A new footbridge in Hawick was this week named after the town’s renowned rugby commentator, Bill McLaren.
The McLaren Bridge was unveiled by his widow Bette and daughter Linda Lawson at Wilton Lodge Park, alongside pupils from Drumlanrig Primary and Burnfoot Community schools who jointly won a competition to name the steel structure.
Immediately afterwards, an official ceremony was held for the new cafe with Honorary Hawick Provost, Councillor Watson McAteer and representatives of Caterleisure, an experienced operator who will run the facility.
Both projects are part of the £3.64million Wilton Lodge Park regeneration project, which has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Scottish Borders Council.
Linda said: ‘I can only imagine what dad would be thinking today as the new bridge across the Teviot is given the McLaren name.
‘I have no doubt he would be thrilled and honoured to be remembered in this way by his ‘ain folk’, especially since it was the children of Drumlanrig and Burnfoot who made the suggestion.
‘Although he was respected and revered in many countries, he was a Hawick man through and through and this recognition by the town he loved would have meant the world to him, as it does to mum and the whole family.
‘We look forward to bringing his great-grandchildren to visit, to play and to appreciate what this means.
‘Mum, my husband Alan and I walk through the park most weeks, giving dad’s statue a wee pat on the head as we pass by, and we have watched with interest the development of the new facilities.
‘The council’s parks department have always done a wonderful job in maintaining the beauty of the area with their seasonal floral displays being especially stunning.
‘The council and the Heritage Lottery Fund have helped create a jewel in the Borders crown which will bring much enjoyment to locals and visitors alike for many years to come.’
The scheme has already delivered a number of new facilities including the hugely popular play-park, cycle paths, Zandra Elliot Bandstand, Walled Garden, upgraded Waterfall Walk and improved Hawick Museum, alongside a busy summer events programme.
There have also been a number of other works carried out to the various shelters and memorials within the park, including the Cenotaph, Boer War Memorial, MacNee Fountain, Jimmie Guthrie Memorial, Laurie Shelter and Henderson Shelter.
Signage and interpretation boards are still to be introduced, alongside tree planting, improvements to the park’s main entrance, the Common Riding ceremonial area and the Gilbert Davidson Fountain.
The Wilton Lodge Park Regeneration Scheme is scheduled to be completed this summer. The bridge cost £300,000 while the café cost £606,000. Both were constructed by ESH Border Construction.
Councillor McAteer added: ‘Bill McLaren is an iconic Hawick figure, not just as the renowned rugby commentator but a PE teacher who taught thousands of pupils.
‘It is fitting that the new bridge to Wilton Lodge Park, where Bill McLaren was a common sight coaching school rugby teams, is named after him.
‘Both the bridge and café will be major assets to Wilton Lodge Park and Hawick for many years to come and we must thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for their significant support of the regeneration project.’
Lucy Casot, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, said: ‘Thanks to players of The National Lottery, the McLaren Bridge and the new café will open up Wilton Lodge Park for many more people to enjoy.
‘It is fitting that a bridge named after the ‘Voice of Rugby’, will link the community with a place for sports, play and recreation.
‘The sound of children enjoying all that Wilton Lodge Park has to offer is a fitting tribute to a much-loved local hero.’