Part 1: Glory Filled The Land

Chapter 2 :Turn of the Century 1890-1904

Dumfries / Kilmarnock 1891
Kelso / Glasgow / Edinburgh 1888-1900
Spreading Branches of the Faith Mission
- Cellardkye 1890
- Western Highlands 1895-1902
Ayrshire 1986-8
Inverness 1898
Haggs 1902

 

Dumfries / Kilmarnock 1891-2

 Marked growth in Brethren ranks in south-west Scotland continued during the last two decades of the nineteenth century, and localised revivals occurred here and there, as in the mining village of New Cumnock around 1882.1 Chief among soul-winners of this period was Stranraer-born Alexander Marshall, who was converted at a circus hall in Glasgow under the preaching of Gordon Forlong, a lawyer and former deist.

  Entering full-time ministry, Marshall went on to itinerate throughout the world in proclamation of the gospel. His excursions took him across the Atlantic no less than 36 times, as well as to nations as far afield as Iceland, Egypt, Palestine, Central America, Russia and New Zealand. Nowhere did he feel more at home, however, than in his native country. Being especially fond of preaching in the open air or under cover of a large tent, it was appropriately during a 'canvas cathedral' mission in the town of Dumfries in 1891 that a remarkable work of grace took place. A large proportion of the staff of a prominent drapery warehouse in the town were among the many who were brought to Christ at this time. Many of these young men later went on to hold honorary positions in the drapery business in various parts of England and Scotland, acting as bold witnesses for the Lord in these posts.2

  The following year, a season of blessing came to Kilmarnock, a town already powerfully blessed through Marshall's ministry just six years earlier, in 1876.3 The interest aroused on both occasions was remarkable, and decades later, letters were still being received from those saved through his preaching in these days. It is considered that the second period of awakening in particular strengthened the spiritual life of the Brethren in Ayrshire and the West of Scotland, with quite a number of those brought to the Lord at that time becoming notable helpers in gospel work in the area over ensuing decades.4

 

Kelso / Glasgow / Edinburgh 1888-1900

  Edward Last, a graduate of Spurgeon’s College in London, began his first pastorate in the beautiful Borders town of Kelso in 1888. Here he read a book on revival and prayed earnestly on the matter, aware that there had been no prominent revival in the town for over forty years. Evangelists who laboured there spoke of it as one of the hardest places in Scotland, and some left before the time allotted for their mission had come to an end. Last’s prayers were quickly answered, however, and a remarkable spiritual movement resulted. ‘The church was crowded, kitchen meetings, held in outlying villages and farm-houses, were packed, and many lives were given to the Lord.’ During his two short years in the town, membership of the Baptist Church rose by 42.5

  Last controversially wrote that ‘While the churches cannot MAKE revival, they can prepare for it, and be ready to make the most of it when it comes, and, paradoxical as it may seem, the church that is fully prepared for revival is already in it’.6 Last’s outlook on revival and dynamic ministry was contemporary to and comparable with that of the Rev. William Ross of Cowcaddens, Glasgow.  Following his move to this city in 1891, to serve at Cambridge Street Baptist Church, Last’s ministry over the course of nine years, and again from 1912-16 (and later in Hamilton & Springburn) had what George Yullie describes as ‘all the features of revival’.7  

 Some will question whether this was genuine revival or merely revivalism. Whatever the answer, Last’s policy of aggressive evangelism, whether in the pulpit, the open-air, at kitchen meetings or Temperance meetings, led to a rapid increase in membership of the Cambridge St. Church, until it reached the record figure of 511. This is particularly remarkable given that, prior to Last’s arrival, the church had been for many years in a ‘low condition’ and was several times on the point of closing down altogether. At the time of his induction membership stood at less than sixty. But, almost immediately, a small team of believers gathered round Last and ‘started out with zeal to seek the lost’. A host of societies was inaugurated and a number of volunteers went to serve in missions abroad, while even more moved into pastoral work.

  Last gives a fascinating summary of his term at Cambridge St. ‘During my ministry of nine and a half years I baptised upon their profession of faith more than any other Baptist minister in Scotland, yet not one could afterwards say to me – “I was baptised because you asked me”…During those nine and a half years we welcomed into our fellowship 777 new members, the great majority being won from the world. All that time I do not believe there was a week without souls being saved, and many of these of their own accord sought a spiritual home with us. We went out seeking not members, but souls, and the church grew’. Insisting that his desire was not to boast but simply show the power of zealous evangelistic work, Last continued, ‘It is not enough to keep polishing the stones in the edifice we have, we must do some quarrying if the building is to be enlarged. There is no doubt it is laborious work in the quarries, but it is there the stones for the building are to be found. Souls can be gathered from without if with strong faith and earnest effort we go for them’.8 One of Last’s most memorable legacies was the commissioning of thirty members to help establish a cause in the rapidly growing tenement areas straggling up Maryhill Road. Various halls were occupied in the district before the opening of North Kelvinside Baptist Church (which seated 550) in 1908.9

  Another fervent revivalist at the turn of the century, albeit itinerant rather than pastoral, was Essex-born evangelist Gipsy Smith, who, over the course of his sixty years ministry held many missions north of the border. Some of his most successful occurred in the 1890’s, when he was still in his early 30’s. A Glasgow mission running from September 1893 to January 1894 saw nearly 3,000 people enter the enquiry room and was viewed by Dr. George Reith of the Free College Church as the most remarkable since the visit of Moody twenty years previously. But this ‘Glasgow Pentecost’, as one regional newspaper put it, also held anticipations of the Welsh revival of 1904. For at one fruitful service, noted Smith, ‘there was no sermon, because the people began to go into the enquiry room immediately after the hymn….We spent that whole evening in simply saying to the people, “Come, come!” I think God taught us a great lesson that night…Too often I fear our rules and regulations and orders of service simply intrude between men’s souls and their God. We all need to be taught when to stand aside’.10 Just a year earlier a fortnight’s mission at Edinburgh’s Fountain Bridge Free Church had to be transferred to St. George’s West due to the vast crowds that turned up to hear Gipsy. One evening after Smith shared his testimony, Dr Alexander Whyte said he had heard many great men in the pulpit, but had never felt his heart so moved as it was by Smith’s message that night.11 Two years later (1895) Smith returned to St. George’s for a six-week campaign – like the aforementioned Glasgow mission, sponsored by ministers of the Free Church. Smith’s closing address was delivered to an overflowing congregation, ‘at least two-thirds of which’, the evangelist reported, ‘consisted of young converts’ of that campaign. 12

 

Spreading Branches of the Faith Mission

Cellardyke 1890

  When two Faith Mission pilgrims opened meetings in the small fishing port of Cellardyke in January 1890 they found little to encourage them. The fishermen were at sea and there seemed little interest. But Christians in the village got together with the pilgrims and laid hold of God in prayer, imploring Him to pour out His Spirit upon the community. The Lord answered and the work began to revive. Instead of closing on March 8th as they had intended, they moved into a larger hall. Souls were converted nightly and the work continued for three months.13

  One who was converted at this time was Alec Patrick, ‘an alcoholic in the making’.14 Immediately giving up the drink, Alec became a part-time evangelist, taking a special interest in the nomadic tinkers who regularly camped in the Marches between Cellardyke and Kilrenny. ‘In these wide grassy lanes, between high hawthorn hedges, a no-man’s-land between jurisdictions, there was a continual but ever-changing population of tinkers, with their tilted carts and primitive tents’, and there Alec, with his clear tenor voice, sang and preached to his wandering congregation.15

  Another notable convert of the mission was one of these same tinkers. She could neither read nor write, but well could she sing the hymns, and round about the countryside she went singing. ‘In one village she held quite a little mission, telling the people how she was saved, and how she got victory over the devil when he tempted, by kneeling at the roadside and asking God for strength’.16 When other Faith Mission workers visited the town in 1911, ‘they were cheered to find happy recollections and lasting results of the revival of twenty years previously’.17 A ‘good work’ was also done in the Lothian villages of East Calder and Oakbank at this time (1890), when among the converts recorded was an entire local football team.18

Western Highlands 1895-1902

  Faith Mission activities expanded greatly between 1890 and 1904, so that by the close of the period not only had scores of small towns and villages been visited, but so too had virtually every inhabited island off Scotland’s West Coast. The most fruitful missions occurred in the Western Highlands. In Ballachulish blessing came in 1895 to many for whom ‘reverence, solemnity, intellectual belief, and a spirit of something like devotion’ were a lifestyle but who yet could not testify that they knew the Lord. Of the many converts of this three-month mission, eleven went into full-time Christian service. The mission extended to over three months, after which over fifty stood up during a farewell meeting to praise the Lord for bringing them from darkness into His marvellous light. Attendance at both church and Sunday School markedly increased and eleven converts went into full-time service, the majority first spending some time in the Faith Mission.

  A few miles down the coast in 1900, pilgrims struggled for weeks in Fort William against coldness, indifference and prejudice against women preachers. ‘Then two school-girls called at the pilgrims’ lodgings – what for they scarce knew. But they sat by the fire and wept and then confessed their conscious need of Jesus. That was the beginning’.19 From then the clouds began to lift, and a deep soul-saving and sanctifying work commenced. Attendance grew so large that a move was made on Sabbath nights, first to the Masonic Hall and then to the larger Town Hall. Half-nights of prayer were also encouraging, as on the 19th December, when one man ‘for whom we had long prayed came along through drenching rain, straight from his bedside, where he had settled the great matter of his own personal salvation and told us of his decision. It impressively reminded us of Acts 12, upon which Pilgrim McPhail had just finished speaking’.20 After twelve weeks hard work, the mission was closed, but had to be joyfully reopened for a further month as souls were still turning to the Lord. Later in the year it could be reported that, ‘in very large measure the work of the revival in “the Fort” of the past winter, has proved solid and substantial’ 21

  In an extended mission in Tarbert on Loch Fyne the following year, ‘the interest never flagged’ once initial ‘victory’ over spiritual darkness had been won,22 and, of the many converts, eight were to enter Christian ministry (including one who earned a doctorate in divinity, going on to pastor a large congregation in the United Church of Canada over a number of decades).23 Meanwhile, pilgrims visited one tiny Western Isle in 1902; ‘The population was seven families, 39 souls, without a church or chapel, or a missionary. All but a very few came to Jesus’.24

 

Ayrshire 1896-8

  Peter McRostie 25 was born in the Perthshire village of Crieff in 1870. As he approached his mid-teens, the Salvation Army came to set up base in Crieff, and their ‘bright, cheery and full of life’ form of outreach quickly made a deep impression on the lives of many youths in the community. Peter began attending some of the meetings, and like some of his closest friends, he, too, was converted. Peter immediately launched into evangelistic endeavours, while also applying for admission to the Bible Training Institute in Glasgow, where he studied for two years. On leaving college, McRostie served for a time with the Perthshire Christian Union before teaming up with fellow BTI student Joseph Kemp at the start of 1896 to become the evangelists of the Ayrshire Christian Union. Their labours were greatly blessed from the very start. In Machline the Hall where they preached was full every night and an increasing number sought and found the Lord. ‘The workers would parade every street in the village singing, “The Lion of Judah shall break every chain”. Large numbers flocked to the open air, and during the closing nights the Town Hall had to be taken to accommodate the people’.26

A local newspaper narrates the story of a three-week mission undertaken in Cumnock in February 1987 - a week in each of the U.P., Congregational and Parish churches. The journalist had been told the preachers were ‘in certain respects objectionable’ and that he should ‘give them a “cutting up” in our columns’, but he refused to do so without giving them a hearing. ‘One of the things laid to there charge was that they blew a trumpet or some sort of instrument at night and went through the streets with lighted lanterns after dark singing and occasionally speaking.’ In a packed Parish Church, the journalist found that in doctrine McRostie (who had got married a few months earlier) and Kemp ‘are both as sound as the Apostle John himself and we were astonished that anyone could dare say one single word against them. Their love of Christ is evidently intense, and their trust in Him unfaltering, inspiring many’.

  Shortly after this mission, Kemp was called to pastor Kelso Baptist Church (see Kelso / Glasgow / Edinburgh 1888-1900; Glory in the Glen, pp118-26), so a young James Cumming came to join McRostie in his labours for the ACU. A strong bond was quickly formed between the two men, and ‘great blessing attended their united labours’. They had missions all over Ayrshire and during the summer months their large tent was often packed with eager listeners. At the end of one ‘mission of great power and blessing’, where many were converted and many more deeply touched, McRostie hastened to catch the last train home. As he ran to the station he was followed by a goodly number of young people who were evidently anxious to be guided into light. Jumping on the train, McRostie never forgave himself for not lingering to speak with the anxious, and he never made the mistake again, whatever the hour of day or night. McRostie’s biographer records that as a result of the two young men’s labours, ‘in many an Ayrshire village real blessing and a gracious revival of spiritual life were experienced, and a great number of young men, formerly very hostile to all such evangelistic work, were truly converted and witnessed to the fact. Others, who previously had no concern whatever regarding such things, were (also) changed’.27

 

Inverness 1898

 28 Less than a year after his involvement in the Kintyre awakening, and while still under his student apprenticeship with the New College, Edinburgh, Alexander Frazer was again to experience revival blessings. This occurred while he was acting as assistant minister in Queen Street Free Church, Inverness, between March and October 1898, during which period that church’s regular minister, the Rev. Alexander Chisholm was paying an extended visit overseas. The gifted young evangelist was popular from the very start and his preaching drew large crowds. Soon the Spirit was given freedom to move at a deeper level, and the impressions made at both Sabbath and weeknight services were so powerful that some people became so anxious in soul that they could be found making their way to Frazer's abode at all hours of day and night seeking spiritual truth and light.

  Interest became so intense that special meetings were called for. These began in late September and were powerful from the outset, with over fifty souls being dealt with in the enquiry room on the very first night. For the next two weeks the work continued unabated, then a move was made to the larger Music Hall, where the Spirit continued to change lives. Simple yet striking testimonies were shared either in spoken word or in song, by ‘babes in Christ’ as well as by 'veterans' of many years standing, and these spoke powerfully to all who heard them. On one occasion almost the entire choir - over one hundred strong - rose to declare that they were singing for Jesus. A local newspaper correspondent wrote regarding the meeting; ‘Who but must recall the impressiveness of the bowed heads, the subdued feeling, the melting pathos, as from hearts attuned by the Spirit of God, there arose the impressive strains:

"Once more, my soul, the Saviour, through the Word,
Is offered full and free;
And now, Oh Lord, I must, I must decide -
Shall I accept of Thee?
I will, I will, I will, God helping me,
I will, Oh Lord, be Thine;
Thy precious blood was shed to purchase me,
I will be wholly Thine”.

  How many lives closed in with the Saviour in these solemn moments’, pondered the journalist, pertinently, ‘eternity alone will reveal’.29 Half-hour prayer times were held before each service, these too being crowded to capacity. Most converts were young men and women, while others had been visiting the town on holiday. One of these, a medical student, later wrote; ‘In my first week (back) at home I had seven exams, which I passed, and I sat them all with a cheerfulness to which I have long been a stranger....Now, as during my first week at home, prayer is spontaneous - from the fullness of my heart - and reading the Word is a pleasure and support which I peruse regularly every night, and at spare moments during the day. I am looking forward to a winter's work such as I have never had - under new management’.30 The fruits of the movement were obvious to many - radically changed lives, with renewed character and an active Christian service - service that took the new believers all over Britain and to different parts of the world.  Just as 'fruitful branches bend low', so Frazer, instead of allowing these periods of revival to boost his ego, always found it a surprising wonder that God should have used him in the way He did, and he was said to have remained selfless throughout his ministry, his main concerns being the conversion of sinners and the glory of God.31

 

Haggs 1902

  Born in County Tipperary, Ireland, in 1872, John Long was converted at the age of eighteen at a Methodist mission. A few years later he began full-time work as a Methodist colporteur, also engaging in itinerant evangelistic service, which quickly became his passion. Long spent most of his adult life conducting preaching tours around Scotland, England and Ireland. From an early date he lived on ‘Faith Lines’, i.e., receiving no salary, but trusting God to provide for all his needs. On this basis, he joined with William Irvine (see 'Glory in the Glen' p422fn16) in establishing the ‘Go Preachers’, a fervent group of lay itinerant evangelists; although when, under Irvine’s control the group became ultra exclusive and anti-clergy, he left.32 In Scotland Long’s ministry was largely confined to parts of the central belt, notably the area in and around Kilsyth, and while he often spoke of success in his missions, rarely in his detailed Journal did he use the term ‘revival’.33 One occasion, however, when an atmosphere of genuine revival seems to have attended his ministry was in January 1902, when Long conducted a mission in the schoolroom of the village of Haggs, situated between Falkirk and Kilsyth.

  Wrote Long, 'The first five weeks were very hard and stiff, and I was suffering a good deal from misunderstanding and reproach; my physical strength was not able to bear much annoyance. The meetings almost went against me; except I bought twenty Bibles and gave them to the most prospective youths. During the days of that mission I humbled myself greatly before the Lord; and earnestly sought help and asked him to give me some conversions, and I got the answer through God’s Word that my prayer was heard. The turning point came, but before it came, I had to obey His voice in doing what He commanded to be done. One day I went to visit a Christian home in the district; as I walked to his house I was meditating over that Scripture, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets” (Matt. 7:12). Just then I met a poor man on the road who was in need and I gave him a shilling. In the home where I visited, my friend slipped a shilling into my hand coming away. On my return journey, I was thinking about an Evangelist in Dublin who was in financial need, so I sent him a postal order for ten shillings; that very night again a Brother from Banton slipped ten shillings into my hand. My text for that day was; “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenant” (Psa. 25:14)’.34

  That night proved a remarkable turning point with regard to the meetings, requiring no extra effort from the evangelist. A band of Christians from Banton arrived 'to help us with their fife 35 and drum, and like Miriam and David, made a joyful noise unto the Lord'. People gathered into the meeting hall and many souls decided for Christ. In Long's words, 'We had a little revival'. As an outcome of that mission - which lasted eight weeks in all - a wooden hall was built, and a mission work developed, to which Long returned on a number of occasions, and which was still in existence many years later.36


1 Dickson ‘Brethren in Scotland’ p109

2 John Hawthorn ‘Alexander Marshall: Evangelist, Author and Pioneer’, Glasgow 1929 (reprinted1988) p62

3 Ibid. p61

4 Hawthorn ‘Alexander Marshall’ pp61-62. Marshall was privileged to witness firsthand, not only localised awakenings, but also the three main revival movements that took place in the UK during his lifetime. As a young believer in Glasgow he had assisted in the after-meetings of Moody’s campaign in 1873-74. Thirty years later, in 1905, he spent three weeks visiting a number of towns and villages in Wales where revival was in full flow, (and, in conversations with ministers, evangelists and Christian workers…found all were agreed that the movement, in spite of certain excrescences, was of God').  Again, at the start of the 'Fishermen's revival' of 1921-22, Marshall ministered in Peterhead, where he was instrumental in establishing the faith of some of the young converts (pp 32, 78, 138) [see Glory in the Glen pp220-1].

5 Edward Last ‘Hand-Gathered Fruit: Twelve Chapters on Personal Soul-Winning’, Stirling 1950 piii, 95-96;Bebbington (Ed.) ‘Baptists in Scotland p139

6 James A. Stewart ‘Opened Windows: The Church and Revival’, Asheville, NC, 1958 p121

7 George Yullie, ‘History of the Baptists in Scotland’, Glasgow 1926 p172. In the mid-1920’s Last was to witness an extraordinary revival on mainland Europe (see Glory in the Glen p410fn38)

8 Edward Last ‘How the Churches Grew in the Olden Days’, London 1932 p19

9 Alexander Clark, ‘Cambridge Street Baptist Church : A Historical Sketch’, Glasgow, 1924, pp5-6

10 David Lazell ‘Gypsy From the Forest: A New Biography of the International Evangelist Gipsy Smith (1860-1947)’, Bridgend 1997 pp64-65

11 Ibid. pp63-64

12 Gipsy Smith ‘Gipsy Smith: His Life and Work’, London 1903 p324. From this campaign grew the Gipsy Gospel Wagon Mission, devoted to evangelistic, counselling and educational work among Smith’s own people group.

13 Govan ‘Spirit of Revival’ p79

14 Thereafter the Faith Mission had a strong place in the Patricks hearts, and pilgrims were warmly invited to stay with them on subsequent missions in the community. On her birth in 1895, their daughter Belle was given the middle name Hay after a Faith Mission worker lodging with them at the time.

15 Belle Patrick ‘Recollections of East Fife Fisher Folk’, Edinburgh 2003 pp12-13. Alec’s daughter states that he had been ‘soundly converted’, but his grand-daughter, Belle suspects that he returned to drinking even after that date. ‘Certainly Alec suffered from depressive symptoms. In the autumn of 1904 he was on his way, as a fish-buyer, to the annual herring fishing off the East Anglican coast when he was taken ill in Newcastle. A brain tumour was diagnosed, and Alec decided that he could now be only a burden to his large family. A few days later, in Lowestoft, he told his landlady that he was going for a walk, and he was not seen alive again. Fish-buyers as a matter of routine carried revolvers to protect the considerable sums of cash in their charge, and he had shot himself…Ten-year old Willie (Alec’s son) said, “That’s my feythere deid, and I’ll need to get a job”’. (ppvii-ix)

16 Govan ‘Spirit of Revival’ p79

17 Ibid. p157

18 Ibid. pp79-80

19Bright Words’ 1901 p261

20Bright Words’ 1901 pp30-31

21 Ibid.1901 p115; Peckham ‘Heritage of Revival’ p32. John MacKay of Cromarty also laboured here around this time (1901) under auspices of the Highland Mission, from where he reported that a ‘deep work of grace’ was in progress. (McKenzie, ‘The Rev. John Mackay’ p171)

22 Bright Words’ 1901 pp80-81

23 Peckham ‘Heritage of Revival’ pp32-33

24 McLean ‘Faith Triumphant’ pp47-48

25 McRostie later went on to become superintendent of the Bethany Hall, Bridgeton, Glasgow, and later the Tent Hall in the Saltmarket district of the city.

26 Ena McRostie ‘The Man Who Walked Backwards’, London 1934, p32

27 Ibid. p33

28 This was most likely a later revival than that referred to briefly in Meg Guillebaud’s excellent missionary history, ‘Rwanda: the Land God Forgot? Revival, Genocide & Hope’, London, 2002. Here the author mentions her Scottish grandmother, Chrissie Fraser. Both of Chrissie’s parents had been converted on the same night during a time of Revival in the Inverness area. Her father died when (Chrissie) was small, leaving her mother, Christina, with five children to bring up. Her mother was so poor that she gave two daughters to a relation to care for. Chrissie used to describe walking barefoot over the hills because they couldn’t afford shoes. She frequently carried her sister, Annie, piggyback over the pebbles to save her feet. Christina Fraser used to say, “All we had was the Lord’s blessing, but it was sufficient”. After about three years she was able to make a home for the re-united family in Inverness’. Chrissie got married in 1908 (pp77-78). Meg received this information from her mother, an only child, who died in 2001, and she has no further information on this revival (personal correspondence 13/06/2005).

29 ‘The Northern Evangelist’, December 1898, quoted in MacRae ‘Revivals in the Highlands & Islands’ pp106-07

30 Ibid. p107

31 See also RCFCSH&I 1899 p9; Ian M. Allan ‘West the Glen: A History of the Free Church just West of the Great Glen’, Drumnadrochit 1997 p124-25; Carson ‘Frazer of Tain’ pp24-25

32 Although he fellowshipped freely with believers of any denomination - e.g. he attended Faith Mission conventions and had strong links with the group in Kilsyth’s Westport Hall, both before and after they became Pentecostalists – Long afterwards remained independent of any official body

33 Long’s most dramatic experience of revival was in Ireland, in his native Tipperary. Remarkably, in the Roman Catholic stronghold of Nenagh, a powerful awakening was felt, and within a few weeks, ‘the whole town was in a ferment of revival element’. Rathmolyon was similarly stirred, and most of the forty converts almost immediately went into full-time Christian service (Long ‘Journal of John Long’ Chapter 5)

34 Long ‘Journal of John Long’ Chapter 8

35 Small high-pitched flute

36 Long ‘Journal of John Long’ Chapter 8.

 

 

 

 
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