CHEFOO AND WEIHSIEN (WEIFANG) REVISITED
Dr. David Michell
June 28, 1991
Cliff and I were two members of the group organized by the Eric Liddell
Foundation which visited
Norman and I found that the day before the dedication ceremony of the memorial stone we had free time. We had a choice of Qindao or attempting to get to Chefoo. We chose Chefoo but heard it would be a five-hour taxi ride each way. In spite of this we felt it would be worthwhile trying to get back to Chefoo (Yantai), even though time there would be brief. We also realized we had no guarantee of getting into the old school compound because of its now being a naval base.
Arrangements came together through the helpfulness of the Foreign Affairs representative and the hotel. Five of us -- Charles Walker, the head of the Eric Liddell Foundation, Dr. Peggy Judge of Edinburgh and niece of Eric Liddell, Nick Rankin, Senior Producer of BBC World Service, Norman and I set off for Yantai at 7:30 a.m. in the hotel mini-van.
were blessed (I think) in having a "Jehu"
for a driver, and made the distance in 3 1/2 hours. Over half of the road is
now a divided highway and this certainly helped. The other sections of the road
had us on the edge of our seats much of the time, as we frequently had two or
three trucks dodging swarms of bicycles converging towards us at break-neck
On reaching Chefoo, we were given a warm welcome by Mr. Yang, Chairman of the Yantai Municipal Committee of the China Democratic National Construction Association, and before we knew it we were in the midst of a 14-course banquet.
our time was limited, we contrived to retreat from the banquet, failing to do
justice to the final course of "jowdzas."
At , under the escort of two secretaries at the naval base, through the
kind auspices of Mr. Yang, we were able to get into the old school compound. We
noticed a new wall along the front of the compound, a little lower than the one
I remember sitting on as I dangled my legs, watching the boys come in about to
drop at the end of the long run. We passed the open field on the right where
Next thing I knew, Norman Cliff was excitedly calling me as he reached the point where he could see the Prep School right in front of him. "David," he shouted, "here it is -- the Prep School -- and the steps that you stood on!" I quickened my pace and there it was before us. What memories! On our left was the Co-Ed Building and we had a photo in front of it. The wording on the foundation stone had been obliterated, probably during the Cultural Revolution. Alongside we saw the Memorial Hall. We paused there as we looked first at it and then over to the left-hand side of the Prep School building as it stretched back to where the old playing field was behind.
we all assembled on the steps of the Prep School building and were able to take
a photo, but unfortunately that was the last picture we were permitted to take.
I thought back, and I'm sure
We were not allowed to go into the buildings but we were impressed at the reasonably good shape they were in, at least from the outside. We then made our way round to the back of the Prep School building, where we looked down on the quad and over to the playing field to the right. The size of everything seemed to be on a much diminished scale to the images of my childhood memories. I leaned over the wall and peered down on the old soccer field. I reflected on the three-legged race where one of the more husky boys had dragged his unwilling girl partner along in the dust behind him. I realized that right about where I was standing had been a huge old tree out of which one of our classmates had fallen and broken his arm.
wanted to linger longer but it was necessary to keep moving. We saw in the
distance the Welches' house and other homes. As we
walked back slowly we saw to our left the
trip back must have been record time for Chefoo to Weifang. The five of us
breathed sighs of relief as we alighted from the van.
morning, June 9, dawned with heavy clouds over Weifang city and then rain began
to fall. However, by the time our group of forty assembled to take the coach to
the school, the rain had stopped. One of the Chinese later remarked to
Lu of the Foreign Affairs Department stepped down from the bus and shook hands
with Mr. Wang, the principal of the
We first entered the Lab building, which is the largest of the school buildings. It stands in the place where Block 23 of our Prison Camp used to be.
In that building we, the youngest Prep School children lived during Camp and Eric Liddell, Norman Cliff and others had all lived in the cramped room above us.
speeches and an introduction of the three Weifang athletes who will be coming
the band and bagpipes were quiet and civic leaders, teachers and
students stood quietly with our group of overseas visitors and reporters. In a
gentle garden setting, through a moon-gate, stood the silk-draped 7-foot-high
red granite rock from the
Liddell's niece, Dr. Peggy Judge of
Speaking of our hero as Uncle Eric, we recalled our moments of "Olympic glory" as he ran to the cheers of fellow prisoners and captors alike in the shadow of the towering prison camp walls forty-five years before. Cliff, who was a pall-bearer, spoke of him as a true sportsman and ended his remarks with a prayer reminiscent of Eric Liddell's life -- the prayer of St. Francis, "Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace."
I spoke of Eric Liddell's love for sport, for children, for all people, including the Japanese soldiers, and for God. He lived at peace with God day by day. His serenity of spirit brought cheer and inspiration to all he worked with and who met him in their daily toil. Early each morning by the light of a peanut oil lamp, he and one of his roommates met for prayer and Bible reading. This was the source of his strength. To serve God and his fellowmen was his constant goal.
concluded with the words, "Throughout these nearly fifty years we have
remembered Eric Liddell. We continue to remember him today for his sporting
prowess, his life as a humanitarian and as a Christian gentleman, and also for
his eager interest in young people and for his love for
following day our Eric Liddell Foundation party visited the former
thought about the fact that the message of "Chariots of Fire" had
rung true throughout the world as it depicted muscular Christianity at its
best. We also reflected that today in
They shall mount up with wings as eagles; They shall run and not be weary.
both Weifang and
Eric Liddell Foundation was incorporated as an education foundation in
Walker, a Scottish engineer with a heart for history, wrote a book a few years
ago about some famous Scots. Eric Liddell was one of the people he researched
and in the course of his information gathering; he got in touch with me. I sent
him a copy of my book, A Boy's War. The map of Weihsien Prison Camp and
the picture of Eric Liddell's grave had some part in sparking the idea that a
fitting headstone should be placed at Eric Liddell's grave.
the first vision of a headstone came the idea of a memorial stone and the
launching of a foundation which would sponsor scholarships for promising
Dr. David J. Michell
1058 Avenue Road
June 28, 1991