Rugby legend Doddie Weir and Tourette’s syndrome campaigner John Davidson are among the Borderers named in the Queen’s New Year Honours List, published today.
John Davidson MBE
John, of Galashiels, rose to stardom in the 1989 BBC documentary John’s Not Mad, which profiled his own struggle with Tourette’s syndrome.
It was, at the time, a condition which not many people had heard of, and no support structure was in place for sufferers.
Since then, John, now 47, has dedicated his life to not only raising awareness of Tourettes, but also travels the country to help families and sufferers deal with the diagnosis.
He has appeared in other documentaries since, which showed how he was able to hold down a job as caretaker at Langlee Community Centre, as well as helping others with Tourette’s.
He works with groups such as Tourette’s Scotland 2018 and national organisation Tourette’s Action, visiting schools and giving talks.
He told us how he felt when the letter came through, telling him he was being awarded the MBE for his services to those with Tourette’s.
He said: “The envelope said on Her Majesty’s Service, and that it came from the cabinet office.
“My first thought was ‘what the hell have I done now?’
“But when I opened it and read it, I was absolutely elated, but shocked at the same time.
“I mean, why would I be given an award for something I just do every day because it is needed?
“It is really humbling, though, and I’m happy to receive the award ... it can only help to continue to raise awareness.”
Tourette’s is manifested through involuntary tics, both motor (bodily jerks and movements) and vocal (which can sometimes take the form of coprolalia – outbursts of obscene language).
It’s fair to say that the main reason Tourette’s is more widely accepted and diagnosed nowadays is the work John has done throughout the years.
He holds occasional Tourette’s weekends at his place of work in Langlee, where whole families can attend, the children are able to interact with other sufferers in workshops and outdoor activities and the parents are given support.
He said: “Thirty years ago, I started off on my own. Now I have a whole Tourette’s family.”
And this year, he plans to campaign for more money to be put into education in schools to cater for sufferers.
He said: “It’s still absolutely shocking out there. Kids are excluded from classes or locked in cupboards. It’s not because the teachers are not aware of the condition, it’s just that budget restrictions mean there is no money there to put in place the support networks for these children.”
He also wants to stop comedians from thinking it’s acceptable to mock Tourette’s sufferers in their acts.
He admitted: “When you hear people randomly swearing, of course it can be funny,
“And almost every Tourette’s sufferer I know is a natural comedian. It comes out in their tics and it can be funny.
“Sometimes, the comedy helps them deal with their situation in their own way, and that’s fine.”
“But when comedians mock the condition and its sufferers on a stand-up show, it’s unacceptable.
“They wouldn’t mock kids with Down’s syndrome or cerebral palsy, or people with cancer, because it wouldn’t be allowed.
“And on the internet, it’s worse. There’s a video someone made of the birdy song, adding in scenes of me doing tics ... it has made me incredibly angry in the past and I can go to some dark places when I see it.
“But what if a young boy who has just been diagnosed looks on the internet to find out anbout Tourette’s and sees all this rubbish?”
“What will he think of his future chances?
“It is harming, it is immoral, and it needs to stop.”
Doddie Weir OBE
Picking up an OBE in the Honours List is Blainslie farmer George Wilson Weir, known to everyone as Doddie.
The rugby legend with a questionable taste in colourful tartan suits has also, like John, brought the condition he was diagnosed with into the public eye.
Doddie, who was diagnosed with MND in early 2017, has worked tirelessly since to raise money and awareness of the muscle-wasting illness.
Indeed, the charity has raised over £1million in its first year.
Doddie has been rewarded for his enthusiastic and inspirational work to raise awareness of MND, he has since been given several awards, including being this year’s Honorary Fellow at Borders College and being awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Science at Glasgow Caledonian University, as well as being presented with the Edinburgh Award 2018.
Barbara Louise Elborn BEM
Barbara is the secretary of the Newcastleton and District Community Trust, which hit the headlines earlier this year by reopening the village’s petrol pumps, which is expected to save residents up to £300 a year.
She was awarded the British Empire Medal for services to her community.
The 59-year-old , who moved to Newcastleton in 2000, told us today: “I’m surprised, honoured, humbled, and the award is wholly unexpected.
“There are a huge number of volunteers in Newcastleton, indeed everywhere who, like me, just get on with what is needed and expect no thanks for what they do.
“I am honoured to have been nominated for this which makes it hugely significant. The British Empire Medal is given in recognition of the work that all volunteers do, every day many are needed locally to fulfil roles in our first responders team, our local Welfare Car Scheme, many make time for a coffee with their neighbour or someone who needs support.
“Virtually every Saturday this community raises money for a local need. All these people are the true unsung heroes.
“I am truly shocked to have been nominated to receive this award and assume it is because I have been associated with the challenges that get the highest profile, but even these are never achieved single-handed, they require a team.
“I am very lucky to work with so many people who believe in what we do and who all give up their time to help overcome so many of the challenges that we face living where we do.
“Copshaw folk all love where we live, it’s truly exceptional because of its people – they have the biggest hearts and are the most generous people you could hope to know.
“I am very proud and honoured to represent the people of Newcastleton. Thank you to all who nominated me I am humbled to receive this award.
“I’m very grateful, but I accept the award on behalf of the huge army of volunteers, without whom the many projects we have running would not see the light of day.”
Dr Stephen Lee OBE
Steve, from Peebles, is a programme manager for forestry resources and management, and is awarded the OBE for services to forestry.
Allan Beveridge BEM
Peebles stalwart Alan Beveridge was also given the BEM for his voluntary services to the community. The rugby club legend, former Callant and secretary of the Beltane Festival is well known in the town and across the Borders.
George Brownlie Prentice BEM
George, from Eyemouth, a welfare officer for the Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders branch of the Royal Air Force Association, has also been awarded the BEM for voluntary service to ex-service personnel and to the community in Coldingham and Berwickshire.