Scotlands History

Eric Liddell (1902 - 1945)

Eric Liddell was an inspirational Scottish athlete who achieved success at the 1924 Olympic Games and later made a significant contribution to society as a Christian missionary in China.

Eric Liddell at the Paris Olympics

Watch this archive video of Eric Liddell as he wins the 400 metres race at the 1924 Olympic Games.

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Short biography

Born in China to Scottish missionary parents, Eric returned to England for school then moved to Scotland, where he graduated with a science degree from the University of Edinburgh.

Sport played a large part in Eric’s academic life. He playing rugby for Scotland and ran for the university. Eric was hoping to compete in the 100 metre race at the Paris Olympics, but switched to the 400 metres as he was not prepared to run in the heats on a Sunday. Eric won this race and came third in the 200 metres race.

Missionary work in China

Following his Olympic success, he returned to North China where he served as a missionary from 1925 to 1943 - first in Tientsin (Tainjin) and later in Xiaochang. During his first furlough back in the UK he was ordained a minister in 1932. In 1934 he married Florence Mackenzie in Tientsin. Living in China through the late 1930s and early 1940s became increasingly dangerous due to the Sino-Japanese War. In 1941, British citizens were advised to leave the country, so Eric’s wife and family travelled to safety in Canada. In 1943 Eric Liddell was imprisoned by the Japanese in an internment camp and died there in 1945, still caring for those around him. A memorial to Eric Liddell now stands in the grounds of the school which occupies the camp's site.

Eric Liddell: A Champion's Life

Watch a clip from this BBC Scotland TV documentary.

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