They’ll be dancing in the streets of Hawick that night

BBC commentator Bill McLaren at his commentary position at Murrayfield before the Scotland v England Lloyds TSB Six Nations Championship match at Murrayfield in Edinburgh, Scotland.
BBC commentator Bill McLaren at his commentary position at Murrayfield before the Scotland v England Lloyds TSB Six Nations Championship match at Murrayfield in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Hawick legend Bill McLaren’s life is celebrated in a new play presented by a theatre company based in the Borders town that he loved.

Firebrand’s production of ‘Bill McLaren: the Voice of Rugby’ will open on Tuesday, September 10, at the Heart of Hawick, the start of a run of six performances.

Based on an original script by rugby journalist Rob Robertson, and directed by Richard Baron, the play explores the man behind the voice and his personal dedication to rugby, as both the sport he loved and as a way to enable young people to achieve their potential in life.

The play uses a range of storytelling techniques to create a gripping, humorous and moving piece of theatre that celebrates the love story at the heart of the extraordinary achievements of a great Borders icon, whose lifelong passion for his sport and its values transcended his simple origins and brought him international fame and worldwide affection.

Writer Rob Robertson said: “His life story excited and inspired me, and is one of personal highs and lows. In my opinion he belongs in the pantheon of truly great world-class broadcasters. Go anywhere in Britain, in fact anywhere in the world where rugby is played in some form, and they will know the name of Bill McLaren. But there is a lot more to him than being just a rugby commentator.

“Bette, his wife, is featured heavily in the play as she was a massive part of his life – his rock.

“And whilst his rugby commentary was what made him an international household name, privately his passion for teaching sport, and particularly rugby, was a huge source of personal pride and fulfilment.

“His proudest day, he recalled once, was the day he became a qualified PE teacher. And it can be no coincidence that a surprising number of those youngsters he taught went on to play for Scotland.

“Hawick is where Bill started watching rugby as a boy and I am sure he would have been proud to have a play staged there in his honour and nothing could have been more fortuitous when looking for a company to stage the production than teaming up with the highly regarded Borders-based Firebrand. They have done a great job. Bill’s family, especially his daughter Linda, plus his friends and his charity – from which John Thorburn deserves a special mention – have been incredibly generous with background information that helped me create a picture of the man for the play.”

Director Richard Baron said: “We hope that our discovery of the man behind the voice enlightens, inspires and entertains like one of his commentaries and (to borrow a phrase) encourages the appropriate amount of dancing in the streets.”

The stellar Scottish cast includes Crawford Logan (Bill McLaren), Helen Logan (Bette), Sandy Batchelor (Gregor/Young Bill) with an outstanding creative team.

‘Bill McLaren: The Voice of Rugby’ is at the Heart of Hawick from Tuesday, September 10. Tickets: £16 (£10 under-16s) from www.bit.ly/BoxOfficeHOH and in person from Heart of Hawick.