Doddie Weir: who was ex Scottish rugby player celebrated at memorial service, when was he diagnosed with MND?

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The former Scotland international player passed away in November after a six-year battle with motor neurone disease

Friends and family of former Scottish international rugby player Doddie Weir have celebrated his life during his memorial service in the Scottish Borders. Weir passed away in late November following a battle with motor neurone disease (MND).

Hundreds of mourners turned out in Melrose to pay tribute to Weir, who died at the age of 52. Stars from rugby union joined his family at the service inside Melrose Parish Church, including his former teammates Carl Hogg and John Jeffrey.

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The influential figure raised millions for charity following his diagnosis of MND. His wife, Kirsty, thanked family, friends and fans of Weir’s for their “overwhelming” support over the last few years of his life.

She added that the family had been touched by the outpouring of love following his passing. Those remembering the life of Weir had been invited to wear his signature tartan in memory of the rugby player ahead of the memorial.

Along with those attending the church, fans also filled the stands at Melrose Rugby Club to say goodbye to Weir. He had played for the club in the early 1990s, winning three Scottish titles during his time at Melrose.

What happened at Doddie Weir’s memorial service?

The service was held at Melrose Parish Church at 1pm on 19 December. Among those to first arrive were former Scotland players Rob Wainwright, Gavin Hastings, Kenny Logan and Kelly Brown.

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Former teammates and notable rugby players turned out to pay respects to Weir. (credit: Getty Images)Former teammates and notable rugby players turned out to pay respects to Weir. (credit: Getty Images)
Former teammates and notable rugby players turned out to pay respects to Weir. (credit: Getty Images) | Getty Images

The eulogy was delivered by Hogg, with his former teammate saying that he cherished memories of their playing days together. He added: "Doddie had an amazing life, it was action packed full of fun, lots of adventure and lots of love.”

His sons, Hamish, Angus and Ben, all read a poem which had been specially written to commemorate Weir’s life. Written by Timmy Douglas, it was titled ‘Requiem for Doddie (The Mad Giraffe)’.

His sons were also among those to be dressed in colourful tartan, after Weir had requested guests to dress in the traditional Scottish garb. A blue and yellow coloured tartan had been specifically designed for his MND charity foundation MyName5Doddie, with Weir and others often donning the pattern at fundraisers and charity events.

Alongside the church service, hundreds of fans gathered at Melrose Rugby Club, which the church overlooks, during the memorial. Fans paid their respects, with pipe band Red Hot Chili Pipers also performing in memory of Weir.

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Fans gathered at Melrose Rugby Club to pay respect to the late Doddie Weir. (Credit: Getty Images)Fans gathered at Melrose Rugby Club to pay respect to the late Doddie Weir. (Credit: Getty Images)
Fans gathered at Melrose Rugby Club to pay respect to the late Doddie Weir. (Credit: Getty Images) | Getty Images

What did Doddie Weir’s wife say?

In a statement released shortly before the memorial service kicked off, Weir’s wife Kirsty thanked family, friends and fans for their support. She said: “We would like to thank everyone who has been so incredibly supportive over the last two weeks.

“As a family, we have been overwhelmed by the many messages we have received from all over the world. They have brought great comfort to me and the boys.

Weir's wife and sons wore colourful tartan to his funeral. (Credit: Getty Images)Weir's wife and sons wore colourful tartan to his funeral. (Credit: Getty Images)
Weir's wife and sons wore colourful tartan to his funeral. (Credit: Getty Images) | Getty Images

“We really appreciate people taking the time to share their own memories of Doddie and let us know we are in their thoughts. The memorial service will give those attending a chance to pay their respects and come together in Doddie’s name.

“We understand not everyone will be able to make it, particularly given the time of year, but we know you’re all thinking of us.”

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Current and former rugby union players Hamish Watson (left), John Barclay (centre) and Jamie Ritchie at Melrose Parish Church (PA)Current and former rugby union players Hamish Watson (left), John Barclay (centre) and Jamie Ritchie at Melrose Parish Church (PA)
Current and former rugby union players Hamish Watson (left), John Barclay (centre) and Jamie Ritchie at Melrose Parish Church (PA) | PA

Who was Doddie Weir?

Weir was a well-known name in the rugby world. He started his career at Stewart’s Melville FP RFC in Edinburgh in 1988 before he moved to Melrose RFC in 1989. His star grew during this time, after he won six Scottish championships with the Borders club.

During his senior career, he would go onto play for Newcastle Falcons and Border Reivers. He also became a regular player in the British Lions team and the Scottish national team and by the end of his career, he achieved 61 caps for his country.

When was he diagnosed with MND?

On MND Awareness Day 2017, Weir announced that he had been diagnosed with the condition in December 2016. MND is a condition which limits the ability of the brain and nervous system and can shorten the life expectancy of those diagnosed.

Following his diagnosis, he set up the MyName5Doddie foundation, which aims to find a cure to MND and support those living with the condition. The charity received an immense amount of support, with Weir raising over £1million by autumn 2018. To date, the foundation has raised more than £8million for MND research.

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Supporters included the Scottish national team, which helped to raise money and awareness at matches. On 13 November 2022, 13 days before his death, Scotland players wore a special kit while playing against the New Zealand All Blacks which featured the MyName5Doddie blue and yellow tartan throughout.

He has also been celebrated with a special cup played between Scotland and Wales. The Doddie Weir Cup was first launched in 2018, with following cup matches contested during the Six Nations tournament.

He was awarded a CBE in 2018 by Queen Elizabeth II. He was given the honour for his services to rugby, MND research and to the community in the Scottish Borders.

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