Quotes by and about Eric Liddell from D P Thomson’s ‘Scotland’s Greatest Athlete’.
Material sourced from D P Thomson’s ‘Scotland’s Greatest Athlete’ – The Eric Liddell Story (Copyright 1970 The Research Unit, Crieff, Perthshire) unless otherwise stated.
DPT, a friend of Eric’s brother Rob became a friend of Eric Liddell through their work together on student campaigns throughout Scotland and the UK. It was DPT’s original request that set Eric on the path to Armadale and the first sharing of his Christian faith. This would lead to Eric speaking to many thousands of men throughout Scotland as part of the Muscular Christianity Campaigns. Christian students would be invited to an area to campaign.. they would challenge local players to football matches or to athletics events. Eric took part in these, thereafter Eric would have a much larger crowd to speak to at the meetings when he would challenge those assembled about their lives, faith and futures.
George Robertson, gifted Headmaster at Eltham College and later at George Watson's College in Edinburgh said of Eric,
'Entirely without vanity, he was enormously popular. Very early he showed signs of real character. His standards had been set for him long before he came to school. There was no pride or fuss about him, but he knew what he stood for.'
A fellow schoolboy writes in later life; “That close synthesis of ‘body, mind and soul’ which was such a striking thing about EHL in his manhood – looking back to some memories of childhood, I can see that it was there then, though it had not found the purpose of later life.”
Another schoolmate writes; “My own memory of him is of a lion-hearted but always modest companion, always popular, but from early days independent, self-reliant, and a little detached. I never remember him with a bosom pal; and I can see him now, modestly at the edge of the group, waiting his turn to ‘go in’ or flinging himself with a sudden attack down the playground slide. He had a characteristic, humorous resistance to bullying or posing masters, giving his answers stern and satirical emphasis ,’46 Sir’ and then following up with a disarming smile, whenever and wherever the atmosphere permitted it. We ran together the whole afternoon of my last country run at school; and that must be almost the last I saw of a fine character at the schoolboy stage.”
A school master:“He was a quiet but constant member of a weekly Bible Class I conducted. No one was asked to come – attendance was wholly voluntary. I cannot remember him taking part in any of the discussions that arose, but I always knew that however poor the fare I brought to it might be, I could count on an encouraging half-smile, half-nod, when I looked his way.”
His class record at university:“In the 1920-21 session his marks were 94% in Inorganic Chemistry and 83% in Mathematics. The following year he was 1stequal in two of his classes and in his 3rdyear 1stequal again in one, with 90%. This is a record of which any man may be proud, and it disposes at once of the idea that Eric Liddell was guilty of neglecting his studies, or even of relegating them to a secondary place, in the interest of athletic distinction. In the Olympic year there was, it is true, a slight falling away, but his figures never fell below 68%.”
Eric Liddell about his new trainer and his Ben Nevis cycle holiday:“I had made arrangements for a week’s cycling tour. My novice friend said that was the very worst thing for training. But all that he said slid off my back like water off a duck’s, for, after all, at that stage we were both novices, and I was quite sure that I knew as much about it as he did. Leaving him with his thoughts, I went off with four friends for a cycle run to Ben Nevis. It took us exactly six days, from a Monday morning to late on Saturday night. All of us agreed that it was a great success, despite the fact that when we reached the top of Ben Nevis at six o’clock one morning, and waited for the sun to rise, we found that was one of the days on which the sun did not rise. Arriving back, I went to see if I would be able to run, but, alas! What I had been told was only too true. I was stiff, there was no spring to my muscles only three or four more weeks before I was to make my first appearance in public as a runner. Gradually the springiness came back, and that May I entered for the ‘Varsity Sports.”
Eric on his training at Powderhall: “It was the first time in my life I had ever seen a cinder track. Many who trained there were professionals. Up to then I thought all professional runners would be first-class runners. They danced about on their toes as if they were stepping on hot bricks. Whenever they started to run, they dug big holes for their toes to go into, as if they were preparing for the time when their toes would dance no more. Surely they did not expect me to make such a fool of myself as all that? Yes, I found that they did. At first I felt that every eye was turned on me, when, as a matter of fact, there was nobody watching ma at all. Still, even when no one is watching at all, it is rather difficult to do things like working your shoulders, dancing about on your toes, doing short ten-yard dashes, and in general doing everything but run. The exercises seemed unimportant at first, but later one finds how useful they have been. It was at this time that I got to know the trainer who trained me during my five seasons on the running track. He took me in hand, pounded me about like a piece of putty, pushed this muscle this way and that muscle the other way, in order, as he said, to get me into shape.
He told me that my muscles were all far too hard and that they needed to be softened by massage. He added that if they were not softened soon, some day when I tried to start, one of the muscles would snap. He took me out and told me to do a short run. After finishing the run I stopped much quicker than any of the others. When I asked him what he thought of it, he answered that if I wanted a breakdown I was going about it in the best possible manner, for it appears that one must never stop abruptly on reaching the tape..
Thus, being thoroughly humiliated, feeling that my reputation had been dragged through the mud, that my self-respect was still wallowing in the mire, and that if I didn’t get into the clutches of the trainer soon, every muscle in my body would give way and I should remain a physical wreck till the end of my days --- I was then in a fit mental condition to start an athletic career.”
Eric on his starting technique: “Training is not the easiest thing to do. It is liable to become monotonous, with the continual repetition of certain exercises. One of the hardest lessons to learn is how to start. Time after time you go to your holes, rise to the ’get set’ position, and wait for the pistol to go. Someone tries to go off before the pistol, and so we all have to get up and start from the beginning again. Even after I had been at it for four years, the papers now and then reminded me that my week point was the slowness with which I started.”
Eric on his diet: “My ideas on the diet of an athlete are different for different athletes. Some will find that they do best by dieting, others who are used to living on simple fare will find that they need to do very little in that direction. As I lived with 12 or 13 others in the Edinburgh Medical Mission, I just took what they took. Actually on the day of running I avoided pastry, plum pudding, and all foods that would obviously be too heavy as passengers for the afternoon. On one day on which I ran I took plum pudding, and that day I ran the second fastest ‘quarter’ I have ever run in Scotland.”
Eric about the 1922 Scottish Championship:”I was preparing for the Scottish Championship (1922) and at last the day dawned. Needless to say I was very excited. Excited is a very mild word to use in order to try to explain the various emotional tremors that vibrated through my system. My dinner that day was not a success- in fact it was a nasty failure. The food would not slide down the alimentary canal with any degree of ease, and any that did manage to get down hadn’t a dog’s chance of being digested. This is an experience that most athletes go through some time in their career, and it makes you ask yourself if it is all worthwhile.”
DP Thomson reports: “Eric won the 100 yards and ‘220’ that day, both in good times, and he was awarded the Crabbie Cup for ‘The most meritorious competitor in the season’s Championship’. He was to win it again in 1923, 1924 and 1925 – an achievement never likely to be repeated.”
Eric says: “When the day was over and we brought back the ‘trophies of the chase (Scottish Cup, medals etc), the chase that had cost me a most uncomfortable dinner, I found that the troubles were really only beginning. The cups had to be kept clean, then there was one in the house who felt it would be a tragedy if during the night the cups should in some way evaporate, so they had to be put away safely each night, and brought out again in the morning.”
Eric on rain in Greenock and getting a lift back to Largs when on holiday:“In the summer of 1921 the holidays were being spent in Largs, but from week to week i travelled to different places in order to run. One Saturday at the end of the holiday I was to go to Greenock, and as there was no convenient railway, a motor was sent down. The morning was damp. Anyone who knows Greenock at all, will know that if it is damp at other places it will be pouring there. True to its reputation it was. This was my first experience of running in really bad weather on a grass track with water. I was in such a hurry to get in after it was all over that I left my large knife for digging my holes out in the rain and it was never seen again.” To add insult to injury, Eric goes on to record how he was thrown off the back of the motor-bike on the way home. A nut having come loose, the carrier gave way. “Picking my pride up and putting it in my pocket, I set off after the motor-bike, which had halted 100 yards ahead. The driver was wondering where I had disappeared to, and I was wondering what sort of trick he had been playing on me. With a piece of string we patched things up and I had to sit on the carrier once again for another six miles, feeling certain all the time that the string was getting thinner and thinner, and would ere long let me down once again, but, much to my relief, we reached home without further delay.”
A friend and colleague from University says: “ I knew Eric intimately, we were at Edinburgh University together, and for a long time trained and took part in athletic contests as members of the Edinburgh university relay Team, all of whom were ‘blues.’ During these years I came to know Eric very well indeed, and as time went on, to admire him more and more, for his brilliant exploits on the sports field, I do believe he is one of Scotland’s great sons.”
A fellow student: “Another vivid memory is of Eric with his trainer, Mr Tom McKerchar, who was the official ‘starter’ to the University for many years. It was a joy to me to see the two together; they seemed to understand one another perfectly, yet, so far as my observation went, they barely spoke to each other. Eric would come in after a training run to the pavilion at Craiglockhart, or at Powderhall, strip, and lie on the table, and Mr McKerchar would massage him systematically in silence. Eric owed much to his trainer, who in his quiet way, must have been a proud man to see his pupil respond so magnificently to his inspiration and hopes.”
One of Eric’s fans says:“I remember an incident concerning him. When I lived in Edinburgh I went to Craiglockhart to see him running in the 100 yards sprint at the University Sports, which, incidentally, he won, beating his own record at the time. Prior to his event a coloured student was wandering about, awaiting his event. Not a single person was speaking to him. He seemed so much alone, my heart went out to him, so much so that I felt like going to talk to him myself. To my great joy, Eric went up to him, put his arm in his, and engaged him in a friendly conversation until his event was due. I thought it such a beautiful Christian action, and it has lived in my memory ever since. How like the man, wasn’t it?”
Duncan McLeod Wright – celebrated Marathon Champion: “In my half century’s connection with Scottish sport, i have met many famous athletes, but I state in all honesty that I don’t remember my first view of anyone as vividly as my first sight of Eric Liddell. It was at the Queen’s Park Sports in 1921. I heard there was a real flyer in the Edinburgh University’s colours called Eric Liddell. Through a small window from the competitor’s room underneath the stand, I saw Eric for the first run in the 100 yards and was completely thrilled. Off to a slow start, he ran with blazing speed, chin up, head back on shoulders, and his arms threshing the air. ‘Dreadful style’ said the cynical critics, but his space devouring legs raced on a straight path to the tape, and to me he typified the speed runner putting all his strength into his effort to gain victory. His infectious enthusiasm endeared him to the sporting public, and for the next four years he packed the terracing at every sports meeting he attended.”
A A Thomson, author of ‘Rugger My Pleasure’ says: “The combined speed of Liddell and Gracie was terrific, and it did not matter in the least which of them scored the tries. There were those who said that Gracie was not swift enough for Liddell, but Liddell never said so. It is usually said of flying wingers that they were not good in defence, but nobody could truthfully have said that about Liddell. He was a tireless and dogged defender, and when he smother-tackled you, you stayed smothered. In seven international games in which the two of them played together, Scotland lost only once, and that by a mere two points. Liddell’s great integrity of character was recognised by everyone whose circle touched his.......During the worst period of his imprisonment he was, through his courage and cheerfulness, a tower of strength and sanity to his fellow prisoners. To many sufferers he brought the only comfort that captivity allowed. It is one of the great sadnesses of life, that while so many survived the years of captivity, E H Liddell, who had helped so many, did not He was one of the most chivalrous of Scots, as an athlete and as a man.”
The Student, Edinburgh University magazine in December 1023: “Ninety-nine men, gifted with Eric’s prowess, would now be insufferably swollen headed, but here we have the hundredth man. Here is a man who hates praise and shuns publicity, yet is deserving of both. Here is a man with a mind of his own, and not afraid to voice his most secret feeling on a platform if, by doing so, he thinks it will help his fellows. Here is a man who has courage, and delights to accept a challenge, be it for the sake of his School, his ‘Varsity, his country or his God. And lastly, here is a man who wins because he sets his teeth, quietly but firmly, and always plays the game. Everyone is fond of Eric.”
Eric on being invited to speak about his Christian faith at Armadale Town Hall by D P Thomson as part of the Glasgow Students’ Evangelistic Union campaign there: “All right – I’ll come.”
Eric about running at Stamford Bridge on 7thJuly 1923: “The weather was perfect for short-distance running – very hot. Heat makes the muscles loose, so that there was no need for massage.”
A fellow sportsman at Stamford Bridge on 7thJuly 1923: “Eric had brought a small trowel with him to dig his holes for starting and he carefully went from one to another of his opponents in the race, and offered each the use of his trowel. Most of them (four, I seem to remember) accepted. All the nearby spectators appreciated the action (and a large number of athletes who recognised the Scottish champion had gathered to get as close a view as possible). All having prepared, he walked to each opponent again, and shook hands with him, smiling his very sunny smile. He then got ‘on his marks’ with them, was off at the gun, and won a very fine race from the outside berth. I had heard a lot a lot about him, and now I had seen him. I came away feeling that I had witnessed a gentleman doing all that a gentleman should do. Afterwards, when I heard he had gone to China, I realised that I had been watching a Christian in action.”
The Scotsman about Eric in the 440 yards at Stoke on Trent: the circumstances in which he won made it a performance bordering on the miraculous. The runners were started on the bend, Liddell having the inside berth, but the Scot had only taken three strides when Gillis (England) crashed into him and knocked him off the track. He stumbled on the grass, and for a moment seemed half inclined to give it up. Then suddenly he sprang forward and was after his opponents like a flash. By this time the leaders were about twenty yards ahead, but Liddell gradually drew up on them, and by the time the home stretch was reached he was running fourth. He would be about 10 yards behind Gillis then. It seemed out of the question that he could win, but he achieved the apparently impossible. Forty yards from home he was third, and seemed on the point of collapsing, but, pulling himself together, he put in a desperate finish to win by two yards from Gillis.”
A team mate at Stoke on Trent: “I was a team-mate of his at stoke – what a memory that has been to me, as with such a close view of Eric in his 440 yards epic, he had my heart pounding as it has not done since. When he collapsed I was one of those who helped him to the pavilion, and on the suggestion of a drop of brandy to revive him, he semi-consciously remarked to me, ‘No, thanks, jimmy, just a drop of strong tea. To me and to many others Eric was not only a first class sportsman; he was an inspiration to all with whom he came in contact. In 1925, when he left for China, Scotland lost and has never regained a personality in the truest sense of the word, and I lost but can never forget the one I consider could never have had an enemy. His signature on the dinner menu of 14thJuly 1923, is my only personal possession, but I have the memory of a sportsman, a gentleman, and above all one we could ill afford to be without.”
A competitor about Eric: “Eric Liddell whom I had met and competed against the year before at St Andrews, was an Edinburgh competitor and I was representing Aberdeen. Towards the end of the sports I was, rather thoughtlessly, sitting on the cold turf wearing nothing but singlet, shorts and spiked shoes, and waiting for the last event of the afternoon to start. Liddell strolling in my direction, saw me sitting and, to my surprise, took off his Edinburgh blue blazer and placed it over my shoulders to keep me warm. He did this with a smile and a word of advice about avoiding cold. A small enough gesture, it might be said, but a spontaneous Christ-like one towards one who was virtually a stranger from another ‘Varsity. I have never forgotten this kindly act, and not by any means only because Eric Liddell afterwards became so famous. Incidentally, it was an unforgettable experience to run against Liddell. I did so once at St Andrews, and ran third to him, but a very far behind third at that. For most of us, a rear view of out great rival was all we had after the starter’s pistol had sent us off.”
Abowler- hatted Glasgow man at Hampden (Scottish Amateur Athletics Championships, 14thJune 1924) as Eric ran the last 440 yards of the relay race at 40 yards behind: “He was left with a gap of 40 yards to make up. When making his effort he had a habit of jerking back his head. I remarked to a bowler hated Glasgow man next to me, who had been following the racing with the keenest attention all afternoon, that Liddell would be hard put to win. My neighbour, an observant fellow, replied, ‘His heid’s no back yet.’ With that, back went the head and Liddell left his opponent standing to win by 20 yeards.”
On release of the Olympic timetables indicating preliminary 100 metres heats on a Sunday Eric says firmly: “I’m not running.”
On Monday 7thJuly 1924 Eric was at the stadium to cheer on to victory in the final of the 100 metres, his compatriot, Harold Abrahams. On Wednesday morning, 9thJuly, Eric and Harold Abrahams lined up with four American runners for the final of the 200 metres which was won by Douglas Scholz in the record time of 21.6 seconds, Eric coming in third and Abrahams last.
The Scotsman: “Liddell failed to reproduce the strong finish by which so many of his races in this country had been won. He was well placed and had his spurt been forthcoming he would undoubtedly have won.” The Scotsman did not mention that Liddell had won bronze and that he had only been beaten to gold by inches.
On Eric winning Olympic Gold on 11thJuly 1924, Harold Abrahams, British team captain said: “In that race, drawn in the outside position, Liddell ran from start to finish with an inspired and passionate intensity, which gave him a decisive victory in the world’s record time of 46.7 seconds.”
The Scotsman: “The Union Jack flew in proud majesty over the Colombes Stadium today, for the only Final down for decision, the 400 metres, which resulted in a great victory for Great Britain. The brilliant running of E H Liddell, the Edinburgh University sprinter, was responsible. There was a gasp of astonishment when Eric Liddell, one of the most popular athletes at Colombes, was seen to be a clear three yards of the field at the half distance. Nearing the tape Fitch and Butler strained every nerve and muscle to overtake him, but could make absolutely no impression on the inspired Scot. With 20 yards to go, Fitch seemed to gain a fraction, but Liddell appeared to sense the American, and with his head back and chin thrust out in his usual style, he flashed past the tape to gain what was probably the greatest victory of the meeting so far. Certainly there has not been a more popular win. The crowd went into a frenzy of enthusiasm, which was renewed when the loud speaker announced that once again the world record had gone by the board. This remarkable achievement confirms the view that the quarter mile is Liddell’s best distance.”
The Bulletin: This is the crowning distinction of Liddell’s great career on the track, and no more modest or unaffected world champion could be desired. Liddell has built up his success by hard work and perseverance, and although hardly a beautiful, he has even triumphed over his defects. He received a great ovation from the crowd. The American, Meredith*, told a press representative that it was the most wonderful quarter-mile race that had ever been run. Considering the conditions under which it was run, he said, it was nothing short of marvellous, as Liddell had to make his own pace from the crack of the pistol to the tape. ‘Liddell is the greatest quarter-miler ever seen’, he said.”
*Meredith held the world record for the quarter-mile but it did not count for the 400 metres although the latter was a slightly shorter race.
20 years later, speaking to Frank Wright of the the Aberdeen Press and Journal, Eric, asked how he managed to keep his fantastic pace with such a curious style responds: “The secret of my success over the 400 metres is that I run the first 200 metres as hard as I can. Then, for the second 200 metres, with God’s help, I run harder.”
The masseur: “I handed him the note mentioned on page 24 of that book - (A pamphlet by DPT called –Eric Liddell) I’m afraid I did not quote the text as written; this is what I put – ‘In the old book it says, ‘He that honours me I will honour. Wishing you the best of success always.’ I gave it to him at the Hotel Modern, Rue de la Republique, Paris, and he said, ‘I will read it when I get to the stadium.’ I saw him start his race, and shake hands with all his opponents.”
“More than forty years after the event,” says Melvyn Watman, in his History of British Athletics, “Liddell’s success still reads like a fairy story. If ever a man was inspired by the supreme test of Olympic competition, that man was Eric Liddell.”
Ben Benison, in Olympic Story: The Definitive Story of the Olympic Games from Their Revival in 1896 * wrote: “It was at Paris that Eric Liddell won immortality. Enthusiasm was unbounded; men and women of all nations cheered unrestrainedly; and when the Bristish flag was run up the mast in token of his mighty achievement, the many thousands of onlookers jumped to attention. The scene on an afternoon radiant with sunshine was unforgettable.
The start was as perfect as any start could be, every man was off his mark simultaneously, as if they had been shot out of their holes. Liddell was ahead by a flash, and as he flew along to the accompaniment of a thunderous roar, experts, and laymen alike, fell to speculating whether he would crack, such was the tremendous pace he set. ‘Liddell’ was shrieked; ‘Imbach’ was thundered by the Swiss; ‘Taylor was shouted by a finely drilled American clique. ‘Butler,’ ‘Fitch’ in turn were yelled. Liddell, yards ahead, came round the bend for the straight; Fitch was closing up; there was Butler, too, and Imbach, to be reckoned with. It was the last fifty metres that meant the making or breaking of Liddell. Just for a split second it was feared that the incredible speed would be his undoing. It was Imbach who broke down; some fifty yards from the tape the Swiss fell and he was out of it.
It was then Liddell and Fitch for it. The American tugged and pulled at himself, but to no purpose, and Liddell, considering the formidable opposition, burst home by a remarkable margin. Johnston came next, and then Taylor, who had the bad luck to stumble a yard or so from the tape. Liddell, with every haste, took his leave of the cheering multitude.”
*To be found in the chapter entitled ‘Some of the World’s Greatest Athletes.’
Lt Col F A M Webster in The Leader Magazine after Eric’s death wrote an article ‘More than an Athlete’ in which he quotes Jack Moakley, wisest and oldest of the Americans: “ Weighing up the pros and cons the evening before the race’ Moakley said:‘that lad Liddell’s a hell of an awful runner, but he’s got something. I think he’s got what it takes.” Webster goes on to write: “Despite an action which would have slowed down any other man on earth, Liddell was running faster at the end of the race than he had done at the beginning, or, indeed at any other time in his life.... The drums and pipes of the Cameron Highlanders, who were on the ground, skirled out Liddell’s triumph, and all the athletic world seemed to go mad. But Liddell was as modest in victory as he had ever been generous in his very few defeats. He hurried from the stadium to prepare the address he was to deliver the following Sunday at the religious service held for all those taking part in the Games.”
17thJuly 1924, Graduation in McEwan Hall of Edinburgh University, Sir Alfred Ewing – Principal and Vice Chancellor says:“Mr Liddell, you have shown that none can pass you but the examiner. In the ancient Olympic tests the victor was crowned with wild olive by the High priest of Zeus, and a poem written in his honour was presented to him. A Vice Chancellor is no High Priest, but he speaks and acts for the University; and in the name of the University, which is proud of you, and to which you have brought fresh honour, I present you with this epigram in Greek, composed by Professor Mair, and place upon your head this chaplet of wild olive.”
The scroll reads (in English):
“The University of Edinburgh congratulates
Eric Henry Liddell
Olympic Victor in the 400 Metres.
‘Happy the man who the wreathed games essaying
Returns the laurelled brow,
Thrice happy victor thou, such speed displaying
As none hath showed till now;
We enjoy, and Alma Mater, for the merit
Proffers to thee this crown:
Take it, Olympic Victor. While you wear it
May Heaven never frown.”
Eric states when compelled to make a short speech, after being carried aloft by cheering crowds and fellow students to the doors of St Giles Cathedral for the University Service: “Over the gate of Pennsylvania University are inscribed these words, ‘In the dust of defeat as well as in the laurels of victory there is a glory to be found if one has done his best.”
At the Graduation Luncheon Eric’s abbreviated response is recorded by DPT as follows: “Eric said that he was a short-distance runner owing to a defect in his constitution. He was extremely short-winded therefore he would not detain them long. The papers told them that his action was extremely bad, but that could probably be traced to his forefathers. It was well known in Scotland that the Borderers used to visit England now and then, and escape back as quickly as possible. It was no doubt the practice of his forefathers to do this, and the speed with which they returned from England seemed to have been handed down from generation to generation. One did not look for correct action when one was returning from raids, and probably this explained his own running action. He would conclude by reminding them that a man was composed of three parts –body, mind and soul – and it was only when they taught each part in such a way that it did not overstress one, but gave to each what it was entitled to, that they would get the best and truest graduates from the University. When they realised that they had not only to store the mind with knowledge, but that they also had to educate the body for the strenuous life it had to go through, and, remember that they were of the spirit as well, they would pass down graduates who were really worthy of taking their place in any field of life.”
The Scotsman announcing the Dinner to be held in Eric’s honour on Friday 18thJuly 1924: “The idea of giving a dinner in his honour originated in the minds of a number of gentlemen who sent him a telegram of congratulations from Edinburgh. The Lord Provost and Sir Alfred Ewing, the Principal of the University, were communicated with and those gentlemen agreed to support Lord Sands, who will preside. It is expected that the company will number between 100 and 120, and will be of a thoroughly representative character.”
“Lord Sands said he had always understood that the quarter-mile was one of the most sporting and interesting of races. It was also one of the most gruelling, and it was somewhat remarkable that it happened to be the only Olympic race which had been won by a Scotsman. In these days of moral flabbiness it was something to find a man who was not content to shield himself behind such easy phrases as ‘It was once in a way’ or ‘When you go to Rome you must do as they do in Rome.’ There friend was about to enter a race, a more strenuous and harder race than even the quarter-mile. He was sure that their good wishes and their prayers would go with him.”
The cable gram from the diners to Eric’s parents and family in China: “Large gathering, Edinburgh, Chairman Lord Sands, cordially congratulates father and mother on Eric’s wonderful feat, and still more on his noble witness for Christian principles.”
Dr Norman Maclean in The Scotsman on 19thJuly 1924: “It is not my purpose to record the speeches: I can only give an impression. The most vivid of all is that of eric Liddell as he stood up to reply. It was a difficult task amid that enthusiasm. The shouting and the cheering suddenly ceased, and he began to speak. The modesty and simplicity and directness of his words went straight to the heart. No adulation, no fame, no flattery can ever affect this youth with the clean cut features, the level eyes, and the soft voice. He has got that great redeeming gift, the gift of humour...... He made us quickly realise that running was not to be his career. He was training to be a missionary in China, and he was devote all his spare time until he set forth for the East in evangelistic work among the young men in Scotland. And he asked our help and our sympathy. What a hush suddenly fell. The Olympic Games were forgotten; the olive crowns and the thunder of cheers; and we saw this young man go forth on his mission.... It is because he has mastered himself, and has guided his course by the eternal stars, that Eric Liddell came to that laurel crown. He is running race, and he will stay it even to the end.”
At the Lord Provost’s Luncheon a week later, the Lord Provost said that: “The occasion was unique not only in the history of Edinburgh but of Scotland. Many visiting celebrities had been welcomed by the Corporation of the City in the past. They had entertained distinguished soldiers and sailors, famous statesmen of our own and other countries, and eminent leaders in every walk of life. This however, was the first occasion on which they had had the opportunity of welcoming one of the heroes of the Olympic Games. Mr liddell’s performance stamped him as one of the most wonderful athletes ever produced in any country. He was well worthy of all the honour and distinction they could confer on him. Their admiration of him was not confined merely to his exploits on the running track. His upright and manly nearing, his modest and unassuming disposition, and his sterling devotion to principle had inspired them all with the greatest esteem and respect for him, and they honoured him that day as a man in the fullest sense of the word.”
Sir William Sleigh then presented the Olympic winner with a gold watch, inscribed with the arms of the City of Edinburgh, and with these words: “Presented by the Corporation of Edinburgh to Eric H. Liddell B.Sc. in recognition of his brilliant achievement in winning in record time the 400 metres at the Olympic games – Paris 1924 – W.L. Sleigh, Lord Provost”
Eric speaking about his trainer Mr Tom McKerchar at the Lord Provost’s Luncheon in response to the Lord Provost’s speech: “No one would ever know the debt he owed to him. He had done two things for him for which he would always be grateful. He had taken him in hand when he was a raw beginner and he had shown him how to run his distance.”
The Student Magazine: “Success in athletics, sufficient to turn the head of any ordinary man, has left Liddell absolutely unspoilt, and his modesty is entirely genuine and unaffected. He has taken his triumphs in his stride, as it were, and has never made any sort of fuss. What he has thought it right to do, that he has done, looking neither to the left nor to the right, and yielding not one jot or tittle of principle either to court applause or to placate criticism. Courteous and affable, he is utterly free from ‘gush’. Devoted to his principles, he is without a touch of Pharisaism. The best that can be said of any student is that he left the fame of his university fairer than he found it, and his grateful Alma mater is proud to recognise that to no man does that prais more certainly belong than to Eric Henry Liddell.”
"God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure. "
Surprisingly, this line was actually written by Colin Welland as part of his script for the film Chariots of Fire, but is widely misrepresented as having been said by Eric Liddell in real life.
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