Doddie Weir death: Tributes to former Newcastle Falcons captain and MND campaigner who died aged 52

Former Newcastle Falcons captain Doddie Weir died at the age of 52 after being diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2016.

Former Newcastle Falcons captain and rugby legend Doddie Weir died on Saturday (November 26) at the age of 52, six years after he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease (MND). Weir, who was born in Edinburgh, raised millions through a charity he set up with his wife, My Name’5 Doddie Foundation to aid research into MND following his diagnosis in 2016.

Weir started playing rugby for Stewart’s Melville FP RFC. He then played for Melrose RFC in the Borders before joining the Newcastle Falcons in 1995 and was part of the 1997–98 Premiership winning side. In 2002, he moved back to Scotland to join the newly reformed Borders team where he remained until his retirement.

The lock forward also won 61 caps between 1990 and 2000 for Scotland, including two in one World Cup against the All Blacks. He is survived by his wife Kathy and sons Hamis, Angus, and Ben. In a moving tribute, his wife described her husband as “an inspirational force of nature.”

She wrote: "We are lucky to have shared our lives with him and we cherish all those memories: his love and warmth, his support and advice, his quick wit, and his terrible jokes. 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. Hamish, Angus, Ben and I would like to thank everyone for your support and for respecting our privacy at this difficult time."

Weir was a lineout specialist who scored four international tries during his career, including two against New Zealand in a World Cup quarterfinal loss in 1995. In 2019, he was awarded an OBE by the Queen and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Helen Rollason Award for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity.

Tributes to Doddie Weir

Tributes have since poured in for Weir, with many describing him as ‘inspirational’. Jill Douglas, CEO of My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and close friend said: “Doddie enjoyed a full life full of fun and love. And it was this approach to life which shone through in his determination to make a difference and help others when he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease.

"He inspired us every day with his positivity and energy and was fully committed to the work of the Foundation he launched with his close friends in November 2017. My Name’5 Doddie Foundation continues to shine a light on MND and the need to seek meaningful treatments and one day, a cure for this devastating disease."

Weir moved south with Newcastle Falcons and won the Tetley's Bitter Cup.

Earlier this month, he appeared at Edinburgh’s Murrayfield with the match ball before Scotland’s match against New Zealand, receiving a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd. The sporting icon appeared for his final Scotland match in March 2000 when they lost to France 16-28 at home. Upon retirement, he and Kathy raised their children and ran a farm outside Melrose, Roxburghshire, near where he was brought up in Cortleferry.

Following his death on Saturday night, fans at the Autumn Nations international between England and South Africa broke out in a round of applause when Doddie’s death was announced on screens around Twickenham to pay their respects. Former rugby star Scott Hastings said: “We lost the most lovable man in the world today. Doddie Weir, we will honour your legacy and find a cure for MND.”

What is motor neurone disease?

Motor neurone disease (MND) affects the brain and nervous system causing weakness which gets worse over time.According to the NHS: “MND can significantly shorten life expectancy and, unfortunately, eventually leads to death.” While there are treatments to help control symptoms, there is currently no cure for the condition. It usually affects people in their 60s and 70s, but it can affect anyone.

Jamie Ritchie with Doddie Weir and family before Scotland's match against New Zealand. (Photo by Craig Williamson / SNS Group)

Symptoms begin gradually and can include things like weakness in the legs, slurred speech, a weak grip, muscle cramps and twitches, weight loss and even finding it harder to stop yourself crying or laughing in inappropriate situations. For more information on MND, visit theNHS website.