St Helen's Church
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Regular readers of this column, and thank you both, will be aware of its strong affinity with sport and faith. The life of Eric Liddell exemplifies these two ideals better than any other we can recall. Liddell was born in China in 1903, the son of Scottish Protestant Missionaries who had established their lives in that country. At an early age he was sent to Boarding School in England and thence to Edinburgh University where he was to graduate with a Pure Science degree. It was at University that his sporting talent was Internationally recognised. He quickly made the University Rugby 1st XV and was selected to represent Scotland in the Home International Championship (now called the Six Nations). He played 7 times in the years 1922/23 scoring 4 tries for his country. In 1923 he retired from Rugby to concentrate on Athletics winning the 100 yards in the British Championships in a time that was not beaten for another 23 years. His wish was to compete in the 100 metres in the 1924 Paris Olympic Games but the running order of The Games scheduled the heats for that event to be run on a Sunday. This compromised his Christian faith and Eric refused to participate. He decided to train for another event, the 400 metres, which required, it was thought a different running discipline, the 100 was an ‘explosive’ event, the 400 an endurance test. Liddell on the afternoon of the final changed forever the concept of 400 metre running. He sprinted all out from the bang of the starting pistol. He won his event by 10 metres breaking the standing Olympic and World Records. His running style of stiff upright torso, low arm carriage and short choppy strides was to be copied by the great Jesse Owens some years later and by Michael Johnson many years after that. Despite his individual triumph Liddell did not compete in the Relays for which qualifying took place on the Sabbath. He retired from athletics shortly after the Games telling The Times newspaper “God made me fast but he also made me for China” and joined his parents and brother at their Mission in 1925.He took up a post as a Missionary /Teacher at the Church in Hebei Province described at the time as the poorest region of the poorest country in the world. He rarely returned to Scotland afterwards but on one notable occasion in 1932 he
did so to be ordained a Minister of Religion in the Church. He taught and preached in China subsequently but in 1941 faced a crisis when the British Government in fear of Japanese aggression advised all British Nationals to leave the country. Liddell declined to leave sending only his wife and daughters back to Scotland. He continued his work until 1943 when he was interred by the Japanese. Whilst interred he not only continued to teach and preach but with his brother Robert, a qualified Doctor, he also tended the sick and dying. In 1945, just six months before liberation Liddell himself fell desperately ill, he died in internment of an inoperable brain tumour. He was aged 43. In 2002 when the first men and women were selected by public vote for inauguration into The Scottish Sports Hall of Fame. Liddell easily topped the poll for the most popular sporting hero Scotland has ever produced. His Olympic Medal was donated by his family to the school he founded in Weiping, China where his grave is cared for by Christian Scholars. The inscription on his grave are the words of Isaiah 40.31. It is very appropriate, please do look it up. Back to matters St Helens now please and our grateful thanks are due to the family of the late Sandra Aaron for their generous donation towards the new lawn mowers that have now been purchased. Any further donations towards these very necessary items to keep our Churchyard looking handsome would be very much appreciated. Please see either of us. Whilst considering our Churchyard our small team of mowers and tenders would be also grateful for any assistance that could be given in maintenance now or in the future, please see Robin Shorrock if you can help. And finally our appreciation and thanks to Robin for clambering over the Church Roof to apply Smart water to the fittings .This is a forensic system designed to deter thieves . Thanks, Robin, for this and all you do for the Church. Incidentally we write this knowing how much he will hate this public appreciation. Tough Robin!!!
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