Doddie Weir was described as “truly humble gentle giant and a hero to the nation” at a memorial service honouring the colourful life and career of the Scottish rugby legend.
A poem read by his sons Angus, Ben and Hamish joked about the towering lock’s distinctive “mad giraffe” playing style in front of a tartan-clad crowd packed with some of the sport’s biggest names at the ceremony in Melrose.
Weir, who was capped 61 times for his country, passed away at the age of 52 on November 26 – five years after confirming a diagnosis of Motor Neurone Disease (MND).
He would go on to raise more than £8m for research into a cure for the condition through his My Name’5 Doddie foundation.
Hundreds of people, including friends and former teammates, gathered at the town’s parish church for the service, while others watched the memorial take place from Melrose Rugby’s Greenyards ground – once Weir’s sporting home.
Before the ceremony, wife Kathy said she was humbled by the “overwhelming” support his family had received in the days since his passing.
“We would like to thank everyone who has been so incredibly supportive over the last two weeks,” she said in a statement.
“As a family, we have been overwhelmed by the many messages we have received from all over the world. They have brought great comfort to me and the boys.
“We really appreciate people taking the time to share their own memories of Doddie and let us know we are in their thoughts.”
Ex-teammate Carl Hogg read a tribute to the former Newcastle Falcons star, who also represented the British and Irish Lions.
“Doddie had an amazing life, it was action-packed, full of fun, lots of adventure and lots of love,” he said.
“It’s been very emotional reading all the tributes and his campaigning for MND. Yet that’s only six years of an incredible life.
“He never questioned why, but instead, felt the responsibility to make a difference. He considered himself fortunate to have the love and support of his family friends. He used to say, ‘What about Mrs Smith in the tenement flat who isn’t as lucky as me?’”
That was followed by similar words from fellow Scotland internationals John Jeffrey and Rob Wainwright – who had cycled to the ceremony from Perth as part of a fundraising campaign for “Doddie Aid”.
Gavin Hastings, Kenny Logan and Kelly Brown were among those in attendance alongside current Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend and predecessors Sir Ian McGeechan and Frank Hadden.
Former adversaries and England internationals Bill Beaumont, Martin Johnson and Rob Andrew were also in attendance alongside Olympic cycling champion Sir Chris Hoy.
Townsend, who played alongside Weir between 1993 and 2000, said his former teammate would have been “humbled” by the support of the sporting community.
“I don’t think he realised the difference he made on people’s lives, both as a person, a rugby player and as a campaigner to find a cure for MND,” he said.
“Today is a celebration of his life, but obviously it’s a sad day as well.
“He was always up to mischief. He was great to be around. I think we were just lucky to have known him as a friend and as a teammate, we have been in the presence of a great person.”
Weir revealed his MND diagnosis in June 2017, setting up the charity just two months later.
Attendees were asked to wear tartan in tribute to Weir, who helped design his own pattern for the charity which was then incorporated into the design of the Scotland national side’s jerseys for the Autumn test against New Zealand at Murrayfield.
Jill Douglas, CEO of the My Name’5 Doddie foundation, said the illness “did not define the man he was,” but acknowledged his status as a “giant” for raising awareness of the condition.
“I think his legacy is his family, his humour, his character,” she said.
“I remember watching him play at the Greenyards years ago and he brought a lot of joy into people’s lives, as a rugby player, as a farmer, as a businessman, even as an entertainer with his after dinner speaking.
“MND was the last chapter in his life and it didn’t define him but it’s something where he really left his mark. His legacy is just the man he was.”
A poem, entitled Requiem for Doddie (The Mad Giraffe), written by Timmy Douglas paid tribute to the man “who raised [our spirits] and made us laugh”.
The title was taken from a line of Bill McLaren commentary describing the 6ft 6in former farmer’s style of play.
“This man was everybody’s friend, his passing truly tragic,” it read.
“He touched our heartstrings to the end. His life and times were magic.”