LIKE a group of one-handed snooker referees, we stood waiting to touch Scottish sport's Holy Grail.

It is not as if the gold was going to wear off. Eric Liddell's first-place medal from the 1924 Paris Olympic Games is silver, but the museum curator took no chances. He had a selection of spare gloves in his pocket, and the icon was duly passed from one white-gloved hand to the next.

The medal will have pride of place in the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame, a partnership between sportscotland and the National Museums of Scotland, inaugurated yesterday at the first public engagement of new sports minister Mike Watson.

The first 100 nominees have been chosen by what we must modestly describe as a panel of experts, and were unveiled in an exhibition which will run for seven months at the Chamber Street Museum, Edinburgh. Public nominations will be added, and the first 50 will be inducted on St Andrews Day next year. Princess Anne and Sir Jackie Stewart have agreed to be patrons.

Why a hall of fame, asked some. The 1980 Olympic sprint champion, Allan Wells, perhaps had the answer. He recalled to the assembled gathering how an English journalist had asked, following that Moscow 100m victory if he had won for Harold Abrahams (the only Englishman to have previously won the title, in 1924). His mind as agile as his feet, Wells replied: ''No.'' He had done so for Eric Liddell, 400m champion that same year.

The SSHF will protect out sporting heritage, make our heroes and heroines less remote, and help cherish the memory of role models to whom the nation's youth can aspire: men like Liddell, Scotland's other Olympic 400m champion Wyndham Halswelle (1908), who was killed by sniper fire in World War I, and Olympic champion Arthur Robertson, last Scot to hold a world record in the 5000m.

Yet many Olympic champions were considered too remote or obscure to merit consideration. These include the crew of winning yachts in the mists of Olympic antiquity. Those who are still competing (eg Colin Montgomerie) or recently retired (eg Liz McColgan) are not yet eligible. Candidates must be either born in Scotland, have been eligible under the rules of their sport to have competed for Scotland, or have resided there for most of their career.

Luminaries of football will be familiar to all: such as Busby, Stein, and Shankly. Surnames alone suffice. Players of fairly recent vintage: Baxter, Bremner, Greig, Dalglish. However, you are moving into anorak territory with Robert Smith McColl, who scored a hat trick against England in 1900. Capped 13 times he was known as ''Toffee McColl'', founder of the RS McColl confectionery and newspaper chain.

Golf is well represented: Young and Old Tom Morris; Tommy Armour, who recovered from wartime blindness to win the US Open, Open, and PGA titles; James Braid, five-time Open champion and course designer; Belle Robertson, British champion and Curtis Cup winner.

Among the less well known are Launceston Elliot, Scotland's first Olympic medal winner, George Cornet, first Scot to retain an Olympic gold, all-rounder Leslie Balfour-Melville, and baseball's Bobby Thomson.

Born into a Scottish border family, Elliot won gold in the one-handed lift, silver in the two-handed lift (both now defuct) and finished fourth in the Greco Roman wrestling at the inaugural Games, in 1896. The dashing Elliot, who set a world best for the single-handed lift in 1898, had a number of fans in Athens. These included the Greek crown Prince, and a lady who proposed to him.

Cornet, from Inverness, played in the winning water-polo team in 1908, and helped defend the title successfully in 1912.

Balfour-Melville was in the CB Fry mould. In July,1882, he was opening batsman and wicket-keeper for the Scotland team, captaining them to a victory over Australia: as improbable a feat then as it would be today.

He played rugby for Scotland against England, in 1872; was Scottish tennis champion in 1879; British amateur golf champion in 1895; and captain of the R&A in 1906. He was also a curler, skater, billiard player, and long-jumper of note.

Thomson left Scotland aged three, but never forgot his roots. he hit the home run which won the world series in 1951 for the Giants against the Dodgers. The game was broadcast to US forces in Korea, and his home run became known as ''the shot heard round the world''.

With this initiative, and its internet site, the fame of Scottish sportsmen and women can also be spread around the world.


SO rich is Scotland's heritage that even an Olympic gold medal is insufficient to gain admission to the nation's most exclusive sports body, the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame. It is also so diverse that we defy even the ultimate anorak to recognise all of the 100 nominees chosen by a panel of experts. Test yourself by covering up the sports of the 100 sportsmen and women already nominated as you read through.

Louise Aitken-Walker (rallying), Jim Alder (athletics), Alister Allan (shooting), Robert Barclay (walking), Bill Anderson (highland games), Willie Anderson (golf), Tommy Armour (golf), Walter Arnott (football), Leslie Balfour-Melville (all-rounder), Jim Baxter (football).

Ian Black (swimming), Chay Blyth (sailing), James Braid (golf), Billy Bremner (football), Ken Buchanan (boxing), Matt Busby (football), Willie Carson (horse racing), Dr John Cattanach (shinty), Jim Clark (motor racing), George Cornet (water polo).

Andrew Cowan (rallying), Kenny Dalglish (football), Michael Denness (cricket), Donald Dinnie (highland games), Walter Donaldson (snooker), Douglas Elliot (rugby), Helen Elliot (table tennis), Launceston Elliot (weightlifting, wrestling), Ron Flockhart (motor racing), Hughie Gallacher (football).

Charles ''Chuck'' Gardiner (ice hockey), Helen Gordon (swimming), John Greig (football), Louis Leisler Greig (rugby, tennis), Jimmy Guthrie (motor cycling), Peter Haining (rowing), Wyndham Halswelle (athletics), Gavin Hastings (rugby), Dougal Haston (mountaineering), Chuck Hay (curling).

Peter Heatly (diving), Andy Irvine (rugby), Alex Jackson (football), Alex James (football), Jimmy Johnstone (football), Peter Keenan (boxing), George Kerr (judo), Ellen King (swimming), Denis Law (football), Eric Liddell (athletics).

Benny Lynch (boxing), Robert McColl (football), David McCrae (volleyball), Joe McGhee (athletics), Walter McGowan (boxing), Bobby McGregor (swimming), John MacGregor (canoeing), Jimmy McGrory (football), Hamish MacInnes (mountaineering), Mike McIntyre (sailing).

Tom McKean (athletics), Billy McNeill (football), George McNeill (athletics), John McNiven (weightlifting), GPS MacPherson (rugby), Dick McTaggart (boxing), Robert Millar (cycling), Willie Miller (football), Bella Moore (swimming), Old Tom Morris (golf).

Young Tom Morris (golf), Mark Morrison (rugby), Alan Morton (football), Yvonne Murray (athletics), Graeme Obree (cycling), Ken Oliver (horse racing), Jackie Paterson (boxing), Rodney Pattison (sailing), Rosemary Payne (athletics), Alison Ramsay (hockey).

Nancy Riach (swimming), Meg Ritchie (athletics), Allan Robertson (golf), Arthur Robertson (athletics), Belle Robertson (golf), Edward Ross (shooting), Bill Shankly (football), Wilson Shaw (rugby), Winnie Shaw (tennis), Gordon Smith (football).

Jock Stein (football), Ian Stewart (athletics), Jackie Stewart (motor racing), Lachie Stewart (athletics), Bobby Thomson (baseball), Jim Watt (boxing), Allan Wells (athletics), David Wilkie (swimming), Dunky Wright (athletics), George Young (football).

YOU can nominate your own Scottish sports heroes for the Hall of Fame on the web. The first 50, to be chosen by an independent panel which includes The Herald sports writer Doug Gillon, will be inducted at a ceremony on St Andrew's Day next year. Cast your vote on: