The Eric Liddell 100: Centenary celebrations for former LMS missionary

by CWM Communications Team

Credit: Eric Liddell Community Trust

Individuals and organisations renowned for excellence in their fields have convened to work on The Eric Liddell 100, a major initiative to honour the legacy of Scottish icon and former London Missionary Society (LMS) missionary Eric Liddell, well-known for his Olympic gold medal win at the 1924 Paris Olympics, and will celebrate his life, sporting and community service achievements.

Led by Edinburgh-based charity The Eric Liddell Community, these experts and sector leaders are now engaged in three strategic steering groups – sport, education and culture – to deliver a large-scale programme that will take place in the lead up to the centenary celebrations in 2024 and beyond. It will also establish strong sporting, educational, community, business, cultural, faith and international links to secure, cherish and celebrate the legacy of a remarkable man for future generations at home and across the world.

Liddell was born in China in 1902 to Scottish LMS missionary parents and spent much of his childhood there. He later attended Eltham College, then the University of Edinburgh, where he became known as a talented runner and played for Scottish Rugby seven times. In 1924, Liddell represented Great Britain in the Olympic Games in Paris but opted out of the 100-metre race in the Olympics, his strongest event, because the final was scheduled for a Sunday. He instead trained and won gold for the 400 metres in a World and Olympic record time, and bronze for 200 metres. At the pinnacle of his sporting career, Liddell returned to serve a missionary teacher through the LMS in China in 1925, first in Tianjin, and later Xiaozhang, a poverty-stricken town in Hebei Province.

Liddell’s first job as a missionary was as a teacher at a Christian college for Chinese students. During his first furlough from missionary work in 1932, he was ordained a minister of the Congregational Union of Scotland. Liddell was interred in a Japanese civilian internment camp in 1945 with members of China Inland Mission (known as OMF International today) till his death from a brain tumour, aged 43.

Graham McGeoch, Discipleship and Dialogue Mission Secretary of the Council for World Mission (CWM) said: “We are excited by the Eric Liddell 100 initiative. CWM holds Eric Liddell’s archives at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London. We are delighted to collaborate with so many international partners to mark the life of this remarkable public figure, and one of CWM’s own former missionaries.”

On top of commemorating Liddell’s life, achievements and community service next year, The Eric Liddell 100 initiative is slated to be launched and sustained in 2024 and beyond.

The educational steering group will focus on developing physical and online resources to support learning in educational institutes, with Olympic silver medallist and teacher Gemma Burton seconded to develop a cross cutting school curriculum inspired by Liddell’s life and achievements.

Working in partnership, the sporting & physical activity steering group will promote his legacy through participation, engagement, fun, and competition across multiple disciplines.

Culturally, plans are underway to create an Eric Liddell Exhibition and other cultural celebrations in keeping with his legacy.

John MacMillan, CEO of The Eric Liddell Community said:

“Eric is remembered in many ways to different people – as a sportsman, a husband and father, a devout man who lived his life according to his beliefs, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, and a missionary in China, who refused to leave those he looked after during the Second World War. The Eric Liddell Community reflects Eric’s code of ethics, to help and support those who need it and the people who look after them in a spirit of community, inclusivity, diversity and generosity.”

Image caption: (Pictured left to right) John MacMillan CEO, The Eric Liddell Community; Graham Law, Senior Corporate Affairs and Stakeholder Manager at Scottish Rugby; Kieron Achara MBE, former Scottish and Great Britain Basketball player; Gemma Burton, silver medallist at the London Olympics 2012 and teacher at George Watsons College; Colin Hutchison, CEO Scottish Athletics. Credit: Eric Liddell Community Trust and Liddell Family

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