Scottish rugby legend Doddie Weir has been given a special “services to sport” honour in his home city today – months after revealing he is battling motor neurone disease.
Fellow internationalist Scott Hastings present the 47-year-old – who has set up his own charitable trust to help with research into MND and support others with the disease – with the honour at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh.
The recognition for the former British and Irish Lion was an emotional highlight of the annual Radio Forth Awards, which also honoured entertainers, charities and community leaders.
Weir, who earned 61 caps and was part of the Five Nations-winning squad in 1999, announced his diagnosis in June to help raise awareness of the degenerative condition.
He is the latest sporting star to be struck down by MND, which leads to paralysis and difficulties with speech, swallowing and breathing, including former Rangers footballer Fernando Ricksen. Former Labour adviser Gordon Aikman, who launched the Gordon’s Fightback campaign when he was diagnosed, died in February aged 31.
MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles. There is currently no cure or effective treatment for MND and the average life expectancy from diagnosis is just 14 months.
There is around 450 people in Scotland currently living with the disease and on average more than 160 new cases of MND are diagnosed each year.
Born in Edinburgh in 1970, Weir started playing rugby for Stewart’s Melville before joining Melrose, in the Borders, where he still lives. He first noticed symptoms of MND after he gradually lost power in his left hand after trapping it in a door.
Weir, who thought he was attending the awards ceremony as a guest, was given a standing ovation from the audience at the ceremony.
He said: “It was a total surprise, but it was lovely. It really just adds to all the support that I’ve received since telling everyone what condition I’ve got. It’s been unbelievable and inspiring. It’s just been one emotional event after the other at the moment.
“I’m just a normal Borders rugby boy but this has reached a lot of people. It’s been quite overwhelming. A lot of it has been difficult to take on, but it’s what has to be done.
“Life’s not that bad at the moment. I’ve been given this card, but I’m still able to do things. I’ve got a bit of time, but I don’t know how much time, as I’ve not had a timetable given to me. I’m able to do a lot of things with family and friends at the moment, as well as spread the word about MND.”