In New York for recreation as well as medication, the Scottish rugby enormous sat down to discuss life with machine neurone illness and what hes doing to fight it

In a famous background from Living with Lions, the seminal film about the 1997 victory in South africans, Doddie Weir is told his tour is over.

” Ah well ,” pronounces the large-scale fastening, his eyes exposing a deeper sorenes than his pout as the doctor flexes his knee, smashed by some Mpumalanga stormtrooper.” We’ve had a good old occasion 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 passed since the last of his 61 detonators for Scotland. It’s 15 months since he was told he has motor neurone sicknes, shutting on a year since he broke the word to the world.

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

” I don’t know if you are familiar much about MND ,” he announces,” 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 figure begin to stop running through the neurons stopping firing, so you eventually can’t saunter, you can’t elevated, you can’t withdraw, you can’t feed. You can’t breathe, because your diaphragm stops wreaking. So your whole body slams down eventually. It’s terminal, at the moment .”

Life expectancy is typically two to five years. Weir was told he’d be wheelchair-bound in one. But here he is, mitts weakened a little bit but still cheerfully indomitable. Afterwards, at the New York Athletic Club, he takes dominance of a benevolence auction. Reveling in hours of schmooze and horseplay, he causes $8,000 for his foot with a shirt tattered in Scotland’s November loss to New Zealand. He throws in a bottle of special edition whisky- Doddie’s Dram– although he struggles to hold it, then sells two more for $2,000 a pop, a seem echoed when he opens the bottles with their owners.

The room is full of laughter, rekindled by the jovial monstrou in the” fad calamity” suit made of specially commissioned tartan.

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

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


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

” In Scotland there’s only one medicine for it ,” he enunciates.” One medication that came out 22 years ago. Basically you’ve got a death sentence. So my campaign at the moment is an attempt get options for people who have this, so they have a chance. It might be a negligible possibility but at least a better chance than they have now .”

This is Weir’s second call to New York in the last few months. The Colorado Clinic has an office in the city and can provide masitinib, an inhibitor dope, which the NHS cannot. Weir has spoken passionately on the subject elsewhere. Here, in the bar, he pronounces warmly of health clinics and of Brian Kennedy, the former Sale Sharks owner who is funding his errands to the Countries for treatment.

He pronounces warmly of others, more, from his fellow” rugby legend” and old-fashioned English foe Jerry Guscott setting his collar in the elevator down-” he was the first lady I checked so I asked him”- to the legions that have dined, cycled, stepped or exactly talked in support of My Name’ 5 Doddie, studies and research foundation containing his old shirt number.

” The subscribe is just unbelievable. Newcastle have been heavily concerned”- last weekend’s game against Northampton at St James’ Park was held in part to help an old-time sorority soldier, more than 30,000 attending Weir move the coincide 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 taken together.

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

” Our large-scale finale was a walk in Italy which we anticipated 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 manner disaster. The ardour and the supporter … it’s amazing.

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

I shake my psyche, Englishly.

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

The tartan is unforgettable: off-color and white for Scotland, amber and pitch-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 chortles, seeings my Guinness enviously, takes a gulp of liquid. Weir has always been a glass-half-full sort of chap. Now, it turns out, it’s literal.

” Boozing a jug ,” he responds,” I can’t regard it too long. So I drink half of it first to prepare the glass a bit lighter.

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


And yet, prohibiting some medical breakthrough perhaps helped by My Name’ 5 Doddie, MND will win. Not long before our fulfill called the end of the most famous suit of all, with the deaths among Stephen Hawking at 76, 55 times after diagnosis. Weir considers Hawking as induce- 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 develop. Nonetheless, life has acquired new urgency. Long-held projects have been were put forward. Last time Weir took their own families to New Zealand to watch the Lions. The next purpose is the Football world cup in Japan next year. Two times after that, the Lions in South africans again. This week, his eldest overtaken his driving exam-” second epoch, brain”- and another longed-for date was done.

Doddie Weir extradites the match pellet 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 participates before. The Auckland and London Irish back Jarrod Cunningham learned “hes having” the disease in 2002 and died five years later. The enormous South African scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen was diagnosed in 2011. He succumbed last February. Weir is talking to Van der Westhuizen’s foundation” about staging an episode in South africans “.

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 storages. I might not mention good …

” Joost went through quite 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 medicine 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 trusting to fortune- as suggested by the trips to New York for medicine- but he insists more than once he is lucky, citing an instance of people diagnosed one month and dead the next, leaving spouses and young children.

” I wouldn’t say it’s been a wonderful wander ,” he announces.” I likely knew something was incorrect for a year or so before my diagnosis. But in a way, yes, I am luck. They reply 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 excavation, is fuelled more by delight than sorrow. And before the five-block go to dinner through a breezy Manhattan dusk- he brandishes away all offerings of an Uber- there is time for a theoretical turn.

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

” My brother-in-law, he was 54, he was found on the lavatory floor. So I was pondering perhaps the large-hearted person craved a shepherd.’ Michael Dun, you’re the one, come upstairs .’ So again, I’m not religion but maybe the large-scale boy has told us:’ Right, you were lucky with your automobile gate-crash, run kind this MND/ ALS out, determine what you can do .'”

Doddie Weir’s philanthropic foundation 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