Hawick aiming to open Bill McLaren museum in new main stand at Mansfield Park

Hawick are aiming to open a dedicated Bill McLaren museum as part of a plan to modernise their Mansfield Park home and celebrate the commentator’s enduring legacy.

The late Bill McLaren, remembered as the 'voice of rugby' has extensive archive material that Hawick RFC hope to display.
The late Bill McLaren, remembered as the 'voice of rugby' has extensive archive material that Hawick RFC hope to display.

The Borders club has acquired funding to carry out a £35,000 feasibility study into the project, with results expected in March 2021.

It aims to replace the existing stand, built in 1956, with a facility that can support a range of community events and accommodate a museum to celebrate the life of the town’s world-famous rugby commentator.

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John Thorburn, the club secretary and trustee of the Bill McLaren Foundation, says a museum for McLaren’s rich archive material, including commentary notes and memorabilia, is long overdue.

The stand at Mansfield Park was built in 1956 and Hawick hope to replace it.

He explained: “It is too early to say what it may entail or look like – that’s what the feasibility study is for – but one of the objectives of the foundation is to create an educative centre, including his archives.

“A museum within the new facility and with his name would certainly enhance the overall project.”

Remembered as ‘the voice of rugby’, McLaren was also proud of his home town and club. Hawick born and bred, he played for the club, taught at the high school and and had a bust built in is home town after his death in 2010.

He was also renowned throughout the sport, his enthusiasm and memorable turn of phrase endearing him to fans across the globe.

BBC commentator Bill McLaren at his commentary position at Murrayfield.

He did his first live commentary on a game between Glasgow and Edinburgh in 1952 and retired from commentating in 2002, at the age of 78, blowing the final whistle on 50 years of commentating for the BBC.

His legacy has lived on through the foundation set up in his name after his death in 2010 and trustees believe a permanent museum within his home town club would be the ideal way to make his archive collection available to rugby fans.

The Greens, once the dominant force in Scottish club rugby, also hope a modern, inspirational facility will future-proof its production line of 65 players who have gone on to play for Scotland.

The current national squad includes three Hawick graduates – Stuart Hogg, Darcy Graham and Rory Sutherland. The women’s squad also has two players from Hawick – Lisa Thomson and Lana Skeldon.

Club president Neil Hamilton said. “As a club we produced 65 caps from the men’s and women’s international teams, including three in the current men’s squad and two in the women’s, and we believe that these new plans will helps us achieve our aim of providing a further 65 capped players in the future.

“Among the facilities in the new stand will be space for the Bill McLaren Foundation’s museum, new changing facilities and space for community events including weddings, birthdays and wakes.

“A key part of the study is to guarantee we engage with everyone in the community to ensure the new stand will cater for a wide range of needs.

“This will include increasing our support for disabled, children’s and women’s rugby, while also expanding the audience through new versions of the game, such as Teri Touch Rugby which can include children and grandparents playing in the same team.”

“This is a fantastic opportunity and one the community should grasp.”