McLaren Foundation in rude health

The late Bill McLaren.
The late Bill McLaren.

The charitable company honouring the inspirational legacy of legendary rugby commentator Bill McLaren goes from strength to strength.

Despite “difficult” times for fund-raising, the annual group accounts of the Hawick-based Bill McLaren Foundation (BMF), signed off earlier this month, reveal that it paid grants of more than £57,000 to 17 institutions and made further charitable donations of £62,000 in the year to June 30.

The largesse reflects the founding commitment of trustees to develop and promote rugby union and sporting opportunities of all kinds in “Scotland and elsewhere”.

True to that maxim, the accounts show that BMF, set up in 2010, more than doubled its financial support – from £5,000 to £10,850 – to the Bhubesi Pride Foundation which supports rugby coaching in schools and community centres in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa.

“It reflects our international reach and our desire, going forward, to further extend Bill’s influence into the educational world,” said BMF company secretary John Thorburn. “While we have come a long way in the last five years, we must keep pushing to ensure his legacy is not fleeting, particularly in our schools.”

Mr Thorburn, who is also vice-president of Hawick RFC, recalled being coached as a schoolboy by Bill McLaren, who was a PT teacher in Hawick from 1959 to 1987.

“Much has been said about his role in teaching the basics of the game to generations of Hawick boys, including many future internationalists, but, for me, he had the greatest impact in instilling self-discipline and respect for others.”

The BMF accounts reveal that the group generated total income of £555,237 over the year, up from £448,247 in 2014. This included income from its commercial subsidiary The Voice of Rugby Ltd which holds fund-raising events, including an annual dinner in Edinburgh, and sells merchandise to help BMF meet its objectives.

Notable profile-raising activities over the year included the Guinness television advertisement promoting the
values of rugby in the four home nations, which evoked the commentator’s irrepressible spirit in fighting the tuberculosis he contracted in 1947.

The accounts confirm that the foundation has agreed to make an unsecured loan of £10,000 to Bill McLaren Park Ltd for the planned redevelopment of Volunteer Park, where a 3G pitch is due to be installed next summer.

Bill McLaren died in January 2010, aged 86.