Right royal accolade for Borders hockey stalwart Mary Weir

Borders hockey stalwart Mary Weir has been rewarded for being a good sport for decades by being given a British Empire Medal.

By Ralph Mellon
Thursday, 6th January 2022, 3:39 pm
Updated Monday, 10th January 2022, 9:25 am
Mary Weir pictured this week (Photo by Bill McBurnie)
Mary Weir pictured this week (Photo by Bill McBurnie)

Weir, currently chairman of Kelso Hockey Club, received the BEM in the Queen’s new year’s honours list for services to sport in the Borders.

Keen involvement in hockey, tennis, badminton, eventing and Pony Club contests as a youngster in Duns led to a 35-year career as a PE teacher at Kelso High School – preceded by physical education teaching at nine Berwickshire schools.

It also sparked a devotion to coaching and the organisational side of sport, inspiring and encouraging many participants over the years.

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Mary Weir collecting a previous accolade for her services to sport in the Borders (Photo: Alwyn Johnston)

The mum of two reflected very modestly on her achievement when asked.

“I’m very honoured to receive it,” she said.

“It’s not every day you would receive that kind of honour for something I have just always done and enjoyed doing. I would not have looked for recognition of that kind.”

Her focus switched more towards hockey as it grew into a major sport in Borders schools and a main extra-curricular sport, becoming involved in playing, management and administration.

“I always enjoy the organisational side of it and got involved in that capacity with tennis too,” she said.

“I don’t like some of what goes on in the business of it all but, if you want to progress anything, you have to go into that side of it.”

The opening of Kelso’s new secondary school in 2017 allowed the town’s hockey club to blossom with improved playing facilities, having previously operated out of Berwickshire and Earlston high schools.

Weir added: “We have a very enthusiastic committee and we are progressing.

“We’re not quite where we want to be yet but we’re progressing well.”

Seeing the enjoyment, levels of participation and rising standards in the sport have been very rewarding, she said.

“I love being on a hockey pitch coaching children,” she said. “It's what I have done all my life and still enjoy doing it, hence the reason I’m still doing it. It’s great to see the improvement and, if we can be successful, then that is great.

“Enjoyment first and foremost is key but we want our teams to do well and progress as far as we can.”

Weir’s accolade sparked numerous messages of congratulation from around the Borders, including many from sporting enthusiasts grateful for her inspiration and the opportunities she provided.

Kelso Hockey Club say on their Facebook page: “What better way to start the year than celebrating Mary Weir?

“Mary is the heart and soul of Kelso Hockey Club and has given her life to hockey in Kelso and the Scottish Borders.

“She has made a huge impact on so many lives through her coaching and support of the club, Kelso High School and South schools hockey, with many of her players making it to district and even national level.

“We could not be prouder – congratulations.”

Fomer Kelso and Scotland rugby star John Jeffrey, now Scottish Rugby chairman and deputy lord-lieutenant for Roxburgh, Ettrick and Lauderdale, said: “I have known of Mary Weir for over 40 years as I was at school with her brother in the 1970s and, while not a close associate, I am very aware of her influence over the whole Borders.

“While Mary's day job was as a physical education teacher at Kelso High School, it was her extra-curricular activity I would highlight.

“She covered a large range of sports, including tennis, skiing and Scottish country dancing, but it was in hockey that she excelled.

“The sport was declining in the Borders and Mary almost single-handedly built it up to be a sport loved by all. No matter the weather, her disciples ran around the pitch with a smile on their faces and you could hear the laughter long before you actually saw the players.

“Often, facilities were next to non-existent and Mary had to beg, steal or borrow hockey pitches at weekends and weekday evenings to allow the children to train and play.

“Quite how Mary managed to fit all the hours into the day has always amazed me.”

David Sweetman, a former chief executive officer of Scottish Hockey, said: “Mary has been an integral part of the success of hockey in the Borders.

“Her passion and commitment have inspired hundreds of young players to pick up a stick for the first time and many are still involved in the sport today.

“With Mary’s hard work and passion, we have seen a continuous increase in the number of young players playing in Kelso. This is reflected in the increasing number of teams entering local and national competitions, both from Kelso and the South dDistrict.

“Mary has held a huge variety of volunteer roles and continues to play a key role linking the work of local schools and clubs to Scottish Hockey’s strategy and growth.

“One of my team summed it up beautifully by saying it is not just how much Mary has achieved but how she has achieved it – putting the player at the centre of everything, and development and participation ahead of results.

“This, I believe, is why Mary has been so successful in developing the huge number of players she has coached and supported.”

Charlie Robertson, ex-rector of Kelso High School, added: “Mary was a firm believer in the broader educational aspects of extra-curricular activities and the breadth of experience it could give her pupils.”