Three of Weir’s friends, former Kelso and South rugby players Stewart Bennet and David Baird, and Douglas Stephen, from the world of farming, got together after the British and Irish Lion was diagnosed with MND and appealed to the Borders community to help to raise funds for Weir’s campaign to improve research into MND. They staged the ‘Tartan Giraffe Ball’ at Springwood Park in Kelso in January, quickly selling out over 500 tickets, and with all costs now paid have handed over cheques to the Doddie Weir charities for £310,177.
Stephen explained: “We have experience of friends and/or family who have suffered with MND and when Doddie’s diagnosis was confirmed we felt it was a good opportunity to invite people across the Borders to come together and help tackle this terrible illness.
“We all know Doddie well and his famous on-field work ethic has been to the fore off the field in the way he has sought information about MND and gone out of his way to raise money to fund research. All we did was organise another opportunity for that, and the Borders people took it from there.”
Weir admitted: “I am absolutely blown away by how much the lads have raised. The event itself was a fantastic, unique night that brought big rugby and farming communities together, but the amount of money raised is down to the incredible efforts of Dougie, Stewart and David, who I think spent every waking hour persuading people to donate auction prizes. I take my hat off to all who helped in any way and thank them from the bottom of my heart. There is no doubt that this will help hugely in our battle to find a cure for MND.”
The event attracted 180 auction donations from across the UK, including the use of two private jets, unique holidays, a wealth of sporting memorabilia from leading celebrities and donations of agricultural machinery, including a Bryce Sumo Post Driver and Stewart’s trailer that raised over £25,000 alone. Hosted by TV presenters Jill Douglas and Dougie Vipond it was attended by many of Weir’s former Melrose, Newcastle and international teammates, including Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend. Ricky Ross also brought the house down with the Deacon Blue classic ‘Dignity’ and was followed on stage by John Beattie’s ‘Ruckstars’ band.
“It was a special one-off event that attracted incredible support,” added Bennet. “The amazing quality and quantity of donations are what took the tally raised well beyond what we imagined was possible at a ‘wee’ Borders event. But we also have to thank the main sponsors M & J Ballantyne and The Craigie Hotel in Penicuik, who stepped up to the plate to help us make the event happen, to the other six key sponsors that ensured it went ahead, Crop Services Ltd, Agri Ltd, Greenvale, R Manners & Sons Ltd, Harrison and Hetherington, and James S Baird & Sons, and our hosts the Border Union Agricultural Society. Without them this would only have been a dream.
“As much as this will hopefully make a big difference to MND sufferers, the Borders community has shown what Doddie means to them – ultimately it was a love for the big guy that pulled people to this and generated over £300,000. I think it’s a form of payback for all that he has done for us, for the Borders and Scotland.”