In New York for enjoyable as well as management, the Scottish rugby enormous sat down to discuss life with engine neurone disease and what hes doing to fight it

In a famous panorama from Living with Lions, the seminal film about the 1997 win in South Africa, Doddie Weir is told his tour is over.

” Ah well ,” says the large-scale fastening, his eyes revealing a deeper sorenes than his sneer as the doctor flexes his knee, crushed by some Mpumalanga stormtrooper.” We’ve had a good old period of it, eh ?”

Twenty-one years later, in the bar of the Fitzpatrick Manhattan Hotel, at Lexington Avenue and East 57 th, Weir ruefully smiles again.

” It’s been a bit of a nightmare, having MND .”

The king of understatement is now 47. Eighteen times have transferred since the last of his 61 caps for Scotland. It’s 15 months since he was told he has machine neurone infection, shutting on a year since he broke the information to the world.

Weir Weir in action, for Scotland against Ireland in 1998. Image: Allsport

” I don’t know if you know much about MND ,” he says,” or ALS, as I guess it’s called here in America, or Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s a muscle-wasting disease, so all the muscles in your organization begin to stop functioning through the neurons stopping firing, so you eventually can’t move, you can’t hoisted, you can’t swallow, you can’t gobble. You can’t breathe, because your diaphragm stops driving. So your whole torso slams down eventually. It’s terminal, at the moment .”

Life expectancy is usually two to five years. Weir was told he’d be wheelchair-bound in one. But here he is, handwritings crippled a bit but still cheerfully invincible. Subsequently, at the New York Athletic Club, he takes dominance of a donation auction. Reveling in hours of chit-chat and horseplay, he parent $8,000 for his foot with a shirt wear in Scotland’s November loss to New Zealand. He sheds in a bottle of special edition whisky- Doddie’s Dram– although he fights to hold it, then exchanges two more for $2,000 a pop, a announce reproduced when he opens the bottles with their owners.

The room is full of laugh, rekindled by the affable whale in the” pattern tragedy” dres made of specifically commissioned tartan.

” I’ve been looking over at wee Alex ,” Weir says into the mic, gesturing to where Alex Corbisiero, Lions prop turned US TV legion, sits in his still-beefy primary.” And I’ve been thinking if I’d wielded in the gym as hard as he has, I might have longer to live .”

The room catches its breather. When it expels, the din is somewhere between disturbance and a sigh.


Weir still labor his farm in the Borders- he’s sporting a black eye dealt by one of his cows- but he has acquired another cause: survive and find a cure.

” In Scotland there’s only one dose for it ,” he says.” One dose that came out 22 years ago. Basically you’ve got a death penalty. So my crusade at the moment was an attempt get options for people who have this, so they have a chance. It might be a negligible hazard but at least a better luck than they have now .”

This is Weir’s second stay to New York in the last few months. The Colorado Clinic has an office in the city and can provide masitinib, an inhibitor narcotic, which the NHS cannot. Weir has spoken intensely on the subject abroad. Here, in the bar, he speaks warmly of the clinic and of Brian Kennedy, the former Sale Sharks owner who is funding his trips to the Positions for treatment.

He speaks warmly of others, extremely, from his fellow” rugby legend” and old-time English foe Jerry Guscott tying his collar in the elevator down-” he was the first lady I ensure so I asked him”- to the legions that have dined, cycled, stepped or merely talked in support of My Name’ 5 Doddie, studies and research foot containing his old shirt number.

” The subscribe is just unbelievable. Newcastle have been heavily involved”- last weekend’s game against Northampton at St James’ Park was held in part to facilitate an old-time club soldier, more than 30,000 find Weir tread the pair ball out.” We had a Doddie Gump, which was an attempt to follow on from the Ice Bucket Challenge, which Rob Wainwright, my former team-mate, very kindly put together.

Weir Weir- in appropriate tartan- and his sons bring out the ball at St James’ Park last week, before Newcastle hit Northampton. Photo: Chris Lishman/ Rex/ Shutterstock

” Our big finale was a walk in Italy which we imagined maybe 500 or 600 people might do: I think there was 5,000 or 6,000 there. It’s just overwhelming, heartwarming and very difficult to explain. I’m just a Borders boy and a bit of a fashion tragedy. The affection and the reinforce … it’s amazing.

He gives me a sharp-worded ogle.” There was somebody who biked up for the Calcutta Cup match- I don’t know if you are familiar with but Scotland won that this year, for the first time in 10 times .”

I shake my intelligence, Englishly.

” That was the first time I wore my Doddie’s tartan suit, it came out for that activity. No? Don’t remember ?”

The tartan is unforgettable: off-color and white for Scotland, yellowed and black for Melrose, black and white for Newcastle. Still no, though.

” A person cycled 500 miles from Twickenham to Murrayfield in two days, to raise money. That was quite a special day … when Scotland beat England, aye. Still no ?”

He titters, eyes my Guinness enviously, takes a mouthful of sea. Weir has always been a glass-half-full sort of chap. Now, it is about to change, it’s literal.

” Boozing a pint ,” he says,” I can’t deem it too long. So I drink half of it first to obligate the glass a bit lighter.

” A chiropractor I go to has been wonderful. An precedent of his thinking is, instead of sucking out of a straw because your hands are weak, you’ve got to raise and drink the pint. You use, “were losing”. You’re really telling MND you’re no gonna acquire .”


And yet, prohibiting some medical breakthrough perhaps is assisting My Name’ 5 Doddie, MND will win. Not long before our fit came the end of the most famous action of all, with the deaths among Stephen Hawking at 76, 55 years after diagnosis. Weir discovers Hawking as effect- as evidence- for hope.

He and his wife Kathy have three sons, Angus, Hamish and Ben, all in their teens. They accompanied him on to the pitch at Murrayfield in November before that All Blacks epic, then again at St James’ Park this month. He’s determined to see them flourish. Nonetheless, life has acquired brand-new need. Long-held plans ought to have has been put forward. Last year Weir took his family to New Zealand to watch the Lions. The next intent is the World Cup in Japan next year. Two times after that, the Lions in South Africa again. This week, his eldest legislated his driving experiment-” second epoch, knowledge”- and another longed-for daytime was done.

Doddie Weir extradites the match dance for Scotland v New Zealand in Edinburgh in November.

Weir has said he does not associates his MND to the punches and batterings of a top-flight rugby career. But it has taken actors before. The Auckland and London Irish back Jarrod Cunningham learned “hes having” the disease in 2002 and died 5 years later. The enormous South African scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen was diagnosed in 2011. He died last February. Weir is talking to Van der Westhuizen’s foundation” about staging an contest in South Africa “.

He titters, thinking back to that day with the Lions in’ 97.” Perhaps do it in Mpumalanga, yeah … that’d bring back some, well, some recognitions. I might not say good …

” Joost went through a lot of drugs and one thing or another and quite a lot of testing and I’m not really doing that at the moment. There’s a lot of work been done since Joost was about into what’s working and not working. There’s a lot of bandwagon-ing about’ this will work’ or’ this will medication it’ but it doesn’t work, which are able to cruel to the person with MND. So my gang are saying,’ We’ll not do that .'”

A A walk in New York. Photograph: Richard Sexton/ Instagram

Weir is not relying to fortune- as suggested by the tours to New York for treatment- but he holds more than once “he il be” lucky, quoting cases of people diagnosed one month and dead the next, leaving spouses and young children.

” I wouldn’t say it’s been a wonderful travel ,” he says.” I probably knew something was incorrect for a year or so before my diagnosis. But in a manner that is, yes, I am luck. They say two to three years is a lifespan with this. And in that time, I’ve never been invited to so many defendants .”

His laughter, like mine, is fuelled more by exuberance than sorrow. And before the five-block stroll to dinner through a chilly Manhattan dusk- he curves away all furnishes of an Uber- there is time for a theoretical turn.

” I never, ever envision I want to be someone else ,” he says.” I’m not that religion but there are certain things that have happened in “peoples lives”. I crashed my automobile 15 years ago, a real bad smash. But I ponder Him upstairs took a examination and said to Himself:’ I requirement a rugby player, who am I going to have? Weir? Ah, you’re not good enough so I’ll just let you crush your vehicle and you can live.’

” My brother-in-law, he was 54, he was found on the lavatory storey. So I was recalling perhaps the big-hearted guy missed a shepherd.’ Michael Dun, you’re the one, come upstairs .’ So again, I’m not religion but perhaps the big-hearted boy has told us:’ Right, you were lucky with your auto disintegrate, go style this MND/ ALS out, interpret what you can do .'”

Doddie Weir’s philanthropic organization is myname5doddie. He was in New York with Captain’s Knock, a networking group with a philanthropic focus.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here