Bill McLaren, simply, was the voice of rugby. He died today at the age of 85. The amiable Scot lent his voice as the soundtrack to BBC rugby coverage for over 50 years. He was genial, he was likable. He was informed. His research was impeccable and his passionate love for his native Scotland never clouded his work. Each spring, he guided rugby fans through what was then the Five Nations before his retirement in 2002 and his passion for the game never dimmed. He brought his own unique style to his commentary, with Scottish colloquialisms and mildly bizarre metaphors inter-twining with an in-depth knowledge for the sport, and a personable manner with which he relayed his knowledge to the viewer, both knowledgeable and novice.
I don’t remember much about McLaren, but I do remember choosing his commentaries over any other, even at a young age. There was something about his gravelly Scottish voice, his re-assuring timbre that guided the viewer through the game, and enhanced it just by his mere presence. He enhanced rugby as a viewing experience, be it in the Five Nations or the Autumn internationals or even in Jonah Lomu Rugby on the Playstation. Along with the likes of Murray Walker, Peter O’Sullevan, Howard Cosell and Micháel O’Hehir, Bill McLaren will join the pantheon of sports commentary greats, a pantheon which is ever decreasing in size. We’ll never see his likes again.
There is a wonderful video in his honour on the BBC Sport website, and I’ve posted another one of him in action below.
May he rest in peace.