A FANTASTIC insight into the detailed preparation that Bill McLaren put into his pre-match research has been uncovered by his family and friends.
Daughter Linda Lawson was amazed at how much she uncovered in the year since her dad’s death a year past yesterday.
Linda spent nine months cataloguing his extensive archive that spanned half a century.
And she uncovered more than 600 of his famous ‘big sheets’ on which he recorded a encyclopedia of background information to be used in the commentaries than earned the title, the Voice of Rugby.
And on the first anniversary of Bill’s death, that archive with all its facts and figures, match programmes and newspaper clippings, has been donated to the Bill McLaren Foundation.
Copies will raise thousands of pounds for the work of the charity.
Bill sold some of his ‘big sheets’ and raised around £500,000 for good causes – many of them cancer-related. Bill and Bette’s daughter Janie died from cancer.
Bill turned to journalism and teaching after his rugby career with his native Hawick was cut short when he developed tuberculosis.
Linda – who is a director of the foundation – told TheSouthern: “Nobody imagined that dad would religiously file documents for each and every match he covered.
“Dad spent around 40 hours preparing for each match and it was very interesting to begin the archive journey in the early 1950s when he started and seeing the way in which dad developed his ‘big sheets’ over the next 50 years to become the sought after works of art that they now are.
“Many of the later sheets contain as much as 1,000 pieces of information about teams, players and officials which were all colour coded by dad. Preparation was at the heart of his success.”
Research of the archive has identified 633 ‘big sheets’ as well as hand written notes of Bills thoughts on the game, many of which are interesting and amusing. There are also match programmes and even expense claims that he sent to the BBC.
The archive will be handed to the Heritage Hub in Hawick to be professionally collated and stored for future reference.
Brian Renwick, a co-founder of the McLaren Foundation and a former PE pupil of Bill, admitted he was amazed at the extent of what had been uncovered.
He told us : “We all knew there would be a few ‘big sheets’ but never did we imagine that there would be so many.
“We are delighted to have the ability to reproduce copies of these sheets to generate funding for the foundation, the aims of which are to support the development of rugby and its values which Bill held dear, provide sporting opportunities for young people who might not otherwise receive them, and to hopefully create an education and inspirational base which will be the home of the entire archive.”
And he says that to achieve these aims, substantial amounts of cash will have to be raised.
He added: “We do hope that clubs and the population at large will become members of the Foundation.
“Bill was the Voice of Rugby world wide and while much of our efforts will be focused on Scotland, the intention is to progressively expand our charitable work throughout those countries that have bonds with Scotland and with Bill.
“We know that there will be thousands of players, officials, families and clubs around the world who would like to have a copy of a ‘big sheet’. There are also many youngsters that could benefit from sharing the life values that Bill as a PE teacher instilled in the youngsters of Hawick.”
Bill did his first commentary in 1952 from a South of Scotland match against South Africa.
His first ‘big sheet’ was for the clash between Ireland and Scotland in 1956 and his last from the 2002 Wales v Scotland international in Cardiff, which marked his retiral.
Visit the foundation’s website at www.billmclarenfoundation.co.uk