Tributes to Borders rugby legend Doddie Weir after death at age of 52
The former Melrose, Border Reivers and Scotland lock was diagnosed with MND in December 2016 and later founded a charity to help fellow sufferers and fund research into the disease, the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation.
The 61-times-capped international’s wife Kathy and sons Hamish, Angus and Ben, of Blainslie, announced his death in a statement issued via the Scottish Rugby Union yesterday, November 26.
It read: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our beloved husband and father Doddie.
“Doddie was an inspirational force of nature. His unending energy and drive and his strength of character powered him through his rugby and business careers and, we believe, enabled him to fight the effects of MND for so many years.
“Doddie put the same energy and even more love and fun into our lives together. He was a true family man. It is difficult to put into words how much we will miss him.
“MND took so much from Doddie but never his spirit and determination. He battled MND so bravely, and whilst his own battle may be over, his fight continues through his foundation until a cure is found for all those with this devastating disease.”
Weir set up the My Name'5 Doddie Foundation in 2017 and since then it has spent almost £8m on research projects.
Among those to have paid tribute to Weir is fellow Borders rugby legend and SRU chairman John Jeffrey.
“Doddie was ahead of his time as a ball-playing second row and for almost a decade he was one of the first names on the Scotland teamsheet,” said the ex-Kelso star.
“He was a great team-mate on the pitch and an even greater team-mate off the pitch.
“In rugby terms, Doddie will probably be remembered for two things – the cruel injury in South Africa which prevented him winning a deserved British and Irish Lions test cap and Bill McLaren describing him as a mad giraffe, which he loved. That does not do justice to his rugby-playing abilities as he was one of the most sought-after signings at the start of the professional era.
“For all that Doddie achieved as a rugby player, his name is associated worldwide with the battle to find a cure for MND.
“For the last six years, Doddie and Kathy have dedicated themselves to not only finding a cure for MND but also caring for fellow sufferers.
“He raised literally millions for his foundation but, more importantly, raised awareness globally as he courageously battled this cruel disease, and always with a smile on his face.
“Our thoughts are with Kathy and the boys as we remember the great life of Doddie Weir.”
Former Scotland and Border Reivers team-mate Gregor Townsend has also paid tribute to Weir, saying: “The news of Doddie’s passing is incredibly sad for his family and the whole of Scottish rugby but it’s also a time to celebrate Doddie’s life and what he’s achieved, particularly over the last five years.
“His fight against MND and his fight to find a cure for the illness has been inspirational. I know it’s inspired so many people around the country to raise a lot of money for the My Name'5 Doddie Foundation, which has, in turn, brought together his friends, as well as rugby clubs and communities across Scotland and further afield.
“Doddie will have a huge legacy as he’s made such progress in finding a cure for MND and breakthroughs are already being made because of his determination.
“He was fun to be around and was always joking with team-mates and coaches. He kept that spirit going once he’d retired, becoming a brilliant after-dinner speaker on the back of being a brilliant rugby player.”
Townsend, as head coach of the national side, invited Weir to Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium earlier this month for Scotland’s 31-23 loss to New Zealand to present the match-ball to captain Jamie Ritchie before the game and the ex-Gala stalwart recalled that moment saying: “It’s a sad time for us all but it was great to see him receive the ovation and love that he earned a couple of weeks ago when he presented the match-ball before our game against the All Blacks.
“It touched everyone in the stadium and those watching on TV.
“I know he means a lot to our players and our love and thoughts go to Doddie’s family.
“We want to pay tribute to the big man who has made a huge difference and had a deep impact on the lives of so many over the last few years.”
A spokesperson for his old club Melrose added: “We would like to pay tribute to our dear friend Doddie Weir, who has sadly passed away after a long and public battle with MND, aged just 52.
“Doddie was an inspirational rugby player and loyal friend to Melrose, but today we must also acknowledge that it’s not just the world of rugby that has lost someone special – it’s all of us around the world. Every single person who has been touched by Doddie’s kindness, bravery and humour will feel his loss.
“Since his diagnosis, Doddie had dedicated his life to raising funds and awareness of MND in an effort to find new treatments and a cure. There is no doubt that his tireless work has left a tremendous impact.
“Doddie will always have a place in our hearts and his legacy will live on at the Greenyards.
“We send our deepest condolences to Kathy, Hamish, Angus and Ben at this sad time.”
Away from rugby, UK Government Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “The death of Doddie Weir robs us of a sporting great and an inspirational figure.
“He was a titan in a Scotland shirt and he will also be remembered for his dignity in the face of his motor neurone disease diagnosis.
“Doddie took on illness with the same courage he showed on the rugby pitch and was an inspiration for those affected by the same awful disease. His charity foundation will continue his legacy.
“Doddie was a great family man and my condolences go to them and to his many, many friends around the globe.”
Scottish Government first minister Nicola Sturgeon added: “This is so terribly sad. Doddie was one of our nation’s sporting legends but the brave way he responded to MND surpassed anything ever achieved on the rugby pitch.
“He refused to let it dim his spirit and did so much to help others.”