Collection relating to Eric Henry Liddell (1902-1945)

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection at New College Library consists of  Eric Liddell by D.P. Thomson (1945) and a letter (30 June 1940) from Liddell to Mary and George Cameron, Heriot, Midlothian describing his movements during his last trip with his family. There is also a photograph of the letter and an accompanying exhibition captions. Material at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division, consists of the annual sports programmes of Edinburgh University Athletic Club, 1923-1925, and an annotated Scottish Inter-Universities programme, 1923. There are also two photographs of a memorial stone in China.

At E2006.34 there is an original invitation to the wedding of the Rev. Eric H. Liddell to Florence Jean Mackenzie at the Union Church, Tientsin, on 27 March 1934. The invitation was sent to Margaret Irene Brown (later Nichols), b.1912, of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, who was a friend of Florence.

Administrative / Biographical History

Eric Henry Liddell, Olympic runner and missionary, was born in 1902 in China, the son of Scottish missionaries. He was educated in Blackheath and Eltham, London, then studied at Edinburgh University where he was a rugby blue and gained his B.Sc. in 1924. He was outstanding as a runner and was selected for the British team in the Paris Olympics of 1924. He refused to run in the heats for the 100 meters as they were held on a Sunday and instead entered the 400 meters which he won in a world record time. Liddell's story was later made into the film  Chariots of Fire. He went on to study at the Scottish Congregational College and in 1925 went to China as a missionary with the London Missionary Society. He began by teaching science at the Anglo-Chinese College in Tientsin then moved to rural Siochang where he worked despite the difficult conditions caused by poverty and war. He married Florence Mackenzie in March 1934 in Tientsin but he last saw his wife and children in 1940 when, for safety, they went to Canada to live with family. Liddell was interned by the Japanese in 1943 in Weihsien prison camp, Shantung where he died of a brain tumour in 1945. His death was widely mourned not least in the camp itself where he had become a teacher, friend and guide to scores of imprisoned children.

Conditions Governing Access

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

The material was presented to New College Library by the Reverend George C. Cameron in 1985. The letter was found in the Thomson booklet. Liddell's Olympic medals were donated to Edinburgh University by his daughter Mrs. Patricia Russell, 20 May 1992. The wedding invitation was gifted to Edinburgh University Library by Mary MacPherson and John Nichols, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

Note

The biographical history was compiled using: (1) Anderson, G. H. (ed.).  Bibliographical Dictionary of Christian Missions. New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998. (2) Cameron, Nigel M. de S. (ed.).  Dictionary of Scottish Church History and Theology. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1993.

Compiled by Caroline Brown, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division. Revised by Graeme D Eddie

Other Finding Aids

The Index to Manuscripts held at New College Library mentions the collection. A handlist is filed in the New College Inventory of Manuscripts under BOX 49.

Conditions Governing Use

Contact the repository for details.

Related Material

Two Olympic medals won by Liddell in Paris, 1924 - gold and bronze - and a third medal for participation are on public display at the Old College, Edinburgh University.