Leader comment: Eric Liddell, hero and an inspiration

Athlete Eric Liddell won Olympic gold then devoted his life to missionary work in China, where he died in a Japanese internment camp.
Athlete Eric Liddell won Olympic gold then devoted his life to missionary work in China, where he died in a Japanese internment camp.
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Poetic licence is used to great effect in the movies, and current hit Dunkirk plays fast and loose with events to help the scriptwriter, while staying true to the core story.

Back in 1981, Chariots of Fire was no different. Eric Liddell did indeed decline to run in the 100 metres because the heats were on the Sabbath, but he did not find that out, as the film suggests, just as he departed for the Paris Olympics. He had known for months.

The film also portrayed Liddell as one of the finest of men: dedicated, selfless, committed, dignified and gracious. Could this be true? Or poetic licence at work again?

The question was answered in Duncan Hamilton’s excellent biography, For The Glory. The author found no-one with anything negative to say about his subject.

First-hand accounts of Liddell’s life are dwindling, but the visit of one of his students to Edinburgh this week is a reminder of the high regard for Liddell in China, where he worked as a missionary and then died in a Japanese internment camp. Almost 100 years since winning Olympic gold, Liddell remains a cause for celebration, and a true inspiration.