First-Hand Impressions of the North-East Scottish Revival, 1921
By D. P. Thomson
Accompanied by a fellow-Student, I travelled north on Monday morning. Not until Fraserburgh itself was reached did we see any signs of the revival. But there, as we were coming up from the station into the town, the strains of gospel singing were wafted to us on the evening air; and at the Cross we found a company of about 200 men gathered, listening to the simple, earnest, unaffected testimonies of the converts—young fishermen in their picturesque blue jerseys.
Not far from the open-air meeting we espied the Congregational church, into which crowds were already pouring, although it was fully an hour till the meeting was due to begin.
Pressing in with the eager throng, we found the building already uncomfortably crowded. In the little vestry close by we encountered one of the revival leaders—Jock Troup, the Wick cooper.
He is a man short in stature, thick-set, and dark, and his frankness at once disarms criticism. Five minutes in his company is enough to reveal the secret of his power. Here is a man of no intellectual attainments and little evangelistic experience, but a man consumed with a living passion for souls, an intense love for humanity, and an overwhelming sense of his own impotence apart from divine power. The depth and intensity of his own spiritual experience, the transparent sincerity of his life, and the consuming fire of his zeal, are combined with a touching humility and a desire to be nothing that Christ may be everything.
Notorious characters transformed
And he certainly has been marvellously used in this town. God has laid hold of him, and through his instrumentality many have been brought into the Kingdom. The testimony of the candid onlooker among the [locals] is that not a few notorious characters have been transformed, and the number of careless and godless young men now brought out on Christ’s side is remarkable. The enthusiasm in the meeting is great; but of undue excitement, or ultra-emotionalism, we have seen nothing. Few more significant or touching sights can be imagined than that of a company of a hundred and fifty, nearly all men—and the vast majority young men—gathered for a two-hours prayer meeting on a week-day afternoon, and yet that is a daily occurrence in Fraserburgh. The quiet reverence, the simplicity, earnestness, and sincerity of the prayers, and the homely way in which the needs and thanksgivings of the human heart find expression in these meetings is very touching.
Let us join in a mighty stream of intercession that this movement of the Spirit of God may make itself felt all over our beloved land, bringing joy and peace into individual hearts, healing estrangements and sweetening and purifying home life and the whole life of the nation.
United to evangelize
During this week the Parish Church has been open nightly for united evangelistic meetings, running concurrently with those in the Congregational Church, and I have had the privilege of addressing three of these. Although the numbers attending have not exceeded 400, we have been very conscious of the Lord’s presence and power. So far, the classes outside the fishing community have not been deeply stirred, although signs of quickening are not wanting in all the churches. The elders of the four Presbyterian churches are anxious to see the movement spread, and the spirit of expectancy is growing.
We have not been able to get beyond the neighbourhood of Fraserburgh so far, but signs are not wanting that right along the coast the tide of blessing is beginning to spread. Moving in and out among the fisher-folk, one becomes conscious of the intellectual strength of these men. As a class they are far from shallow or emotional, and only a real movement of the Spirit of God could have created the impression and wrought the change that has taken place. Everywhere one goes there are evidences of happier homes and brighter faces, and of a new interest in the things of the Spirit and a desire to explore the possibilities of the Christian life. It is good to know that the churches generally are alive to the situation, and are anxious to conserve the results and carry on the work.
Much remains to be done. Many here in Fraserburgh are still critical, and often even hostile. It is the evidence of changed lives, growing from day to day, that will convince many whose attitude is not yet clearly defined. News from the South seems to show that the movement is spreading. Let us join in a mighty stream of intercession that this movement of the Spirit of God may make itself felt all over our beloved land, bringing joy and peace into individual hearts, healing estrangements and sweetening and purifying home life and the whole life of the nation. If Scotlandis thus moved, all the ends of the earth will feel the impact of the blessing.
D. P. Thomson later became a prominent evangelist with the Church of Scotland.
From Bright Words 1922
Sounds from Heaven is a book by the late Colin and Mary Peckham. It sets the 1949-52 Lewis revival in the context of history and the island culture.
The book includes previously unpublished weekly reports from Duncan Campbell to the Faith Mission Headquarters, and vivid testimonies from those who lived through the revival and were forever changed by it.
It is very apt that we should be reminded that the same God who worked in Wales in the nineteenth century, and in Lewis in the twentieth, is still able to break through in power today! Here is a brief selection of extracts from Sounds from Heaven to build our faith and stimulate our longing for revival in our generation. - Editor
From Duncan Campbell’s reports
25th January 1950
This has been another week of ‘God’s right hand’. Meetings have been larger than ever; hundreds have been crowded in, and many turned away.
I am now at it night and day, and just getting sleep when I can. The largest meetings are now in the parish of Ness. This is part of Lewis that is thickly populated and, praise God, it is gripped by revival. Among the men who sought God last night there were two pipers who were to be playing at a dance in Carloway that night. At the beginning of this week, buses came to collect people for a concert in the town; they had to return empty for not one person went.
1 February 1950
In my last report I mentioned two pipers being saved, who were to have been at a concert and dance that night. A minister from the district where the dance was held, and who was in the meeting, felt led of God to go home and visit the dance and tell what had happened. He did so, arriving there at 3 o’clock in the morning.
After some opposition from the leader he was allowed in; he there and then gave out Psalm 50, the last three verses. God’s Spirit fell upon the gathering and in less than ten minutes men and women were crying for mercy. The first to be saved was the leader of the concert party. This is just another incident of the many wonderful things happening here just now.
The canopy of His presence
It was a revival; I have no doubt about that. It was God working in our midst. Numbers came to the Lord at that time. Wherever you went, you could not get away from the presence of God.
This is the one thing that I will ever take with me, the abiding memory of that time – the presence of God. You were in God’s presence wherever you went. It was just like a canopy over the whole island.
Sometimes that presence and power of God was almost overpowering. I remember being on the island of Berneray, Harris, for communion services before Mr. Campbell went there. The Spirit of God was working in an unusually powerful manner.
In some of those meetings, if you wanted to say anything about the Lord, you would have to sit down, or you would fall. If you started to sing, you would have to sit, or you would fall. The singing was so powerful! No-one came to the Lord then, but God prepared the hearts of the people so that when Mr. Campbell arrived they were all ready to receive the Word of God. Even before he came – and he was undoubtedly God’s instrument on Berneray – it was just like heaven on earth. People were open, convicted, ready to receive and ripe to be plucked. God went before and prepared the ground. - Rev Kenneth MacDonald
It seemed that everybody went to church. They could not stay away. It was a wonderful time! Whatever we were doing and wherever we were, we were conscious of the presence of God. We had no desire to go to sleep. Even though we had so little sleep we were not tired.
I recall one night when a few of our friends came to our house and on their leaving we accompanied them to the main road. Such was the bond between us that we did not want to part with them. We were not dressed for the weather and on our return my mother said, ‘My goodness- you are soaking wet!’ But we were not even aware of the rain!
In the small hours of the morning, on returning from a meeting, we stood on
the street, loathe to part company, and we would sing and sing and sing! (This is how they got their name -The Shader Singers.)
We recalled a visit by Mr. Reid and Mr. Bell of the Faith Mission some years before. They were staying in a home next door to us and they taught us hymns from Songs of Victory, the Faith Mission Song Book. That is how we were able to sing English Hymns. [Ed: The people usually sang psalms in Gaelic]
Who will ever forget the strains of singing, as young voices joined in, spontaneously giving expression to their new-found faith? – Agnes Morrison
Sounds from Heaven is priced £7.99 from the Faith Mission Bookshops online.
You can also visit a website dedicated to the work of Dr and Mrs Peckham at www.revivals.org.
This article was published by The Faith Mission, Edinburgh, in LIFE INDEED magazine, September/October 2004