

  • Comment number 57.

    Rugby was never my first sport as a child, as I was a footballer and cricketer. However I would never fail to watch the games on the BBC and a huge part of the attraction was the commentary. I have continued to love the game into my 30s, but watching recent clips of Bill's commentary on the BBC I was immediately transported back 20 years to my Mam bringing me a hot-chocolate as I sat on the sofa on a Saturday afternoon, fascinated by a game I couldn't play, didn't understand yet couldn't tear myself away from. Has any commentator ever had such an evocative voice?

    His more recent commentaries never lost any of their insight or their ability to convey what was happening on the pitch but they also demonstrated what fantastic grace he had as a broadcaster. He never failed to demonstrate the respect he showed for any and all rugby players who chose to cross the white line, regardless of what the public perception of them may have been. When the game turned professional and many ex-pros and some commentators seemed engulfed with bitterness about the new opportunities that they had missed out on, this grace and respect remained unwavering. Maybe its overstating the case, but I think that Bill genuinely helped the sport through the difficult process of transition. Never forgot that the game itself was the main event, never lost his love for the game, never lost his respect for those that played it.

    Thanks Bill. Condolences and best wishes to his family and friends.

  • Comment number 58.

    Bill approached me to say hello during a training session for the Scottish team. I was a nervous young reporter standing at the touchline working out what I was going to ask then captain Gavin Hastings. I think meeting Bill made me even more nervous initially! The solution lay with a sweetie from Bill and I was soon in receipt of my first Hawick Ball. He knew who I was and assured me I had no need to be nervous. But he understood that I was a news reporter who just loved rugby and the nerves came from the thrill of meeting great players. I don't think he ever lost that joy of being around the players. These a cherished memories and although I've moved into the world of businss in a last three years, any involvement in rugby through broadcasting was a dream come true. Like JB, I didn't know Bill well at all but I feel very fortunate to have met him.

  • Comment number 59.

    There is a campaign going to get the SRU to rename one of the Murrayfield stands in his honour. Just send an email here: and make your feelings known.

  • Comment number 60.

    Being a pround Welshman I grew up listening to the voice of this man describing rugby in its finest form. I am now in my fifies and I know I will never hear the likes again of a man with the passion for the game and the ability to bring it life for so many people.
    What a character, what human being !!
    Good bless to Bill's family in these sad dark hours

  • Comment number 61.

    Bill McLaren was the voice of rugby and the big occasions have been lessened since he retired. He was rarely a topic for discussion after a match, as he made the match the sole focus of attention, having contributed to the excitement, informed us exactly who was doing what and usually how many times and where they might have done it before. He was never an issue and that is all the more to his credit. We might not see his like again, but you never know what the future holds. We can say we couldn't have asked for more and we are all the poorer now he's gone.

  • Comment number 62.

    Bill McLaren's fun yet erudite commentaries could enliven even the dullest of matches. To listen to him was to gain a wealth of knowledge about the game of rugby. The way he balanced good humour with a battery of information was incredible; stats in Bill's hands were never dry or redundant. Just as Brian Johnston's voice will forever be redolent of enchanted English summers, Bill's inimitable voice radiated warmth into households throughout the British Isles in the dark winter months, making us all feel we were in the company of our favourite uncle. He was simply a giant of a man who can never be replaced.

  • Comment number 63.


    Absolutely. The Bill McLaren Stand.

    Great man and a wonderful blog to mark his passing. Reading these comments has been great.

  • Comment number 64.

    The Bill McLaren stand does have a ring to it.

    Any other suggestions?


  • Comment number 65.

    I have read the article and every comment placed on this board is a testament to a great man.

    There is a lot being said about naming a stand at Murrayfield the Bill McLaren stand and he being a very proud Scotsman would be very happy with this. But I can hear him say "What I they doing that for? I'm not that important" A very very humble man and a person who I grew up with watching rugby in the 70s, 80s, 90 and 00s - who gave me the love of the game that I have today.
    I think a McLaren stand wouldn't be out of place in Twickenham, Lansdowne Road and the Millenium Stadium as he gave so much to the whole of rugby and not just the Scotland he loved.

    There are 2 things I would love to see which would honour his memory:-
    1) Rejuvenation of the rugby in the borders and to see the once great clubs in Gala, Melrose and especially his beloved Hawick thrive again.
    2) People have said this before but I would love to see everybody play with the sense of fair play which Bill brought to his commentaries. Lets see all clubs (no matter what level) and countries play in the proper sprirt. Give 100%, don't ask for any quarter, don't make any excuses but most importantly ENJOY YOURSELVES.

    I'm a long in the tooth prop from Wales and I'm not ashamed to say that I've got a few tears forming in my eyes.

    He was a great great man and will be missed.

    RIP Bill.

    Next time I'm in Hawick I will get some Hawick balls and when I put the first one in my mouth I'll be sending a little prayer up to the great man in heaven.

  • Comment number 66.

    A Bill McLaren Stand at Murrayfield? Great idea! Not just a tribute to the great man but something that could actually enhance the status of the stadium itself. It's already been seconded so I'll third it, fourth it, fifth it sixth it or whatever.

    Possibly directly across from the TV commentary position and generally accommodating ticketholders supporting the home side...

  • Comment number 67.

    My late Father introduced me to Bill's comments and I adored sitting watching the BBC matches with Bill commentating.

    The phrase that really sticks in my mind was his description of a huge player in pack - after giving his name, club, number of caps etc - he the gave his height and weight...........and a mere couple of seconds pause he then added "I'm just glad I don't have his mothers butcher's bill" - just classic.

    Mr. McLaren - Thank you so much for making my time with my Father so memorable.

  • Comment number 68.

    I am an Englishman living in Ireland and have played rugby all my life. No matter what colour your shirt, or indeed your heart, Bill McLaren was universely loved by everyone who followed the best game in the world. While I have been reading the blog, it's been really smokey in my front room!!! Bring on the Bill Murray stand at Murrayfield and bring on this year's 6 nations.

    My condolences to all Bill's family.

  • Comment number 69.

    A great, great loss. Definately 'The Bill McLaren Memorial Stand' - in time for the France match. I've emailed the SRU and have urged friends and family to do the same. JB you could consider using your '6'4", 15 1/2 stone' media bulk to get some air time to add to build on the ground swell of opinion.

    A 2010 Grand Slam would be fitting as well.

  • Comment number 70.

    Ok Gordon, will try to get something going


  • Comment number 71.

    As an Irishman living in the UK, and experiencing the voice of Bill on the BBC in the 80's and 90's, can't put my finger on but there was nothing else like it. One of his many comments that stick in my mind was about Jonah Lomu "I'm no hod carrier, but I'd be laying bricks if he was running at me" & he seemed to have a lot to say about Irish wing Simon Geoghegan, "mad as a pony" & "he's all legs and arms this fella, like an octopus". RIP Bill.

  • Comment number 72.

    A true legend of rugby. One of the golden breed from the amateur days when showing disrespect for opposition and refs was strictly taboo. Growing up and learning about rugby as a boy in the 60s and 70s his expert and impartial commentary became an essential factor. Many years later i chuckled my way through his auto-biography as he poked gentle fun at himself and extolled the virtues of the game he loved. Never mind a stand Scotland, name the ground after him! Rugby has lost a giant. I just hope he is telling St Peter about the dark side of the scrum! R.I,P.

  • Comment number 73.

    toppo1 The whole stadium, now I wonder if that is a good idea - the Bill McLaren stadium.

  • Comment number 74.

    Rugby is the greatest game in the world and Bill McLaren's place within it is unique. Not only did he help to share its greatness with millions of people around the world, he also helped to create its greatness with the dignity and sportsmanship that ran to his core. He personified all that is good about this game.

  • Comment number 75.

    When you learn something good as a child it sticks with you - and rugby with Bill was good. Sadly, never met the man and would have been tongue tied if I had but a bit of my past when I was growing up and playing school then old-boys rugby and so-on has left me with his passing. And I feel bereft.

    Condolences and prayers to family and friends - we will not see his like soon again

  • Comment number 76.

    When Bill retired I thought that watching the rugby would never quite be the same again and now hearing news of his death I realise that I was right. The BBC have produced some great commentators over the years and Bill was surely the fist amongst equal. He has given me fond memories, which I thank him for, the phrase "niggeling rhino" still brings a smile to my face which seemed to sum up Craig Quinell to a tee. Thanks for the memories Bill.

  • Comment number 77.

    I would like to add my voice to what I know is already a great chorus of requests to rename a stand at Murrayfield as “The Bill McLaren Stand” .

    In some parts of the world I am certain that Bill McLaren was, and is, more famous and representative of Scottish Rugby than many of our greatest players stretching from the start of the game to the current generation.

    He painted pictures with words that held everyone in rapt attention. He pulled people into the game, as players, spectators, viewers or listeners, on the strength of his commentaries which were rich in knowledge and humour.

    He earned the respect of the entire rugby community, from listeners and viewers to players and officials (both on and off the pitch) as well as many others out with the rugby world. This needs to be acknowledged in a suitable manner.

    Rugby followers in Scotland, and around the world, will undoubtedly and wholeheartedly agree that the creation of “The Bill McLaren Stand” at Murrayfield would be an appropriate recognition of his services to Rugby and just simply for being a great man that rugby was lucky enough to call one of our own.

  • Comment number 78.

    I think Bill McLaren has been one of the most influential people in Rugby ever. No-one has possessed a greater understanding, passion or love of the game as Bill, and the way he conveyed this to the viewer was probably one of the main reasons people started to watch and play the game. Im very much from the amateur era and I think the spirit, flair and etiquette of those amateur days has been somewhat lost in the up rise of professionalism.
    From growing up listening to Bill he made the game feel special - something that has been definitely lost in recent years. Commentators of today just can’t make the kids feel interested in the game like Bill could. I miss his deep, husky, friendly Hawick tones.
    I think the SRU should at least honour him with "The Bill McLaren Stand" at Murrayfield. If not, maybe a statue??
    (knowing the SRU however, this may not fit into their budget plans...)

  • Comment number 79.

    one of my very earliest rugby memories is of one of Bill's 'isms' - that of "Stagg palms" (back in the day when lineouts resembled a game of murderball, and NO lifting, and 'giants' were no more than 6'4"). He commented on many of my favourite Welsh games (growing up in our hey-day back in the 70's as I did) - including a couple of tries AGAINST Scotland; the Gareth Edwards one, when GE came out of the Arms Park dog track mud - the "it'll be a miracle if he gets there" one - and "the try of the championship" when Phil Bennett finished off one started back in the welsh 25 (as it was then) - and he sounded as excited as if it were a Scottish try. That took real class, real passion for the game.

    As a proud Welshman, if the Scots don't go for a 'Bill McLaren Stand' at Murrayfield - can we pinch his name for one section of the Millennium stadium please? Oh - and that should really be Sir Bill McLaren Stand now shouldn't it!!

  • Comment number 80.

    How about Cameron Murray's "inebriated little twitter" on the way to scoring a try against France in 2000.

    The Bill McLaren Stand - how could anyone say no to that...

  • Comment number 81.

    Bill McLaren

    I wrote this poem very shortly after Bill’s last commentary at the 2002 Melrose 7’s, and I give it in tribute to a great Scottish sporting hero. The title comes from his description of a tie in which one team had established an unassailable lead!

    It’s aw’ bye wi’
    Auld Ned Haig’s legacy’s secure,
    frae Fiji tae the Boroughmuir.
    The 7’s game enthrals an’ thrills,
    beneath yon shapely Eldon Hill,.
    as Greenyard’s cheers start tae fade,
    An’ comparisons o’ auld are made.
    Noo it’ aw’ bye.

    In Hawick green or Jeddart blue,
    Or jerseys o’ whitever hue,
    Whaur Rugby’s the game o’ choice,
    They aw’ look tae, ae, Border voice,
    tae gie rich colour tae the day,
    An’ vividly tae ca’ the play.
    But that’s aw’ bye.

    Clearly he still loved their game,
    Ay’ praisin’ skill no’ pointin’ blame,
    Tae licht the joys o’ speed an’ flare,
    Played wi’ passion, bold an’ fair.
    Free o’ biases ‘shamefu’ taint.
    Great verbal pictures he could paint.
    But that’s bye wi’.

    Oh! Whit a treasure’s left behind,
    For aw’ posterity tae find,
    Descriptions o’ deft sleight’s o’ hand,
    Or tackles made as a last stand,
    In Rugby’s rich auld catalogue,
    His work will hae nae epilogue!
    It’s no’ bye wi’!

    Roger Ceann Maol Beag

  • Comment number 82.

    The voice of generations. Think there is a tribute on BBC scotland on either Sunday or Monday.

    Surely the least we can do is name it the "Sir" Bill McLaren Stand. A absolute inspiration that got me interested in the game.


  • Comment number 83.

    I never used to see Bill as a Scotsman. That is the truth. I remember my father imitating his Scots accent in the local pub once, I think it was the one "If that ball gets any higher, it will come down with snooo on it". I then realized it was a Scottish accent, and that Bill was a Scotsman. I remember it clearly. I was about 12 then, but until then, it hadn't dawned on me he was Scottish.

    I look back now and think "what was I thinking?". I mean, people don't come more Scottish than Bill McLaren. But Iooking at the other comments, I don't think I was wrong. As a kid, growing up in Wales in the 1970's, Bill McLaren to me was not Scottish, he was Rugby. If you sounded like a Scotsman, then you were Scottish. If you sounded like Bill, then you sounded every little bit like the great game of Rugby. It was how rugby sounded. There were other great commentators too in those days, from Wales, England and too, from Ireland, but none of them ever came from planet rugby, except Bill.

    I hope the Scots don't mind me stealing him like this!!! It is not meant to offend at all. He was a colossus of a man for anyone who was a fan of international rugby when he commentated, and one does think that if only we were to hear his like again, that rugby would go through a renaissance. I think for many people, Bill's genius was that he never really sounded like he was commentating to a huge audience. It sounded like you were watching the game with him, in his own front room with old friends and beer, and of course a log on the fire. I know it was in Wales, and I was only 12, but I am afraid it was only ginger beer for then. I had a good dad. I remember my father when I think of rugby, and Bill was in many ways, the soundtrack to a lot of that.

    Everyone felt Bill's voice was a part of their family, and they'll think back to the rooms which he echoed in on those great, emotional Saturday afternoons. A very sad day for the passing of a great man. I don't think he should be knighted. I think he will be canonized. It won't need a vote, or shady men behind curtains either. Bill didn't belong to them, he belonged to us. Indeed, I am sure the fans have already done so, and a long time ago.

  • Comment number 84.

    Despite being born and bred in the Welsh rugby heartands my early experience of rygby came with a profound Scoctish accent. When I was younger and dreamt of scoring the winning try against England at the Arms Park to secure another Grand Slam for Wales it was always accompanied by Bill's dulcet tones. Bill did not just commetate on numerous real internationals, he described the most dramatic moments in the imaginations of countless youngsters of all nationalities who ever aspired to play the game as he did in mine. Even now after real playing ability and aspirations diverged, and when I should be too old for such things, if I ever do dare to daydream it will always be Bill's masterly turn of phrase that will provide the soundtrack to yet another Welsh victory. His steadfast impartiality along with the choice and timing of phrase ensured that he did not only describe events but imparted his vast knowledge and true love of the game to us all. It didn't matter if you watched a game surrounded by other people or on your own, you always felt that as long as Bill was there that you had a friend watching with you.

    Despite the Lord blowing the full time whistle for Bill on this Earth, he will always be remembered in all parts of the world but I believe with particular fondness in the Valleys. A wee dram is dedicated to you tonight Bill, from all your friends in Wales.

  • Comment number 85.

    In your programme this morning you were asking about a fitting tribute to Bill McLaren. I agree there should be some permanent tribute by the SRU but what about something very close to Bill's heart, rugby flair?

    I feel something along the line of Brian Johnstone's "Champaigne moments" in cricket tests in the uk, would be a fitting and lasting tribute to Bill. He always said that David Campasie was his favorite player, for his sheer skill and flair! One of Bill's favorite words was "mesmeric" so what about a "Bill McLaren's Mesmeric Momment" prize for the best piece o' pure skill or flair in all Rugby Internationals. This to be presented to the player concerned for something special which would have made Uncle Bill lyrical with delight! Possibly it should be an engraved beer mug/glass like those he ay' said would be raised tae such a momment!

  • Comment number 86.

    Hi John

    As per your point #34. Here is the fond memories of TVNZ's premier Rugby man Keith Quinn. An excellent tribute to a fine man who will be missed by all.

    RIP Bill

  • Comment number 87.

    I'd like to echo the sentiments filing through this message board. Bill McLaren was synonimous with Rugby, and it's a desperate shame to see him gone.

    As an Englishman but with streaks of Celtic blood and an unfaultering fondness for the Union, little more can excite the blood than a wintery February afternoon watching a classic home nations fixture. Bill McLaren was the soundtrack of these great battles and deserves all the credit he gets.

    I remember well the days of Schoolboy Rugby on a Saturday afternoon before returning to watch the game recorded by my father and listening to Bill's great tone.

    A fine 6 Nations game between the old nations played with an exuberant ferocity founded in our proud rivalries and held up by the spirit of our great game is what a Feburary afternoon is all about.

    It is a great loss, but the finest tribute to the man and the voice would be to continue the fair ferocity and maintain the love of the game, and the spirit of the game that Bill McLaren represented.

    A fine man.

    Looking forward to some great matches played in the spirit of McLaren.

  • Comment number 88.

    It was truly moving to read so many heartfelt tributes to the great man. I'm in my fifties so grew up with his reassuring burr every Saturday afternoon...he was rugby union for me.
    What rather saddens me though is that such a man needs to die before he seems to more widely recognized. Why, for example, hasn't Murrayfield been renamed the McLaren stadium already? Why was he never knighted when so many 'here today - gone tomorrow' others have been?
    R.I.P Bill

  • Comment number 89.

    Rugby has missed Bill since the final whistle blew at the Millenium Stadium in 2002 for Wales against Scotland.

    As Max used to say, I was there, and when Bill's face was put up on the big screen at the end of the game, I was one of 75000 choristers who stood proud and sung "For he's a jolly good fellow" until blood vessles broke. The singing at Cardiff is not as legendary as it once was, but in that brief verse, hwyl was fully restored in honour of the voice of rugby.

    Rob Howley retired that day after 59 caps, and he was brought off before the end, Howley got his deserved ovation but Henson and Hendry knew full well who the whistle belonged to.

    After his tribute, Bill briefly wiped a tear from his eye, gave a quick wave and was gone. Jiffy looked like a schoolboy by his side, sucking a post match hawick ball no doubt.

    The crowd knew things would not be the same. To a man we retreated to the bars of Queens Street with heavy hearts and lumps in our throats. Glasses were raised and toasts were offered, but the beer didn't taste the same. Everything had changed.

    That's how I remember it anyway.

  • Comment number 90.

    I would just like to thank the BBC for such a wonderful tribute to a great man.

  • Comment number 91.

    Have never understood when Bill retired that SRU did not award him one Scotland cap. I also bet that ANY team playing against Scotland would have happily allowed Bill to come on and "play" for Scotland for the last few minutes of a game. In fact they should have held a Barbarians vs Scotland game for that purpose alone. All profits to go to a charity of Bill's choosing. But we live in a world where the bottom line is king. I would suggest that Bill didn't live in that world. We should rename the stand as others have said and a knighthood is the least we should request.

    Like so many others I was raised on Saturday afternoons with Bill commentating as I couldn't get a ticket. I didn't really miss anything with the prose in Bill's Hawick brogue. RIP great man.


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