Legendary sports broadcaster, Hugh Dan, reflects on 40-year career in candid BBC ALBA documentary

Hugh Dan MacLennan, one of Scotland’s most recognisable voices in sports broadcasting, reveals all in a new BBC ALBA memoir.

Hanging up his microphone earlier this year after a 40-year career, the Boxing Day documentary, Hugh Dan (26 December, 9pm), shines a spotlight on the life and times of Hugh Dan MacLennan.

Covering football, rugby and shinty, his career has taken him to many the gantry – but it’s not only the sporting action he commentates on that has brought him fame and recognition.

From completing a PhD focusing on the history and development of shinty overseas and chairing the project to launch Faclair na Pàrlamaid, the Scottish Gaelic dictionary; to the work he has done for shinty outwith broadcasting, Hugh Dan’s work has been highly received and regarded throughout Scotland – and beyond.

Reflecting on his childhood and how this shaped his long and colourful career, he said: “My time at Caol Primary School was wonderful. We received an education that money can’t buy, and it laid the foundations for the rest of my life. Away from school, we were outside from dawn to dusk …We’d be playing football and shinty, and when Wimbledon was on we’d be hitting a tennis ball against the school wall making a racket. It was just special.”

An academic, an author, an authority on sports history and a former shinty player, he says he couldn’t have achieved half of what he has had it not been for his wife, Kathleen.

Hugh Dan decided to retire following the couple’s health concerns in 2022 when they were both diagnosed with cancer – however, they both have big plans for the future, especially now with more free time on their hands, including travelling and improving their golf handicaps.

Hugh comments: “It was a pretty rough year, with both of us having to deal with cancer, but it was a comfort in a way, that we were both in the same situation.

Hugh’s wife, Kathleen, adds: “We know only too well how lucky we have been not to need any more treatment… and we will take advantage of all of the good health while we have it.”

The 2023 Camanachd Cup final marked 40 years since Hugh Dan’s first broadcast – and his last covering the premier shinty competition as a commentator. He says: “Every shinty player would wish to be on the park, playing, and then lifting the trophy. I never got that opportunity but I got the opportunity to do the next best thing, and that’s sitting over there describing the action to everybody.”

Hugh Dan premieres on BBC ALBA and BBC iPlayer on Boxing Day, Tuesday 26 December at 9pm (in Gaelic with English subtitles). Watch live or on demand: www.bbc.co.uk/tv/bbcalba