North East Connected

School rallies to support former player

RUGBY fans rallied in spectacular fashion to the aid of a sportsman who has been struck down with an incurable condition.

Barnard Castle School staged a charity dinner, the culmination of a term’s fundraising for former Newcastle Falcon and ex-Scottish and British Lion George ‘Doddie’ Weir, who has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.

The idea of a group of sixth form girls, the initiative captured the attention of RFU Premiership players and officials, Old Barnardians, current staff and students

Proceeds totalling more than £10,000 will swell the coffers of the school’s chosen charity, the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, to fund research into the condition.

Doddie, now 47, played lock and made 61 international appearances for the Scotland national team.

Sixteen months ago he was diagnosed with MND, a muscle-wasting disease caused by the failure of neurons in the body to fire correctly. Currently incurable, it results in all the muscles shutting down.

He said: “So you eventually can’t walk, you can’t lift, you can’t swallow, you can’t eat, you can’t breathe, because your diaphragm stops working. So your whole body shuts down eventually. And the only drug to slow it down was developed 22 years ago.”

Barnard Castle School has a long tradition of producing successful rugby players including 42 internationals since 1998 and, before that, celebrated players such as Rob Andrew and the Underwood brothers.

Guests to the charity dinner included former British Lion John Bentley, who acted as auctioneer and master of ceremony, Rob Andrew, who is now chief executive of Surrey County Cricket Club but was RFU director and director of rugby at Newcastle Falcons and is an Old Barnardian, Newcastle Falcons director of rugby Dean Richards, Falcons Alex Tait and Tom Catterick, Bath forward Ross Batty and ex-England Falcons and Saints scrum half Lee Dickson, who now plays for Bedford Blues.

Headmaster Tony Jackson told guests: “This school is steeped in rugby history and becoming its headmaster was the proudest moment of my professional life. Rugby is such a great game embodying all the wonderful traits of team sport and giving our students the ability to win with humility and lose with grace. I am proud tonight to be supporting one of our own.”

Mr Jackson outlined some of the fundraising activities so far including bake sales, a student completing the Barney Run course carrying 20KG, the first XV rugby and hockey teams proudly wearing the Doddie Foundation logo, parent Andrew Johnstone sourcing a car to be raffled, OB and former Falcons player and artist Ed Williamson painting a picture of Doddie which raised £2,000 at the auction, Prep School parent and local artist Lucy Pittaway donating a special Yorkshire picture which realised another £1,050.

Mr Andrew said: “Being at Barney School had a massive influence on my life; it was a great place to be and I am so pleased so many people have turned out to support the school in helping Doddie, who is an amazing man.”

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