It’s seven years now since the man with the golden voice finally laid down his famous microphone. Bill McLaren followed the likes of Peter O’Sullevan, John Arlott, Harry Carpenter and Murray Walker into retirement and a generation of BBC commentators had finally fallen silent.
It is not being overly melancholic to say that the Six Nations Championship has never seemed quite the same since McLaren retired. His expressions and the sound of that unique Scottish burrrr, remain vivid memories for a generation who grew up to enjoy and admire his commentaries during the 50 years of his tenure.
As HRH The Princess Royal said in paying tribute to McLaren ‘He has passed on his love for the game and all it represents to everyone he has met or spoken with. His unique contribution to the commentator’s art has been applauded by both his peers and listeners alike the world over.’
McLaren, now in his 86th year, lives quietly at his home in Hawick, in the beautiful Scottish borders. This weekend, like any other when the Six Nations Championship is being held, he will watch the matches from television at his home.
There won’t be the same amusing phrases, the vivid descriptions of players and locations from the contemporary commentators. They are different. But for those who loved McLaren’s sayings and laughed at the descriptions he dreamt up of the competitors, here are a few famous phrases from the Bill McLaren rugby commentary scrapbook, spoken both on and off air...
*It’s high enough, it’s long enough AND IT’S STRAIGHT ENOUGH.
*He’s like a demented ferret up a wee drainpipe.
*He plays like a runaway bullet (description of New Zealand wing Grant Batty).
*He’s like a raging bull with a bad head.
*That one was a bit inebriated – just like one of my golf shots (description of a missed goal kick).
*He kicked that ball like it were 3 pounds o’ haggis.
*Would ye like a Hawick ball, son ? (McLaren offering a friend a mint).
*They’ll be dancing in the streets of Hawick/Selkirk/ tonight………
*His sidestep was marvellous – like a shaft of lightning (description of Welsh wing Gerald Davies).
*The All Blacks that day looked like great prophets of doom.
*I was there (at Twickenham) in 1938 when Scotland won 28-16.
*‘Tweet, tweet, tweet’ – commentary on Scottish full-back Peter Dods’ strange run up to a penalty kick.
*My goodness, that wee ball’s gone so high there’ll be snow on it when it comes down.
*He’s as quick as a trout up a burn.
*Those props are as cunning as a bag o’ weasels.
*A day out of Hawick is a day wasted.
*And it’s a try by Hika the hooker from Ngongotaha (Wales v New Zealand 1980).
*I’m no hod carrier but I’d be laying bricks if he was running at me (description of Jonah Lomu).
*They’ll be simply chuffed to bits down at…….
*I look at Colin Meads and see a great big sheep farmer who carried the ball in his hands as though it was an orange pip.
*I’ve hardly ever had to pay to get in (the best thing in his view about 50 years of commentary at rugby matches).
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