He was as handy as anyone at catching oval-shaped balls in his day, and now Borders rugby legend Doddie Weir has proved to be every bit as successful as having balls of a different kind thrown in his honour.
A ball in aid of the former Scotland international’s motor neurone disease research charity held in Kelso in January was initially thought to have yielded around £250,000, but now all the money raised by the event has been collected, it turns out that it has topped that already-remarkable total by more than £60,000.
The fundraiser, named the Tartan Giraffe Ball in reference to the 47-year-old’s bent for wearing tartan suits and late rugby commentator Bill McLaren’s likening of the lock forward to the earth’s tallest land mammal, was organised by his friends Stewart Bennet, Douglas Stephen and David Baird after the British and Irish Lions player revealed he had been diagnosed with MND in late 2016.
All 500-plus tickets for the Springwood Park event sold out in next to no time, helping it raise £310,177.
“We have experience of friends or family who have suffered MND, and when Doddie’s diagnosis was confirmed, we felt it was a good opportunity to invite people across the Borders to come together and help tackle this terrible illness,” explained Border Union Agricultural Society chairman Mr Stephen.
“We all know Doddie well and his famous on-field work ethic has been to the fore off the field in the way he has sought information about MND and gone out of his way to raise money to fund research.
“All we did was organise another opportunity for that, and the Borders people took it from there.”
Weir, capped 61 times for Scotland between 1990 and 2000, said: “I am absolutely blown away by how much the lads have raised.
“The event itself was a fantastic, unique night that brought big rugby and farming communities together, but the amount of money raised is down to the incredible efforts of Dougie, Stewart and David, who, I think, spent every waking hour persuading people to donate auction prizes.
“I take my hat off to all who helped in any way and thank them from the bottom of my heart. There is no doubt that this will help hugely in our battle to find a cure for MND.”
The event attracted 180 auction lots including the use of two private jets, sporting memorabilia and agricultural machinery.
Hosted by TV presenters Jill Douglas and Dougie Vipond, the ball was attended by many of Weir’s former Melrose, Newcastle Falcons and international team-mates, including Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend.
“It was a special, one-off event that attracted incredible support,” added former Kelso rugby player Mr Bennet.
“The amazing quality and quantity of donations are what took the tally raised well beyond what we imagined was possible at a wee Borders event, but we also have to thank main sponsors M and J Ballantyne and the Craigie Hotel in Penicuik, who stepped up to the plate to help us make the event happen, the other six key sponsors that ensured it went ahead – Crop Services, Agri, Greenvale, R Manners and Sons, Harrison and Hetherington and James S Baird and Sons – and our host, the Border Union Agricultural Society. Without them, this would only have been a dream.
“As much as this will hopefully make a big difference to MND sufferers, the Borders community has shown what Doddie means to them.
“Ultimately it was a love for the big guy that pulled people to this and generated over £300,000.
“I think it’s a form of payback for all that he has done for us, for the Borders and Scotland.”
To see our video of the ball for Weir, of Blainslie, go to www.thesouthernreporter.co.uk/news/gallery-doddie-s-ball-raises-250-000-for-his-charity-1-4674327