Eric Liddell tops Edinburgh’s Greatest poll

Eric Liddell, Olympic gold medallist and winner of Edinburgh's Greatest. Picture: PA
Eric Liddell, Olympic gold medallist and winner of Edinburgh's Greatest. Picture: PA
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HIS defiance was immortalised in the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire, but there was little dispute when it came to choosing Edinburgh’s Greatest.

After weeks of waiting we can reveal that Olympic gold medallist Eric Liddell has taken top spot in the Capital countdown.

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The devout Christian, best remembered for switching events when heats for his race fell on a Sunday, was ranked above the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson and JK Rowling, who also made the top ten.

Hundreds of nominations, sent by readers via Twitter, e-mail, Facebook and in the post, were initially whittled down by our panel of judges to find our 100 finest citizens.

Bestselling novelist Ian Rankin, city council leader Andrew Burns, rugby legend Scott Hastings, Our Dynamic Earth scientific director Professor Stuart Monro, MSP Margo MacDonald, athlete Lynsey Sharp and former businesswoman of the year Liz McAreavey chose the cream of the crop.

They then faced the even tougher job of deciding how the city’s extraordinarily diverse array of talent should be ranked.

Lynsey, who has twice been named Scotland’s athlete of the year, said it had been no contest for her as to who deserved the podium finish.

“I’ve always thought Eric Liddell is the greatest because he’s someone from my sport and he’s always been a hero of mine,” she said. “I was presented with the Eric Liddell Memorial Trophy last year by his niece and it was really nice to be able to meet his relatives and talk about him.

“There were obviously a lot of sports people on the long list, but I was certainly surprised that I didn’t put that many of them as my choices.

“When you look at what some people have invented and done, it is amazing, so they had to come highly.”

Since April, we have featured many of this great city’s great minds, quirky characters, winning sports stars, breathtaking artists, brilliant writers and household name celebrities.

From great medical pioneers to Hibs and Hearts players past and present, the eclectic bunch are all part of what makes Edinburgh such a special place to live.

Even Councillor Burns needed reminding of some of the city’s greats. He admitted judging the contest had left him feeling “humbled”.

John Muir, who made number six on the list, was his stand-out entry for the global impact he had after leaving Edinburgh to go to the United States.

Cllr Burns said: “He was just one of the many people from, or who had close connections to, Edinburgh, who went on to have such an impact, not just on Scotland, but the rest of the world.

“His impact was massive in the land and environmental agenda right across the world, but there were so many inspirational characters. It was thoroughly enjoyable to be on the judging panel.”

There were no shortage of nominations for women, with MSP Margo McDonald saying she was drawn to the “godmother of Edinburgh”, Elsie Inglis.

Margo said: “Elsie was the person who set up the excellent maternity services we have in the Capital. She did this in Edinburgh way before other municipalities were able to offer the same and her legacy still exists today.

“In terms of the others in the top ten,

no-one can argue they shouldn’t be there. They are big, big characters and they did a lot more than get the trams up and running.”

The project was always intended to spark debate and Evening News editor Frank O’Donnell said he hoped it reminded people of one of the reasons why Edinburgh is so great.

He said: “It’s easy to forget what a special city Edinburgh is and just how many leading medical pioneers, sports people, musicians and artists come from here. It should be an inspiration to future generations.”

The top ten

1. Eric Liddell - Athlete, rugby union international and missionary, Liddell won the men’s 400 metres at the 1924 Paris Olympics.

2. Elsie Inglis - The doctor and suffragist set up the Scottish Women’s Hospitals, revolutionising the way expectant mothers were treated in hospital.

3. Robert Louis Stevenson - Novelist, poet, essayist and travel writer, his most famous works are Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

4. Peter Higgs - Nicknamed “the particle man”, the physicist and Edinburgh University emeritus professor’s idea changed how we look at the universe.

5. Alexander Graham Bell - Scientist, engineer and innovator who is credited with inventing the first practical telephone.

6. John Muir - Dunbar-born American naturalist, author and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States.

7. James Hutton - Widely regarded the founder of modern geology, he was first to determine that the Earth is millions of years old.

8. Sir Chris Hoy - The most successful British Olympian of all time.

9. JK Rowling - Harry Potter’s creator wrote her hugely successful novels in the Capital.

10. Marie Stopes - The campaigner for women’s rights was a pioneer in the field of family planning.