‘Rugby treasures’ go on display at Bowhill’s Bill McLaren exhibition

Chris Paterson, centre, launches the rugby exhibition at Bowhill House, with, from left, Sandy Bannerman and Ian Landles, both trustees of the Bill McLaren Foundation; and John Thorburn, the foundation's secretary
Chris Paterson, centre, launches the rugby exhibition at Bowhill House, with, from left, Sandy Bannerman and Ian Landles, both trustees of the Bill McLaren Foundation; and John Thorburn, the foundation's secretary

An exhibition celebrating the career of Bill McLaren, ‘The Voice of Rugby’, has been launched by Chris Paterson at Bowhill House.

The exhibition has been unveiled to mark the 200th anniversary of the Carterhaugh Ba’ Game, a historic hand ball match of epic proportions organised in Selkirk by the 4th Duke of Buccleuch, Sir Walter Scott and James Hogg in December 1815.

It is thought that the famous Carterhaugh match could be the forebear of rugby, with one historical account of the game suggesting that the ball was at one point picked up and slung between teammates, eight years before rugby purportedly originated at Rugby School.

To mark the anniversary of the historic match, and the potential dawn of rugby as we know it today, a series of celebratory events are being arranged by Bowhill and the Bill McLaren Foundation, including the exhibition and a re-enactment of the
original game, involving the local community, in the winter.

Speaking at the exhibition launch, former Gala stand-off and Scotland captain Chris Paterson MBE said: “I’m delighted to open this exhibition in a landmark year for rugby.

“Not only is the Rugby World Cup looming large – a competition that Bill loved – but with the 200th anniversary of the original Carterhaugh Ba’ Game coming later this year, what better time to celebrate The Voice of Rugby.”

Linda Lawson, Bill’s daughter and director of the Bill McLaren Foundation, said: “The exhibition boasts a number of rugby treasures which fans of the game will undoubtedly be fascinated to view, all collected over Dad’s illustrious five-decade career commentating for the BBC.

“The centrepiece of the display is a series of Dad’s famous ‘Big Sheets’ – meticulously created, expansive pages of hand-written notes, facts, figures and little-known nuggets of information that he would tirelessly research and compile ahead of every match to ensure he knew the teams, players and officials taking part inside out.

“Seven-hundred colourful, insightful ‘Big Sheets’ now exist and we have five big sheets spanning four decades of rugby, from matches like the inaugural World Cup final in 1987 and Scotland’s historic grand slam decider in 1990, as part of the exhibition at Bowhill.”

Helen Currie, house and events manager at Bowhill, said: “We’re honoured to be hosting this fantastic exhibition dedicated to Bill’s impressive career.

“The exhibition forms a key part of our celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the Carterhaugh Ba’ Game, and it’s very fitting that we have such wonderful examples of more recent sports history on display to complement the sporting story that dates back to 1815 here at Bowhill.”

Details of more events being held to mark the anniversary are expected to be announced shortly.

The exhibition can be viewed at Bowhill Theatre foyer until the end of September, every day except Tuesdays, from 10am-4pm.

Additional opening hours for the remainder of the year will be available at www.bowhillhouse.co.uk