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