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East Lothian Man to Play 40 ‘Fast4’ Tennis Matches in Memory of Brother

Stuart’s ‘Fast4’ tennis challenge will finish in Orkney, the place his brother had called home.

Posted : 29/06/2022

In memory of his brother, Richard, Stuart Falconer from Pencaitland, will embark on a 400-mile road trip around Scotland, playing forty ‘Fast4’ tennis matches at forty different clubs along the way, to raise money for MND Scotland.   

Richard Falconer sadly died in March 2022 of motor neuron disease (MND), becoming the second member of Stuart’s family to have their life cut short by MND, with Stuart also losing his cousin Brian in 2017.  

Now Stuart is taking on an epic fundraiser to help raise funds for others affected by the disease. Starting in East Lothian at 8 am on Thursday 30th June, Stuart’s ‘Fast4’ tennis challenge will finish in Orkney, the place that Richard had called home since 1995, at around 8pm on Sunday 3rd July. 

Speaking about the inspiration behind the challenge, Stuart said: ‘Tennis has always been a favourite pastime of mine since I started playing at age ten, so when I was thinking of how I might be able to raise some money for MND Scotland, it made sense to try and factor it in.  

‘Although Richard wasn't really a tennis fan, in recent years he had started to enjoy a social game of ‘Touch Tennis’ with friends at his local sports centre, so that was another tennis connection.’  

Fast4 Tennis is a format for playing tennis with modified rules that leads to shorter match times, a factor which Stuart hopes will help him to complete his trip on schedule.   

Stuart continued: ‘I knew to raise money, it had to be a challenge that would catch people’s attention and considering we’ve just surpassed my initial fundraising target, I think the idea of playing forty games in four days has managed to do that.  

‘The Tennis community is very friendly, and I have had people from other clubs who have been affected by motor neurone disease, showing their support for my challenge and offering to help me in any way they can.’  

MND is a rapidly progressing terminal illness, which stops signals from the brain reaching the muscles and this can cause someone to lose the ability to walk, talk, eat, drink or breathe unaided. Average life expectancy is just 18 months from diagnosis.   

Richard first experienced symptoms of motor neuron disease (MND) when he began to feel breathless and soon after, began to also feel a loss of strength in his hands. In August 2020, Richard received his MND diagnosis, having just retired at the age of 64. As the disease progressed, Richard’s strength continued to deteriorate, with his regular walks with his dog and cycles becoming shorter, before stopping completely. He died less than two years from diagnosis. 

Stuart said: ‘Richard had only just retired, and he was supposed to be starting a new chapter in his life, spending his time doing the things he enjoyed.  

‘Although he didn’t lose his ability to communicate until near the very end, he was a very practical person who loved being outdoors and to see MND strip him of his independence was very difficult.   

 ‘I must admit that before Brian was diagnosed with MND in 2017, I knew very little about the disease and although they shared the same diagnosis, my cousin Brian and Richard’s experiences were both very different.   

‘We are a very close family and to have two people diagnosed with MND has been devastating. Richard didn’t have children of his own, but he was a favourite uncle to all his nieces and nephews, who all loved to visit him at his home in Orkney.’  

Due to Covid restrictions being in place at the time, Stuart and his family were unable to make the time that Richard had left count in the way they had hoped but thankfully, Richard was still able to maintain some normality throughout his time living with MND.   

Remembering the care that Richard received, Stuart said: ‘I am so grateful for the MND nurses and the medical community in Orkney who provided a wonderful service, and with the fantastic support of his partner, who is a former nurse, they all enabled Richard to stay in his own home till the very end.’   

Rachel Maitland, MND Scotland's CEO said: 'I am always inspired by the creative challenges people take on to raise money for MND Scotland and want to say a huge thank you to Stuart for taking on this unique feat. It's only because of people like Stuart that we're able to continue to provide essential support to everyone affected by MND and further the vital research that's taking us one step closer to a cure.

'Along with my children, I am looking forward to cheering Stuart on by attending his match at the Bridge of Allan Sports Club on Friday 1st July and welcome anyone who wishes to support Stuart to join us on the day.' 

You can support Stuart’s Fast4 fundraising journey by visiting here and for more ways to support MND Scotland, please visit us here.

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“Along with my children, I am looking forward to cheering Stuart on by attending his match at the Bridge of Allan Sports Club on Friday 1st July and welcome anyone who wishes to support Stuart to join us on the day.”

Rachel Maitland | MND Scotland

Rachel Maitland | MND Scotland