Tuesday, 19 January 2010
Passing of a legend
(Daily Telegraph image)
I was very sad today to hear that Bill McLaren has died: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/south_of_scotland/8468319.stm
Bill McLaren was a quintessential part of the television sporting experience for me, growing up in Scotland during the 1970s and '80s. I didn't play rugby except when forced to wear nylon rugby kit during "Double Games" and go out into the bitterly cold east coast winter at North Berwick High School to suffer all the indignities heaped on one of the smallest players on the field. I stopped playing it as soon as it was decently possible to do something else, like cross country running. But, even so, Bill McLaren was a broadcasting god in our house and the Scotland Home Nation matches were essential winter viewing, in large part down to how Bill McLaren was regarded in the house. My dad always sang his praises and, I think, was always disappointed when it wasn't Bill that was commentating on a Scotland rugby match. I think what Dad enjoyed was Bill's couthy Border Scottishness (a very rare thing in sports commentating in those days!) allied with his obviously genuine passion for rugby but also the clearly meticulous effort that he had put into preparing for his latest commentating role. (And the fact that he never slagged anyone off!)
So, I think the whole family took pleasure in dad's meeting with Bill McLaren one day, out of the blue. My dad was a country ranger (the first in Scotland) and, through the summer each year, would put on a weekly guided nature walk or two for the public in a woodland and/or beach area (usually Yellowcraig, west of North Berwick). Out of the blue one day, Bill and his wife turned up to join the walk. It absolutely made Dad's day when Bill told him at the end of the walk that he would do well on TV (I can well believe that too!) - high praise indeed! I don't think Dad has any photos of the day, unfortunately.
So, with Bill Mclaren's passing, almost all of the British sporting commentary giants of my childhood (Dan Maskell, David Vine, David Coleman, John Arlott) have gone - only really Peter Allis and Motty remain actively commentating (is Murray Walker still working?). They'll indeed be sad in the streets of Hawick tonight.