Big kick-off for rugby museum

Bill McLaren Museum Launch
Bill McLaren Museum Launch

PLANS have been revealed for a multi-million pound Bill McLaren Centre of World Rugby, to be situated in Hawick.

Although it is unclear at the moment where exactly the Centre will be based, with a number of sites under consideration, it is hoped the ambitious project could be open within the next three years.

The worldwide attraction will cost between £3million and £4million.

Described as having “immense possibilities”, it will tell the story of rugby, in Bill’s voice as far as possible thanks to BBC Scotland, who have pledged unprecedented support by granting free access to their archive of matches on which Bill commentated.

Led by the Bill McLaren Foundation, the Centre is being spearheaded by local historian and novelist Alistair Moffat.

And while it may well have gone to Murrayfield, or elsewhere, Mr Moffat, who is a director of the Foundation admitted there was only one place it could be housed.

He said: “The idea is to put it in Hawick and it will be something that will attract people from South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina and all over the world.

“Bill’s voice is like Tweed: rich, warm and textured, and it is absolutely of Hawick. When you listen to Bill you hear Hawick.

“There could be no more appropriate place for this Centre, not Murrayfield, not Twickenham.”

Local historian Ian Landles, also a director of the Foundation, agreed that the world class facility would become the envy of many and something the town would be proud of.

He added: “Murrayfield would have loved to have had this but it has to be in Hawick, Bill’s centre of creation, his beloved home town, whose rugby team’s famous green jersey he was so proud to wear.

“The place he returned to by the nearest train or place as soon as was humanly possible as soon as his commentary was done.”

Mr Moffat revealed that they would be looking for a ‘double-height’ building, similar to the Tower Mill, in order to facilitate a giant cinema-style screen.

He said: We want people to feel like they are walking into Murrayfield with the roar of the crowd and Bill’s voice,” added Mr Moffat. “We also want to recreate stadiums such as Ellis Park, Twickenham and Lansdowne Road.” The plans also include a parallel educational resource in the form of a series of opportunities for children to learn more about rugby, television and the wider skills of articulacy and use of English.

Bill’s daughter, Linda Lawson, added: “Dad would be in wonderment. He was far too modest to think that this would ever have happened, but if it does good for the town and for the area, or helps youngsters in an educational sense, then he would have been very pleased.”

The intention of the Foundation is to raise the funds from a variety of sources including major funders, gifts, donations and sponsorship.

Foundation chairman Malcolm Murray said: “This is just the beginning of what is going to be a very challenging project.

“We need to source substantial funds – but I am confident we can make it happen with the support of our partners, friends and members of the community.”