Win a copy of Doddie Weir’s autobiography
It’s always been easy to notice the jovial giant that is Doddie Weir, particularly when clad in one of his trademark tartan suits. But the former Scotland lock’s status has rocketed since news that he has motor neurone disease (MND) was made public during the summer of 2017.
Weir was flying high over the Indian Ocean, on his way to New Zealand with his family for the Lions tour, when the media statement was released. His anxiety about how the rugby fraternity, and wider world in general, would react is a theme of this delightful autobiography, which comes 18 years after the idea of doing a book was first mooted!
Rugby World spoke to Weir ahead of that tour, asking for his thoughts on second-row selection. Little did we know that a few months earlier, on Friday 23 December 2016, he had received confirmation that he had MND, a condition with no known cure and no guidelines on life expectancy.
He was told, coldly, that within a year he wouldn’t be walking and yet nearly two years on he is defiantly doing much, much more than that, becoming the face of a campaign to discover new ways to fight this chilling disease. In the UK, only one drug, Riluzole, is available for treatment, and that was introduced more than 20 years ago.
Weir’s life started in 1970, when he was born into a farming and rugby-playing family in the Scottish Borders. As a youngster his passion was equestrianism and but for the sad demise of his horse, Arpal Glider, as it was being ridden by his sister Kirsty, he might never have found the time to pursue rugby with the vigour required of a professional in the making.
Jim Telfer, coach at the Melrose club that Doddie joined at U14s, describes in glowing terms what the gangly teenager brought to his club and country.
“Having coached Melrose and Scotland for years, without having any real ability in lineout play, Doddie was a godsend. At last we had someone who jumped up, not down!
“He had terrific hands to catch, tip and deflect, and you could literally throw him into the air and keep him there because he wasn’t carrying too much weight.” He was only 13st when he went on his first Scotland tour, extraordinarily light for someone in the engine room.
His career was to embrace all manner of high points, including the triumphant Lions tour in 1997, a Premiership title with Newcastle in 1998, and a Scotland Five Nations title in 1999.
He played in three World Cups and was Scotland’s record appearance-maker in the tournament, with 14, before being overtaken by Chris Paterson.
He was also offered the chance, by Saracens, to become the highest-paid domestic player in England but chose to remain with Newcastle, close to his Borders roots.
After 61 caps, his Scotland honours came to a halt in 2000 and, after an unsatisfying spell at the doomed pro Borders team, he embarked on a career in the sewage and drainage industry – he is still commercial director for the firm, Hutchinson Environmental Solutions, today.
The nature of his day job has doubtless provided fuel for his public speaking, with the Falcons and the SRU among those to employ him for hospitality events. In 2014 he won the Allianz Rugby Speaker of the Year competition, beating Ben Kay and Austin Healey in the final.
His concerns that people would react differently to him once they knew of his condition were, to a large extent, justified. It is difficult to behave as if everything continues as normal.
Yet the love and support of all within rugby has overwhelmed him. And this is tangible, because funds raised for Doddie’s Trust, to help him and his family, and his My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, to fund vital research into MND, have poured in.
Kenny Logan put on a 1,300-guest dinner in Battersea. Stuart Grimes came up with a Haggis Hike from Jedburgh to Kingston Park. Kelso staged a Tartan Giraffe Ball, a nod to Bill McLaren’s famous commentary. Gordon Bulloch ran up a hill 24 times to achieve the equivalent of scaling Everest. Peter Winterbottom organised a cycle ride in which Doddie was able to cover a large part of the route on a battery-powered bike.
Just as impressive and touching are all the smaller-scale fund-raising efforts from people up and down the land, many schoolchildren included.
“Thus far we have raised well over £1 million,” says Weir, 48. “I’m not sure what that equates to in terms of raffle tickets sold, cups of tea, cars washed, cakes baked or auction prizes donated. What I do know is that I can never thank everyone enough for everything they have done and will continue to do in fighting MND.”
My Name’5 Doddie: The Autobiography is written in collaboration with journalist Stewart Weir and conveys the warmness and humour that so many have come to love about Doddie.
It’s published by Black & White Publishing, RRP £20, and you can buy it here.
The publishers have kindly provided us with six copies to give away in a competition. For a chance to win one, look at the photo below and answer the question beneath it, filling in your details. The competition closes on Thursday 27 December.
Terms and conditions
The competition closes at 23.59pm on Thursday 27 December 2018.
Six winners will be selected at random, each winning a copy of the book, My Name’5 Doddie: The Autobiography.
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