An extraordinary painting of one of Scotland’s best-loved sporting icons, Doddie Weir, OBE, has gone on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG) to mark the beginning of the Six Nations rugby championship this weekend. The portrait will be shown in the Great Hall for the duration of the rugby championship, after which it will feature in The Modern Portrait, an exhibition which includes portraits of notable Scottish figures such as Alan Cumming, Susie Wolff, Ewen Bremner and Tilda Swinton.
Standing at 6′ 6″, Weir is one of rugby’s most recognisable personalities, known for playing the position of lock for Stewart’s Melville RFC, Melrose RFC, Newcastle Falcons and the Border Reivers. He earned 61 caps for Scotland between 1990 and 2000, played in three World Cups and was selected for the British and Irish Lions tour of South Africa in 1997. He also played six times for the Barbarians and was famously described by the legendary commentator Bill McLaren whilst on a forward run for Scotland, as being ‘on the charge like a mad giraffe’.
Renowned for his extraordinary good humour and tartan suits he also became an acclaimed public speaker. Following his retirement from rugby, Weir remained a familiar face on TV as a commentator for his beloved sport.
In 2016 Weir was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND). A year later he set up the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, which raises funds to aid research into the causes of MND, investigate potential cures and make grants to individuals suffering from MND to enable them to live as fulfilled a life as possible. In its first two years, the Foundation has invested almost £4million into MND research projects and helped hundreds of families living with the disease. In 2018 The Doddie Weir Cup was established to bring awareness to the disease and is played for annually between Scotland and Wales rugby teams.
Born in Glasgow in 1961, the painter, Gerard M. Burns graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1983 with a degree in Fine Art. Drawing and painting have been his passion since childhood. He shared this enthusiasm throughout his teaching career, later leaving a successful post as principal of art at St Aloysius College, Glasgow to pursue his painting full time. Since 1999 this commitment has resulted in his current standing as one of Scotland’s most respected artists.
In 2016, Burns’ portrait of author Denise Mina entered the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) collection and is on display at SNPG as part of The Modern Portrait exhibition.
The portrait of Weir was auctioned in 2019 and raised over £80,000 for the Foundation and the buyers gifted it to them with a note saying: ‘To Doddie with love from your rugby friends in Hong Kong, to always remember the Daft Yin’s passion and inspiration in seeking a cure for MND’. The artwork will be accompanied by a plaque naming all those who made contributions during the auction of the painting.
On loan to the NGS from the Weir Family, the portrait by Gerard M Burns shows Weir in the Scottish Borders, where he grew up as part of a farming family, with the Eildon Hills behind him. In this portrait he wears one of his famous suits in the Doddie’5 tartan.
Doddie Weir, OBE, said: “It is a great honour to have Gerard’s painting on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, among so many notable and notorious Scots. I have had a great deal of fun in Hong Kong over the years and the support of the Scottish and rugby communities there has been incredible since I shared my diagnosis. I would like to thank everyone involved for their contribution and especially Gerard for doing such a fine job with the limited source material! And a big thank you to the National Galleries of Scotland for including the painting in their fine collection.”
John Leighton, Director-General at the NGS, said: “Doddie is an extraordinary person and an iconic figure in sporting history. The work that the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation is achieving is monumental and I am thrilled to have his portrait hanging in our Great Hall for the duration of the Six Nations rugby championship.”
Painter, Gerard M. Burns spoke about the portrait, saying: “I felt strongly from the very beginning that this painting should show some of Doddie’s inner strength, that to make something too trivial would have been completely wrong given the circumstances of his life at this point.”
Fimd out more about the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation by clicking HERE