Doddie Weir, former Scotland and Lions second-row, dies aged 52

The Guardian
The Guardian

Doddie Weir, the former Scotland and British & Irish Lions second row, has died aged 52, the Scottish Rugby Union has announced.

Weir was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2016, and for the past several years had worked to raise awareness of the condition, and to generate research funds via a charity foundation, My Name’5 Doddie .

Weir made an appearance, along with his family, on the pitch at Murrayfield before Scotland’s defeat by the All Blacks less than two weeks ago. Scotland’s players wore jerseys with blue and yellow tartan that day, to mark five years since the forming of the foundation.

Weir won 61 caps for Scotland’s national team between 1990 and 2000, making his debut against Argentina in November 1990. He also won a solitary cap for Scotland B in 1989.
Doddie Weir makes an appearance at Murrayfield before Scotland’s match against New Zealand on 13 November. Photograph: Craig Watson/Inpho/Shutterstock

His professional club career included spells at Newcastle Falcons, where he made 97 appearances between 1995 and 2002, and Border Reivers in Scotland, where he played between 2002 and 2005 and also played 97 times.

In 1997 he was selected to tour South Africa with the British & Irish Lions, but his involvement was ended by a knee injury in a match against Mpumalanga Province before the Test series began. The Lions went on to win the series 2-1.

In an interview with the Guardian in June, speaking about his degenerative condition, Weir said: “It’s a lot harder now. I’ve got a lot slower. I am totally dependent on other people doing everything for me.”

Speaking after Scotland’s spirited performance in the recent loss to the All Blacks on 13 November, and Weir’s appearance before the match at Murrayfield, the home captain Jamie Ritchie said: “It’s bigger than rugby, but we did that for Doddie, such a special man, we’re glad we could put a decent performance out there for him, but sorry we couldn’t get the result.

“I don’t think anything defines brave more than Doddie, we were so proud that we could wear his tartan on our back. I can’t put it into words.”

Weir’s charity foundation was created in 2017 to raise funds for research into the disease. His family – his wife, Kathy, and sons Hamish, Angus and Ben – said in a statement: “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 … It is difficult to put into words how much we will miss him.”

After news of his death was announced, the Prince and Princess of Wales wrote a personal tweet paying tribute to him. “Doddie Weir was a hero – we are so sad to hear of his passing. His immense talent on the pitch as well as his tireless efforts to raise awareness of MND were an inspiration. Our thoughts are with all those who loved him. He will be hugely missed across the entire rugby world. W&C”

Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “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.”
A tribute to Doddie Weir is displayed on a screen at the match between England and South Africa at Twickenham. Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

The Scottish first minister added: “He refused to let it dim his spirit and did so much to help others. My condolences to his loved ones.”

Rishi Sunak, the prime minister, wrote on Twitter: “Rest in peace Doddie Weir OBE. All my family’s thoughts are with Kathy and her sons.”

Douglas Ross, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, tweeted: “Doddie was a colossus on the pitch and his brave fight for a cure to MND was an inspiration.”

Rob Burrow, the former Leeds and England rugby league player who is living with MND, tweeted : “So sad to hear the news of the passing of my mnd hero Doddie Weir. I’m sorry to say, how many more warriors die before this stupid government give the 50m they said they would give. I’m absolutely gutted to see my friendly giraffe die. You are the reason for being so positive RIP.”

The writer Ian Rankin tweeted: “Hellish news. He did so much to raise awareness of MND … Rest easy, Big Man.”

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