Is Eric Liddell Living or Dead?

Has Scottish athlete, sprinter, Olympian, Protestant missionary Eric Liddell died? Or is he still alive?

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Scottish athlete, sprinter, Olympian, Protestant missionary

Eric Liddell is ...

Born 16 Jan 1902 in Tianjin
Died 21 Feb 1945 in Weifang
Age43 years, 1 month
Causebrain tumor
Height1.73m (5 ft, 8 in)
Eric Liddell
Eric Liddell
Eric Liddell at the British Empire versus United States of America (Relays) meet held at Stamford Bridge, London on Sat 19 July 1924

About Eric Liddell

Eric Henry Liddell (; 16 January 1902 – 21 February 1945) was a Scottish Olympic Gold Medalist runner, rugby union international player, and Christian missionary. Liddell was born in China to Scottish missionary parents. He attended boarding school near London, spending time when possible with his family in Edinburgh, and afterwards attended Edinburgh University. At the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, Liddell refused to run in the heats for his favoured 100 metres because they were held on a Sunday. Instead he competed in the 400 metres held on a weekday, a race that he won. He returned to China in 1925 to serve as a missionary teacher. Aside from two furloughs in Scotland, he remained in China until his death in a Japanese civilian internment camp in 1945. Liddell's Olympic training and racing, and the religious convictions that influenced him, are depicted in the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire, in which he is portrayed by fellow Scot Ian Charleson.


In his last letter to his wife, written on the day he died, Liddell wrote of suffering a nervous breakdown due to overwork. He actually had an inoperable brain tumour; overwork and malnourishment may have hastened his death. Liddell died on 21 February 1945, five months before liberation. Langdon Gilkey later wrote, "The entire camp, especially its youth, was stunned for days, so great was the vacuum that Eric's death had left." According to a fellow missionary, Liddell's last words were, "It's complete surrender", in reference to how he had given his life to God.

On 5 June 1945 the Eric Liddell Memorial Committee was set up in Glasgow, seeking donations for a Fund to provide for the education and maintenance of Eric Liddell's three daughters; to fund an Eric Liddell Missionary Scholarship at Edinburgh University and an Eric Liddell Challenge Trophy for Amateur Athletics; and to erect a Memorial in North China to commemorate Eric Liddell's work there. Only the first and third objectives were achieved. To raise funds and to widen its appeal, the Committee published a pamphlet by D.P. Thomson: Eric Liddell, The Making of an Athlete and the Training of a Missionary. The Fund was eventually wound up in 1954, having raised £3,687 15s - over £88,000 in relative purchasing power.

D.P. Thomson also spoke at well-attended Memorial Services held in both Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1945.