Former tour team-mates of Borders rugby legend Doddie Weir reuniting for fundraiser
All 22 surviving members of the Scottish schools rugby side selected, along with Weir, for a tour of New Zealand in 1988 are reuniting for a 40-mile cycle ride and 14-mile walk from Carter Bar on the England-Scotland border to Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium this week.
They’ll set off this Thursday for their Doddie 88 Challenge, so called because that distance adds up to 88km, and intend to arrive in the capital – going via Bonchester Bridge, Ancrum and Melrose – the day after.
They’ve already raised more than £23,000 for the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, set up by Weir in 2017 following his diagnosis with motor neurone disease the year before, and have set themselves a target of £88,000.
Those taking part in this week’s fundraiser include former Earlston High School pupils Scott Aitken, Steve Brotherstone, Richard Brown and Graham Shiel; Selkirk High alumni Bruce Thomson and Scott Nichol; Berwickshire High’s Rory Dickson and Douglas Archibald and Galashiels Academy’s Richie Gray.
Rob Moffat, now director of rugby at Melrose, was head coach for the touring squad and he said: “It is great that so many of that squad have reunited to do this challenge for Doddie and MND research.
“He was a huge presence on and off the field on that tour and would have loved the banter that will be shared over these three days.
“It shows what the camaraderie in rugby is all about and what Doddie meant to this group.
“It will also further help the MND cause, which Doddie worked tirelessly for, over the past few years.”
Gary Kenhard, captain of the schoolboys’ squad, is also looking forward to their reunion, saying: “It is fantastic that so many members of the ’88 squad have come together for Doddie.
“Team-mates are travelling from France, Singapore, Gibraltar, Australia, and Canada. It’s incredible.
“I can fully understand why they are coming. It was a special tour, with special people, and at the centre of it all was the magnificent Doddie Weir.
“I was proud to lead the lads back then, and having Doddie as a teammate made the tour an absolute pleasure.
“Doddie was the type of person who would run alongside you in your time of need.
“Although we are not as fit as we once were, we are steadfastly determined to return Doddie’s support by putting in a shift which raises as much cash as possible for MND.”
Scrum-half Andy Nicol went on to captain the national team, picking up 23 caps between 1992 and 2002, and he added: “Doddie was a force of nature when he was alive, so we are duty-bound to keep that legacy going now that he is no longer with us.
“His selfless approach to his diagnosis blew me away. It was never about Doddie, it was all about helping others, and he was furious that there had only been one drug developed over 20 years to help people cope with MND.
“I don’t think MND had a voice in 2016. Doddie changed that, and his strongest legacy is not just the near £8m raised, it is that MND now has a voice.
“It will be incredible to reconnect with boys that I had an unbelievable experience with 35 years ago and to keep Doddie’s legacy going.
“Doddie was an inspiration when he was alive and he remains so after his passing.
“He was a great player, a great man and a great inspiration to millions.”
Blainslie’s Weir, killed by MND in November at the age of 52, is one of just two players missing from the fundraising team, former Dollar Academy fly-half Gary Sisman also having died since, back in 1992.
To donate, go to visit justgiving.com/fundraising/doddie88