Eric Liddell was born in Tianjin, of Scottish parents in 1902. His career
reached his peak with his gold medal victory in the 400 meters event at the
1924 Olympic games. He returned to China to work in Tianjin as a teacher.
Liddell was interned in a camp at the present site of the Weifang second
Middle School and died in this camp shortly before the Japanese were defeated in 1945. He embodied paternal virtues and his school life was spent encouraging young people to make their best contribution to the betterment of mankind.
Dedication of Eric Liddell Memorial Stone at Weifang, China, June 9, 1991
Left to right: Charles Walker, Norman Cliff, David Michell, Peggy Judge, a niece of E.L.
The Eric Liddell Monument.
By Norman Cliff
Charles Walker, an Engineer working in Hong Kong, was moved by the Liddell story (being a fellow Scot) and raised funds locally and in Scotland for a monument to be erected in his memory in Weihsien, and obtained permission for the project from the Chinese authorities.
In June 1991 David Michell and I travelled with a group of supporters from Hong Kong. The former camp is now divided into two sections. On the side of the hospital are houses occupied by medical staff and their offices. On the other side is a large Middle School.
When we got off at the former camp site there were lines of students in their uniforms to welcome us. We found that Block 23 had been demolished and another building of similar size had taken its place. We walked down the end of houses once used as the married quarters and still standing, and came to a site behind where the church used to be. We went through a moon gate into the Garden of Inspiration in which was the Liddell monument.
There we saw the magnificent seven-foot high rose granite memorial stone. It had come all the way from the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides, a gift from Edinburgh University.
The authorities were determined that no religious element should enter the proceedings, but the words on the stone in English and Chinese said, "They shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint". This is a quotation from Isaiah chapter 40 verse 31!
David Michell and I addressed the crowds there - of teachers and students and foreign journalists from Beijing. I had been told not to preach Christianity, but having made a quotation from Confucius I felt free to quote the prayer of St. Francis - "Make me a channel of Your peace ..."
What Characterizes the Spirit of Eric Liddell?
By David J. Michell
The spirit of Eric Liddell has come through many of the events and experiences of his life. What is the message of Eric Liddell for today, ninety years since his birth and almost fifty since his death? Many things characterize his spirit.
integrity immediately comes first to mind. His sterling devotion to his
Christian principles at the 1924 Olympics has ensured his place in history. His
clear stand without compromise intersected people's lives with truth.
Furthermore, his decision to stay in
Long before "Chariots of Fire," this
integrity influenced many young people. One of these was fellow Scot, Peter
Marshall, late Chaplain of the United States Senate. Catherine Marshall in A Man Called Peter wrote, "To him,
(Peter) Eric was a hero, not just because of his great athletic ability, but
because of his modesty, his undeniable charm, and the great strength of his
Christian witness. His influence on Peter's life can scarcely be
measured." As a young man in Scotland Peter Marshall wanted to follow his
hero as a missionary to
Sincerity marked all his relationships. In one of his Sunday afternoon talks in Weihsien Camp, he spoke about the importance of being true to God and true to oneself without hypocrisy or pretence. He told us the origin of the word "sincere," coming from the Latin "sine" (without) and "cera" (wax). The word's derivation came from the custom of a sculptor using wax to cover up a blemish in his work. The finished sculpture that could pass the test of heat being applied and remain perfect was the one that was sincere (without wax).
SELF-CONTROL AND PERSONAL DISCIPLINE
Eric's life spoke of self-control and inner discipline. He was a man who was comfortable spending time alone looking within and asking himself, "Am I truthful?" "Am I honest?" "Am I pure?" "Am I selfish?" He gave himself tests of God's moral law by which he could measure himself:
Let us put ourselves before ourselves and look at ourselves.
The bravest moment of a person's life is the moment when he looks at himself objectively without wincing, without complaining.
The Disciplines of the Christian Life
In Weihsien Eric assembled study material which he circulated in camp under the title of "A Manual of Christian Discipleship."
A. P. Cullen, fellow-missionary in LMS and fellow-internee, spoke of Eric as one with great strength of determination and firmness of purpose. He is "the most remarkable example in my experience of a man of average ability and talents developing those talents to an amazing degree... He was literally God-controlled, in his thoughts, judgments, actions, words, to an extent that I have never seen surpassed and rarely seen equalled."
Eric inspired the best effort in others - Patricia, his oldest daughter, who last saw him when she was only five, remembers him saying, "If you are going to do something, do your very, very best, and try very, very hard."
His sense of humour is one aspect that "Chariots of Fire" didn't capture sufficiently, his widow often told me. Eric was full of practical jokes and fun. Sometimes when he taught us as we sat on boxes in our little prison camp room, we took him very seriously until the telltale twinkle in his eyes showed us he was playing a trick on us.
In Weihsien Camp he was a person who could be trusted to manage the canteen. When such rare commodities as eggs, peanuts, peanut-oil and apples became available for purchase through the efforts of some of the Allied Nations, Eric saw the bright side and remarked, "Even if we don't have money to buy the apples, we can at least enjoy the smell."
Eric's example in humility and selflessness is surely one of the most impressive of his attributes.
Acknowledged as a champion of two distances in running - the 100 metres and 400 metres - he is rightly also a winner of the secondmile. Jesus said, "If someone asks you to go one mile, go with him two miles" ("The Sermon on the Mount"). Eric was a second-mile person, helping anyone he could. His kindness and goodness were apparent and he didn't look for thanks. He could walk away from the fame and glory this world offered because he played to the pipes of heaven.
ROLE-MODEL FOR LIFE
"Chariots of Fire" succeeded in part because of its brilliance in production, direction, story, music, costuming and in so many other ways. But another key part to its success was the way it inspired us with a true-life hero.
In our world today, be it in Olympic or national sports, there is so much of self-grandeur and commercialism and the evils that accompany the outlook of winning at all costs. It was not so with Eric Liddell.
The full story of Eric Liddell takes us far beyond the drama of the track to a wider world that shows us a role-model for life in many different ways.
As an athlete he
had few equals. As a sportsman he played fair, shaking hands with his
competitors before a race began. He had a marvelous way of encouraging aspiring athletes to develop their skills. In Weihsien he
spent many hours coaching budding track champions to better their starts and
improve their times. Eric even gave Stephen Metcalf, a schoolmate of mine and
later one of my fellow-missionaries in
HUSBAND AND FATHER
Married at the age
of 32, Eric's role of husband and father were all too brief. The trials of war
made separation the norm, yet
The older two girls he was to see so little of, and the third not at all, because of the war. Yet, instead of bitterness, he gave his affection to us youngest children who were without our parents, and we all called him "Uncle Eric."
Throughout his life, though shy by nature, Eric was a friend who exuded cheerfulness and approachableness. Young and old felt quickly at ease in his presence. Among track and sports competitors, he generated a feeling of comradeship.
In the darkest days of our prison camp life, Eric would be seen walking the well-worn camp paths at the foot of the bleak walls, talking with a young person and lifting their spirits as he shared his faith and friendship.
Eric was a friend of
Norman Cliff was one of the older Chefoo boys I looked up to in Weihsien. In June 1991 we were both part of the Eric Liddell Foundation group led by Charles Walker to the Second Middle School, Weifang, China, the site of our old prison camp. Norman and I spoke about Eric at the dedication of the magnificent seven-foot-high rose granite memorial stone to Eric Liddell, the gift of Edinburgh University and now standing in the Garden of Inspiration close to where Eric died and was buried.
He had ensured a better understanding between the old and the young, more tolerance between the many nationalities and social groups in the camp, as well as a happy relationship between the Japanese guards and the prisoners.
Make me a channel of Your peace;
Where there is hatred let me bring Your love,
Where there is injury, Your pardon, Lord,
And where there's doubt, true faith in You...
Make me a channel of Your peace.
Where there's despair in life let me bring hope,
Where there is darkness, only light,
And where there's sadness, ever joy.
Make me a channel of Your peace,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
In giving of ourselves that we receive,
And in dying that we're born to eternal life.
As a missionary Eric was a peacemaker in the best sense of the word.
He came to bring a message of righteousness and love, two sides of the coin of God's character, which bring peace and harmony into the life of every individual who embraces them. He was very conscious of the privilege and responsibility that was his as one sent by God to speak and live for Him. Absolute surrender to the will of God was a theme frequently on his lips. This meant a discipleship to Jesus Christ as Lord over every part of his life.
As a Christian gentleman, "A verray parfit gentil knight," to borrow Chaucer's famous line, he modelled his life on the perfect life. His conscious goal was to be like Jesus Christ. Like Brother Lawrence, he "practised the presence of God." Little wonder that the day after he died, someone said, "Yesterday Jesus Christ lived among us, today he's gone."
Langdon Gilkey, author of Shantung Compound, wrote of him, "It is rare indeed that a person has the good fortune to meet a saint, but he came as close to it as anyone I have ever known."
Eric's Christianity had a happiness to it that was infectious. His happiness was grounded in his serene faith in God. He often urged the people around him to have faith. His strength was quiet faith. His centre of gravity was outside this world and all its acclaim. The crown he valued was not one that would fade, but was eternal.
"When I run, I feel God's pleasure," were memorable lines of his. For him there was no division between the sacred and the secular. His whole life was for God and His glory. In what is said here of Eric Liddell, we know he would take none of the credit and would not even want it said.
As I conclude, I
want to take you back to the setting of Weihsien Camp in 1945. In the cold
He stopped to
talk with us and smiled. As he spoke, we knew nothing of the pain he was
concealing, and he knew nothing of the brain tumour that was to take his life
the next morning,
In his final days the Salvation Army had played his favourite hymn, bringing him comfort, just like he had brought to the mother of one of our schoolmates who had been electrocuted on the roll-call field:
Be still, my soul, the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul, thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.
Katharina Von Schlegel
The snow was falling gently as Eric Liddell died, a soul serene amidst the sorrows and sufferings of the war that was to end six months later. His last word was "surrender." It was complete surrender.
His life exemplified the words penned by Dr. Hugh Hubbard of the Camp Discipline Committee:
Weihsien - the test. Whether man's happiness depends on what he has or what he is; on outer circumstance or inner heart; on life's experiences good or bad - or on what he makes out of the materials those experiences provide.
Courtyard of the Happy Way
Eric stated the same truth in his own words:
Circumstances may appear to wreck our lives and God's plans, but God is not helpless among the ruins. Our broken lives are not lost or useless. God's love is still working. He comes in and takes the calamity and uses it victoriously, working out His wonderful plan of love.
Disciplines of the Christian Life
The shock of Eric Liddell's death rocked the camp. He was our hero and seemed invincible. We all missed him, and so did the Roman Catholic sisters in our building, who also mourned his loss. He had risked his life some months earlier by going into the morgue to comfort Sister Reginald Hary and one of our Chefoo girls, both gravely ill with typhoid fever.
Many fellow-missionaries and other camp leaders spoke at Eric's funeral service. Our school was part of the honour guard as his body was carried in a makeshift coffin to the little cemetery in the Japanese quarters. A simple wooden cross with Eric H. Liddell painted on it in shoe blacking, was placed upon the humble mound of earth.
next day Marcy Ditmanson spoke with the guards at the
roll-call time and they expressed their sympathy at Eric's passing. He told one
of the guards, Morimoto, a number of significant things about Eric - the fact
that he was an Olympic gold medallist, a contestant in races in
until early May did
"The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day" (Proverbs ).
these nearly fifty years we have remembered Eric Liddell. We pay tribute to him
today, ninety years since the year of his birth, for his sporting prowess; for
his love for young people,
Significant Dates in Eric Liddell's Life
A Boy's War. David J. Michell, OMF Books, 1988.
Chariots of Fire. W. J. Weatherby, Dell/Quicksilver, 1987.
of the Happy Way. Norman
Cliff, Arthur James, 1977.
<BR>Please write to: DR. NORMAN H. CLIFF
<BR>Please write to: DR. NORMAN H. CLIFF
Disciplines of the Christian Life, The. Eric Liddell, Abingdon Press, 1985.
Eric H. Liddell, Athlete and Missionary. D. P. Thomson, The Research Unit, Crieff, 1971.
Eric Liddell, God's Athlete. Catherine Swift, Marshall Pickering, 1986.
Flying Scotsman, The. Sally Magnusson, Quartet Books, 1981.
God's Joyful Runner. Russell Ramsey. Bridge Publishing, 1987.
World Shapers. Compiled by Vinita Hampton & Carol Pluddeman, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1991.