‘Mecca’ for rugby fans and tourists

Bill McLaren bust
Bill McLaren bust

THE presence of a new Bill McLaren memorial bust at Wilton Lodge Park and the mooted nearby world rugby centre designed to honour of “The Voice of Rugby” is set to become a shrine for supporters of the sport and draw many tourists from all over the world.

A bust in the likeness of the former commentator has been completed by a Borders sculptor and will be installed in the coming weeks to form a triangle of local sporting legends at the park with motorbike aces Steve Hislop and Jimmie Guthrie.

The bust, which cost £5,500, has been approved by members of the Bill McLaren Memorial Fund, the community council sub-group that commissioned the piece, and will be placed on a plinth. At the nearby Volunteer and Buccleuch Park area, a rugby heritage centre could be built under plans by the Bill McLaren Foundation, a group similarly aiming to create a memorial in the name of the legendary BBC commentator, who died in January 2010.

“I’m hoping that with the bust and the rugby centre together, Hawick is going to become a mecca for rugby fans,” said former Greens captain and Scotland cap Alastair Cranston, now a Hawick and Denholm councillor.

Fellow former Greens player Rob Brydon, who is part of the community council group preparing the unveiling of the bust before the end of the year, said that the two-part homage to Bill could have a similar impact to a memorial statue and rugby museum in the Stellenbosche area of South Africa, both named after Danie Craven, the former Springboks player and coach.

“What’s happened in South Africa with Danie Craven – The Godfather, as they call him there – is more or less on the same lines as what we’re doing. Rugby people from all over – not just South Africa – have made a point of putting that on their where-to-visit list and getting their photographs taken at the statue.

“I don’t see why the same wouldn’t happen here with a wee bit of promotion by ourselves. By Spring next year, I hope that the bust will have become well-known to the rugby fraternity.”

Marion Short of the community council is currently promoting a campaign to attract funding from local businesses to contribute towards the installation of the bust.

She said: “We have paid for the bust, but any funding leftover will be put towards landscaping the area and the building of the plinth.

“We are hoping it will be in place before the end of the year, but that is dependent on the council’s parks department clearing the area. Once all the holly bushes are cleared, it will look pretty. It will start to look like Bill’s corner where the paths all meet.”

A VisitScotland spokesperson told the Hawick News: “The Scottish Borders is renowned for its rugby legends and the idea to celebrate this in Wilton Lodge Park sounds a fitting tribute.

“It could inspire more visitors to come to Hawick and enjoy the quality accommodation and great things to see and do here. The region is a hotbed of rugby talent.”