A lot has been written in newspapers and across social media about the sad passing of Doddie Weir. To those who never had the opportunity to meet him or experience his personality, the profusion of articles and kind words might raise some curiosity. Sadly, Motor Neurone Disease has been around a long time and the claiming of yet another victim by this cruel disease would not ordinarily cause such a widespread outpouring of sympathy. But Doddie was not an ordinary man. To those who had the privilege to know him, he was one of the most generous and selfless human beings one could ever meet, a giant of a man with a great deal of humility about his character and an infectious sense of humour.
His playing record is well documented elsewhere. Less well known is that at the conclusion of his illustrious playing career, Doddie took up after dinner speaking and became a regular invitee to corporate events. Unlike many speakers, such was his popularity that Doddie was often invited to return to the same company event the following year and he would always arrive with his bag of props to support the side-splitting tales that he told. On one such occasion he produced a pair of his size 14 boots with the long studs protruding forth and proceeded to give an in-depth description of the ancient art of “shoeing”, including the use of a couple of guests lying prone on the floor as Doddie ran his studs across their backs!
For several former Club players, their favourite memory will be their 2011 trip to the Melrose 7s on a stag weekend. With the stag dressed as Princess Leia and the rest of the party as stormtrooper guards they marched down Melrose high street and into the ground. Doddie was commentating for Border TV, but left his booth to introduce himself and have his photo taken…
For scale, the next tallest person in the photo is 6’ 4”! A few years later one of the stormtroopers met Doddie at Twickenham and reminded him of the event. Doddie remembered it well and asked for a copy of the photo; some time after, it appeared in his autobiography captioned “Daft Vader!”.
Ever supportive of his friends and their causes, it is no surprise that in return thousands of people have been inspired to support Doddie’s Foundation – My Name’5 Doddie – to raise money in support of the fight against MND. Our own Club captain, Ed Taylor, and a group of his friends including his girlfriend Emily, completed a cycle ride from John O’Groats to Lands End in the summer of 2021. Inspired by Doddie they raised £60,000 for Doddie’s Foundation and the Matt Hampson Foundation. Ed commented: “It was an incredible experience and at times the hill climbs in Scotland and the Wye valley were worse than playing Rotherham away in January! But the end goal of raising money for great causes spearheaded by special individuals, such as Doddie Weir, made everything worth it! “
Time spent in Doddie’s company was always full of laughter and fun and even when MND really began to take its toll, Doddie retained his wonderful smile and sense of humour, always overwhelmed at the generosity to him and his Foundation that his personality inspired. The standing ovation by the Twickenham crowd at the announcement of his passing at half-time on Saturday was a small gesture to an immense man who will be very sadly missed by his family, friends and all who ever encountered him.