Eric Liddell enters Scottish Rugby Hall of Fame after 'other' sporting career before Chariots of Fire recognised

Sporting legend Eric Liddell’s achievements have been recognised by the Scottish Rugby Hall of Fame, 100 years on from his first international cap.

'Flying Scotsman', Eric Liddell (1902 - 1945)  (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
'Flying Scotsman', Eric Liddell (1902 - 1945) (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

Liddell, the athlete made famous by Chariots of Fire as an Olympic gold medallist and record-holder in the 400m, earned seven caps for Scotland before his track success at the 1924 Olympics in Paris – and has now entered the annals of history in a second sport.

He was on the losing side only once and scored back-to-back tries in four appearances, all which Scotland won – against France, Wales and Ireland, twice.

After the 1923 victory over Ireland, won 13-3, The Scotsman reported: “It was entirely due to a clever move by Liddell that the Scots owed their lead. It was again due to Liddell that Scotland went further ahead.

Scottish athlete Eric Liddell (1902 - 1945) wins the 1-mile relay at an International Athletics Meeting between England and America, UK, 19th July 1924. (Photo by MacGregor/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

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“Never again should it be (held) against him that he is ‘only a runner’. The Edinburgh University man improved on any previous display, and he showed that he was now come to appreciate the value of his speed.”

A year later he won Olympic gold and bronze in the 200m though, as a devout Christian, declined to enter the heats of the 100yard race, held on a Sunday.

Hall of Fame Panel Chairman, John Jeffrey, said: “Since our Hall of Fame was established in 2010, we have regularly deliberated Eric Liddell’s status as one of Scotland’s greats.

“As we mark the centenary of his first cap for Scotland – against France in Paris – I am delighted that we are inducting Eric Liddell into the Hall of Fame. He epitomises the values of our game and his story is as relevant and inspiring today as it is in the yellowing pages of a newspaper archive.”

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Liddell competed in both rugby and track-and-field growing up and won the Eltham college school sports long jump, 100 yards and the quarter mile. He was second to his brother Rob in the cross-country, high jump and hurdles and went on to take a place in the first XV at Edinburgh University where he also completed two degrees.

In June 1922, The Student magazine, wrote: “(Liddell) has that rare combination, pace and the gift of rugby brains and hands; makes openings, snaps opportunities, gives the dummy to perfection, does the work of three (if necessary) in defence, and carries unselfishness almost to a fault.

“Experience should yet make him as a great a player as he is a sprinter.”

Liddell died in a prisoner of war camp in China in 1945, having travelled as part of his missionary service. He is survived by three daughters, Heather, Maureen and Patricia, who told scottishrugby.org: “When my father’s sporting achievements are remembered, often no mention is made that he played for Scotland and scored a number of tries. Once he got the ball, he would be very difficult to catch. He was clearly a much appreciated member of the team. A profound ‘thank you’ to all involved in arranging this honour.”

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All inductees to the Hall of Fame receive a sculpted Scotland cap. Liddell’s will be displayed at the care charity and community hub in Edinburgh’s Morningside district named in his memory, where plans to mark the 100-year anniversary of his famed gold medal win are also underway.

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