A close friend of Doddie Weir has praised his “determination to make a difference” for others as the rugby great died aged 52 after suffering motor neurone disease.
The former Scotland international was diagnosed with MND in December 2016 and went on to found research charity the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation (MNDF).
His family announced the death of their “beloved husband and father” in a statement issued through the Scottish Rugby Union on Saturday, describing him as “an inspirational force of nature”.
It is five years since Weir revealed his MND diagnosis and founded the MNDF which has committed almost £8 million to research projects across the UK.
Sports broadcaster Jill Douglas, MNDF chief executive and a close friend of Weir’s, said the foundation will work to honour his name and deliver on his legacy.
She said: “Doddie enjoyed a full life full of fun and love. And it was this approach to life which shone through in his determination to make a difference and help others when he was diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
“He inspired us every day with his positivity and energy and was fully committed to the work of the foundation he launched with his close friends in November 2017.
“My Name’5 Doddie Foundation continues to shine a light on MND and the need to seek meaningful treatments and, one day, a cure for this devastating disease.”
In a statement, Weir’s family said: “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our beloved husband and father, Doddie.
“Doddie was an inspirational force of nature. His unending energy and drive and his strength of character powered him through his rugby and business careers and, we believe, enabled him to fight the effects of MND for so many years.
“Doddie put the same energy and even more love and fun into our lives together; he was a true family man. It is difficult to put into words how much we will miss him.
“MND took so much from Doddie, but never his spirit and determination. He battled MND so bravely, and whilst his own battle may be over, his fight continues through his foundation, until a cure is found for all those with this devastating disease.
“Hamish, Angus, Ben and I would like to thank everyone for your support and for respecting our privacy at this difficult time. Kathy Weir.”
Weir’s death came less than two weeks after he made a rare appearance at Murrayfield in Edinburgh where Scotland lost to New Zealand, with the Scottish team wearing specially created shirts with numbers in Weir’s famous blue and yellow tartan to mark the foundation’s five-year milestone.
Tributes flooded in from across the fields of politics, sport and the arts on Saturday.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: “This is so terribly sad. Doddie was one of our nation’s sporting legends, but the brave way he responded to MND surpassed anything ever achieved on the rugby pitch.
“He refused to let it dim his spirit and did so much to help others. My condolences to his loved ones.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross tweeted: “So sad to hear of Doddie Weir’s passing.
“Doddie was a colossus on the pitch and his brave fight for a cure to MND was an inspiration.
“My thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar tweeted: “Doddie Weir was a force to be reckoned with – on the pitch and as a campaigner.
“He became an inspiration to many and a champion for those battling MND. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.
Kevin Sinfield, who completed seven back-to-back ultra-marathons to raise money for MND causes, said: “I am honoured to have been able to call Doddie my friend and I know his spirit lives on in all of us who knew him. He will always be a champion.”
Charities praised Weir for his work to raise awareness about MND.
Rachel Maitland, chief executive of MND Scotland, said: “Doddie Weir was a huge inspiration who will be missed by so many.
“His bravery in sharing his experience of living with MND helped raise vital awareness across the country and beyond.”
The MND Association tweeted: “Since sharing his MND diagnosis in 2017, Doddie became an inspiration to many, raising awareness and campaigning tirelessly on behalf of those with MND.”
Writer Ian Rankin said on Twitter: “Hellish news. He did so much to raise awareness of MND – and also raised a lot of money for charity after his diagnosis. Rest easy, Big Man.”