BILL McLaren was hailed as Hawick’s “greatest ambassador in recent times” by the man who chairs the foundation dedicated to the legacy of the Voice of Rugby.
In a stirring address at Thursday’s Colour Bussing, principal guest Malcolm Murray spoke of his “privilege” at presiding over an organisation which promotes the values that the legendary commentator held so dear.
And Mr Murray likened the on-field struggles of Hawick RFC – the club of which he was president from 2002-04 – to the economic challenges facing his native town.
He expressed delight that the club has secured its place in Premiership One for next season.
“Rugby in the town, whilst suffering a bit from reductions in playing numbers, is still a lot better than in most other places in the country, a fact amply illustrated by Hawick YM’s fantastic season, winning every game under coach Jammy McFarlane,” said Mr Murray.
“There are a number of factors making it difficult for The Greens to get back to a pre-eminent position in club rugby, but maintaining a Premier One side is a great morale booster for the town and we need to do all we can to retain that position.
“Like the rugby team, the town is working hard to overcome the economic factors that are pitted against it.
“But we have a community spirit which is second to none and that will be displayed in abundance during the next couple of days under the leadership of Cornet Michael Davidson.
“Whilst the town struggles to find a new focus for a strong economic bounceback, it is essential this unique community spirit is maintained. The Common Riding ensures an annual celebration of it, but it has to be there and working for the good of the town all year round.
“It’s not going to be easy to re-establish the strong industry background that we enjoyed in years past, but that itself emerged from earlier times which were even more difficult than we are experiencing today.
“If we retain self confidence and maintain morale, then it will surely only be a matter of time before another upswing occurs. We have a well-educated workforce in an environment that is second to none, assets that have to be recognised eventually.
“Don’t ever apologise for placing too much emphasis on the past – on history – at this time of year. The past largely makes the present, and the future too. The key to this Borderland of ours is tradition and story, vivid, challenging, colourful, enduring tradition.
“In an age when the impact of the mass media and easy communication is leading us to a general uniformity and mediocrity, let us remember that this tradition makes us different, distinct and independent without being parochial.
“‘Not a queen of beauty, perhaps’, said Nigel Tranter when speaking of Hawick, ‘but nevertheless a place of sterling and obvious character, bustling, busy, virile, a bastion of vivid individuality and independence of mind, a spirit – or even a rage or fury – of indepencence which the rest of Scotland and indeed the rest of Britain should recognise more gratefully’.
“Tonight and this weekend we have the annual celebration of this town’s unique community spirit, and once again we have an outstanding focal point and leader in Cornet Michael Davidson, who’ll ensure our Flag’s safe passage oot and back in again.”
Earlier, Mr Murray paid tribute to Bill McLaren and outlined the aspirations of the foundation.
“We have been functioning now for just over a year and already we have been successful enough in fundraising to allow us to start using some of our resources to promote Bill’s name and, more importantly, support activities which promote the values which Bill held so dear.
“One of our main objectives of is to try to establish a centre which, together with a number of educational and tourist activities, could house the Bill McLaren archive.
“We’re already paying for someone to catalogue the hundreds of items which could form its basis and there are exciting prospects ahead on this front which should be great for the town and the Borders.
“Meanwhile, all of us are looking forward to the establishment of the permanent memorial in Wilton Lodge Park.
McLaren museum launch – page 25