Scotland

Chariots of Fire athlete Liddell gets Scottish rugby cap

Eric Liddell played for Scotland at rugby before going on to Olympic glory Image copyright Scottish Rugby
Image caption Eric Liddell played for Scotland at rugby before going on to Olympic glory

The daughter of the man who inspired the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire is to accept an international rugby cap in honour of her father.

Eric Liddell is most famous for his gold medal in the 400m at the 1924 Olympics - after he refused to run the 100m because it took place on a Sunday.

However, he was also a rugby international, appearing seven times for Scotland between 1921 and 1923.

His daughter Patricia Liddell Russell said it was an "extraordinary honour".

It is believed Liddell's original Scotland rugby caps have been lost and the Scottish Rugby Union (SRU) has taken the unusual step of re-issuing one to be presented to his daughter.

Image copyright Topical Press Agency
Image caption Eric Liddell being carried round the streets after his Olympic victory

Patricia was just 10 years old when her father died in a prisoner-of-war camp in China in 1945.

The eldest of three children, she had not seen her father for four years when he died, having left for Canada with her mother when the country became too dangerous.

Liddell was interned by the Japanese authorities in a camp at Weihsien and died of a brain tumour shortly before the end of the war, at the age of 43.

Image caption Patricia Liddell Russell's father died when she was just 10 years old

Patricia told BBC Scotland's John Beattie programme she remembered her father being "lots of fun but quite strict".

She said that growing up in Canada she had not been aware of the extent of his achievements.

Liddell, the son of Christian missionaries, had been born in China in 1902 and lived there until he was five when he returned to Britain to be educated.

Image copyright Topical Press Agency
Image caption Eric Liddell was known as the "Flying Scotsman"

While he was at Edinburgh University, Liddell excelled at athletics and also played rugby for the Scottish national team - as well as being a noted evangelist preacher.

His first rugby cap was won against France at the same Colombes stadium in Paris in which he would race in the Olympics.

Academy Awards

At the 1924 Olympics, he famously refused to run on a Sunday, ruling him out of the 100m race to which he was best suited.

Instead, he took part in the 400m race and, against the odds, still won a gold medal.

His actions were immortalised in the 1981 film Chariots of Fire, which won four Academy Awards including best picture.

Patricia said: "I tell young people today what my father left to me was that you do not give up your principles just for a gold medal.

"I think that is what made him extra special because the principles were more important than winning the gold."

Soon after his Olympic triumph, Liddell finished his studies and returned to China to become a missionary.

Patricia will receive the cap at the inaugural Eric Liddell Centre Going for Gold Fundraising Dinner.

The centre specialises in care for the elderly and dementia services, with the aim of supporting people to remain in their own homes for as long as possible.

Patricia said she was "touched" by the gesture.

She said: "The Liddell family did not put a lot of stock on fame and fortune. You lived your life in the way you thought you should."

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