Bill McLaren exhibition opens at Bowhill House

An exhibition celebrating the career of Bill McLaren, ‘The Voice of Rugby’, was launched by Scottish Rugby ambassador Chris Paterson MBE at Bowhill House near Selkirk on the 24th August, 2015.


The exhibition has been unveiled to mark the 200th anniversary of the Carterhaugh Ba’ Game, an 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 has been suggested 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.


Speaking at the exhibition launch, Chris Paterson MBE said:


“I’m delighted to open this exhibition in a landmark year for rugby.  Not only is 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. 700 colourful, insightful ‘Big Sheets’ now exist and we have five big sheets spanning four decades of rugby, from matches such as the inaugural Rugby World Cup final in 1987 and Scotland’s historic grand slam decider in 1990, as part of the exhibition at Bowhill.”


The 1815 Carterhaugh Ba’ match involved teams from Selkirk and Yarrow and was played on the Carterhaugh peninsula between the Ettrick and Yarrow Waters on the Bowhill Estate. It is estimated that more than 1,000 men took part in the game, with over 2,000 spectators cheering the teams on.


The 4th Duke of Buccleuch officiated the match, with Sir Walter Scott championing the Selkirk men and James Hogg supporting the Yarrow team. The game was accompanied by pipes playing, banners flying, and wild celebrations from supporters on both sides, and a grand dance took place at Bowhill House following the event.


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"


The Foundation expresses their heartfelt thanks for the tremendous support extended by Bowhill House and commend then highly on displaying an outstanding exhibition.


© Bill McLaren Foundation 2016 Registered Charity Number SC041238

The Bill McLaren Foundation

Heart of Hawick