HE may be Edinburgh’s greatest citizen, but Eric Liddell’s influence stretched far and wide.
An event taking place in the Capital this week hopes to set up a permanent celebration of the famous runner’s life in the city – even though the organiser comes from much further afield.
Chinese Liddell enthusiast George Yu is recreating a famous walk the missionary worker and Olympic hero took to Waverley Station – which resulted in thousands of normal Edinburgh folk lining the route to pay their respects to the religious runner.
Mr Yu hopes the “Flying Scotsman” will become an annual event and way of honouring the man who helped inspire the 1981 Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire. He said: “My hope is that this will become an annual event celebrating one of Edinburgh and Scotland’s greatest citizens.”
Mr Yu, who was born in Tianjin, China, but now lives in South Africa, has been travelling to Edinburgh regularly for the past three years in an effort to learn more about Liddell, who has links to his hometown.
Liddell was born in China and moved back there to teach a year after winning an Olympic gold for the 400 metres.
Mr Yu, 43, who is based in Pretoria, added: “I was born in the same part of China where he taught. Lots of local people are very proud of that connection and I found myself wanting to know more about him.”
Mr Yu began reading books about his idol in an effort to learn more, and exchanged e-mails with author John Keddie, who wrote a biography of Eric Liddell called Running the Race in 2011.
Mr Yu continued: “It was in his book that I first heard about the day Eric Liddell left Edinburgh for China to work as a missionary.
“It was June 29, 1925, a year after he had won the gold medal and there were crowds of people lining the streets and wishing him well, and many more waiting to wave him off at the train station. I thought, why don’t we recreate that journey, 88 years to the day?”
The first Flying Scotsman walk this Saturday will see participants begin from Hope Terrace, as Liddell did, and walk to Waverley Station. Remembrance events will be taking place in China, where residents will visit Tianjin landmarks connected with the runner.
Mr Yu said: “My hope is that this will become an annual event celebrating one of Edinburgh and Scotland’s greatest citizens. I’m expecting about 200 people to turn out on Saturday, which is certainly a good start.”
A spokesman for The Eric Liddell Centre, in Morningside, said they were “delighted” and fully supported the plan.
Eric Liddell’s daughter, Patricia Liddell Russell, 77, also voiced support for the event from her home in Canada.