Part 1: Glory Filled The Land

Chapter 7: Fishermen’s Revival 1919-23

Cellardyke 1920-21
‘Scottish Revival’ in Yarmouth 1921
Fraserburgh
General Impressions of the Revival Movement
Aberdeen, Dundee & Edinburgh
North East Coast (Undated)

 

Cellardyke 1920-21

  Belle Patrick was converted during a revival in Cellardyke in 1906 (see 'Glory in the Glen' pp137-8) but her commitment was rather superficial until a serious illness in 1919 caused her to take spiritual matters more seriously. Then, by the summer of 1921 a Faith Mission prayer meeting that Belle was part of was suddenly left without a leader. With her faith revived, Belle was adamant that the group should continue, so she rented a disused building for that purpose. Curious children watched the small group of believers gather for the prayer meetings, and, attracted by Belle’s offer to tell them stories, soon they, too, were drawn into the small rented meeting room. Soon, over fifty children were attending, packed like herrings on the narrow benches. Then a group of six older boys – hefty sixteen year-old’s ‘who could have lifted any of us with one hand’ - invaded the meetings. They stayed, not only for the children’s stories, but even for the prayer meeting, though they appeared to take little interest in proceedings. Frustrated by their presence and their inability to pray as freely as they wished, the boys were politely asked to leave. ‘And then’, wrote Belle, ‘a remarkable thing happened. The boys were held to their seats by a power outside themselves; they were under conviction of sin. Our six lads went home converted’.1

 

Revival’ in Yarmouth 1921 (Full account)

  The herring fishing was a migratory occupation, and in the latter half of September each year hundreds of small fishing craft - usually nine or ten men to a boat - would sail from all over Scotland to their autumn base in East Anglia in pursuit of the 'sliver darlings'. In addition, around 3,000 women would make their way on specially chartered trains to help with the gutting, pickling and barrel packing. It was estimated that at least 700 Scottish drifters (around 7,000 men plus 3,000 fisher lasses2 ) were based in East Anglia at the peak of the season, as well as many hundreds of local vessels. Indeed whole families would travel south for these few months, children being sent to special schools in the area.

  The two largest ports in the district were Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth; indeed, the latter town was the largest herring fishing port in the world at the time, its harbour extending for two miles along the sea front. In nearby Lowestoft, the most easterly town in Britain, with a population of 44,000, a revival had begun in London Road Baptist Church, led by Scotsman Hugh Ferguson, in the spring of 1921. Previous to this, a flourishing weekly Bible class and an active prayer meeting had been carried on in the church for two years, with considerable interest being shown by young people. Prayer had reached a crescendo in the early weeks of 1921, but it was during a series of meetings conducted by the Rev. Douglas Brown, a former seaman from Balham, South London, that the 'cloudburst' broke and ‘rain from heaven’ poured down. Hearing of the blessing taking place, people flocked to the meetings from surrounding areas and over subsequent weeks there occurred scores of conversions. Lowestoft was set on fire for God. Returning to the town on Whitsun week (the seventh week after Easter), Brown conducted services that were considered 'the most remarkable of the whole series'. He also preached in churches, barns and the open air to large crowds in the districts around Lowestoft, while he witnessed a similar intense spiritual interest in the larger towns of Norwich, Cambridge and, especially, Ipswich.3

  However, in nearby Yarmouth it was not until October that revival was unleashed in full power. A year previously one could hardly have predicted that awakening would occur in Lowestoft or Yarmouth at any point in 1921. While the United Free Church of Scotland applauded the fact that the fishermen in these towns ‘maintain better than any other class of working people their interest in religious observances’, they nonetheless found attendance at Sunday services in 1920,  ‘disappointing’.4 Two facts were blamed for this; first, the building in Yarmouth used for Presbyterian services was in a state of disrepair. Secondly, the churches have not always sent the right type of man to minister to fisherfolk. Getting plenty elbow-room at sea, the fisherman has a partiality for a whiff of freedom ashore, and he is disposed to allow himself more unconventionality in his mode of worship than some ministers and churches seem able to understand’.5

 Among the Scottish migrants to East Anglia in 1921 was a young cooper (barrel-maker) from the north of Scotland by name of Jock Troup. Born in Dallachy on the Moray Firth coast, Troup was brought up in Wick by Christian parents. It was while serving in Dublin in 1919 in the final months of the Great War that the young man became a follower of Christ. Receiving a further deep and 'definite experience with the blessed Holy Spirit' in Aberdeen just prior to his departure for Yarmouth, Troup arrived in that East Anglian town very much on fire for the Lord.

  1921 was an 'annus terriblis' for the Scottish herring industry. In the spring of that year the Government revoked subsidies that had been granted to curers in the two years following the end of the War. The industry was also fatefully dependent on Continental markets, especially those of Russia and Germany; but now a depressed, inflation-ridden German economy, along with the severance of Russian-European ties for a number of years after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, resulted in desperate conditions for the British herring trade, which never managed to fully recover. Besides this, only meagre catches of fish were made during the summer, while in East Anglia an Indian Summer and particularly calm weather initially stopped the fish from surfacing. To add insult to injury, in November continual heavy gales caused boats to be tied up in harbour for days on end.

  In any case, the religious tradition of the Scots fisherfolk meant that they never ventured to sea on a Sunday, so once catches were cured and packed on Saturday, the workers were free till Monday morning, and would spend Saturday evening strolling through town, chatting and relaxing. Taking advantage of the situation, Troup began holding open-air meetings where, sometimes for hours on end, his booming emotion-laden voice would ring through Yarmouth’s market square and beyond. On the third Saturday in October, as Jock preached from Isaiah 63:1 and as a young fisherman from Cairnbulg boldly sang out his testimony in song, the Spirit of God moved in power. Scores of men and women were convicted in spirit, and many fell to the ground under His might. One such ‘victim’ later claimed 'The ground around me was like a battlefield with souls crying to God for mercy’.6 Jock picked his way through the scene, attending to those who were affected with prayer and counsel as necessary. Another mighty move of the Spirit had begun, and over the next few weeks, dozens of men, women and children were brought to their knees in repentance of sins – thereafter being led to wondrous new life in Christ.

  Conversion accounts were frequently dramatic, and always noteworthy. One young man, Alex Thain from Portgordon, was strolling through the Market Place one Saturday evening with five friends, and, being arrested by the singing of hymns in the square, stopped to listen. Soon he realised he was standing on his own; his pals having responded in unison to the gospel message being proclaimed! (It was at the same open-air meeting that Alex's future wife was converted, while Alex himself came to Christ a few years later). Troup held open-air meetings every night and thrice on a Sunday, while services were also conducted in local churches. On average around 65% of audiences consisted of fishing folk from north of the border.7

  Deep conviction would also come over workers as they laboured in the curing yards and while resting in their lodging houses, and it was not uncommon for the manager of a curing yard to call on Jock at all hours of day to deal with these wounded souls so they could get back to work as soon as possible! One Monday morning Jock was asked to call along the lodging house of three young fisher lassies from Lewis who were under deep agony of soul. All three were led to Christ, and with joy in their new-found salvation, were able to return to their work among the herring.

  Many others were convicted and saved out at sea; some after being reminded of the fires of hell as they stoked the boat's coal-fired boilers; others during the long hauling operations (which could last up to ten hours) as they pulled in their heavy nets. Sometimes a man would come under such conviction that he would let go of the net he was drawing in, fall to his knees, and cry out for salvation. Many telegrams were sent home to Scotland relating wonderful stories of conversion. One read 'Saved, 10 miles from Knoll Lightship, last to ring in on this ship.' Another fisherman, the father of Jackie Ritchie, was converted in the engine room of a herring-drifter eight miles from the Haisboro’ lightship, off the coast of Norfolk.8

  Douglas Brown arrived in Lowestoft at the beginning of November and for a short time he and Troup worked together in evangelistic outreach.9 Meetings often lasted for hours, and one notable scenario occurred when the two evangelists stood together in the pulpit of Deneside Methodist Church, arms entwined, basking together in the presence of God. Shortly after this, Troup experienced a vision of a man in Fraserburgh asking God to send Troup to his town. Because of the demands on his time as an evangelist, Troup had recently been released from his job as cooper, and, despite earnest pleas from friends to remain in Yarmouth where revival was in full swing, Jock resolved to be obedient to the 'call', and he set off for Scotland the next day.

  Meanwhile, in Yarmouth the Spirit of God continued to move in unabated power. Ministers and students came from various quarters to assist Brown in what was termed 'Yarmouth's wonderful ten days.' Hundreds of requests for prayer poured in to the morning prayer meetings. 700 people braved blizzard conditions to attend the afternoon services and over 1,500 packed into each of St. George's and Deneside Churches, many being forced to stand in the aisles or sit on the windowsills. The 5th of November was especially memorable to Brown; 'We started at six o' clock and went on until eleven’, he recalled. ‘No one was asked to pray but it was all prayer. The power of God was so terrific that we ministers on the platform could do nothing as those dear Scottish fellows prayed. I shall never forget the scene, nor recover from the sense of God's presence at that meeting. The fisher-lads prayed for their brothers, the fisher-girls prayed for the other girls lodging in the same house. Singing, sobs and prayer prevailed in all parts of the building. After a while we thought it would be good to have testimonies. When Jesus is really in a place and there is a sense of sin and a vision of Calvary, the atmosphere is so gentle, so pure, that a few soft words only were needed to ask for testimonies. I will shut my eyes and picture the scene. Up gets a man from Stornoway and says in his Scottish accent, “Let's have number 46.” In a moment the Scots girls had taken up the old metre and the place was ringing with "He drew me out of the horrible pit." And as those lasses sang and the strong hefty fishermen joined in, many of them sank down on their knees. Then a lad got up and said, “I gave myself to God in the fish market last week, and it has been the best week I ever had!”....I tell you frankly, if a man could pass through a meeting like that without breaking his heart with joy, he must be made of granite’.10

  Despite the horrendous rain and hurricane-force winds, open-air meetings continued each evening, and it was in such conditions on November 6th that 22 men went on their knees on the wet ground to commit themselves to Christ; this after having attended a four-hour prayer meeting! Other conversion stories are equally dramatic. One man living in the north of Caithness came under deep conviction after hearing of events in East Anglia, and after reading one of Brown's sermons was advised by his doctor to pay a visit to Norfolk. He did, was soundly converted, and quickly returned home to make up for time lost at work due to his previous distress, and to witness to his two sons, both of whom turned to the Lord soon thereafter.

  The skipper of one trawler had two sons who were also crewmen on his small vessel. Following a family feud, the younger brother attempted suicide by jumping overboard into the harbour, but was saved in the nick of time when a rope was flung to him. The following evening on passing St. George’s Church, the young man was attracted by the singing from within. On entering he saw that his father and brother were among the congregation, and at the close of the service all three went forward to give their lives to the Lord. Overjoyed at this, the skipper proceeded to request prayer for the rest of his crew, and by the end of the week all seven other crew-members were wonderfully converted!

  Towards the close of November the Scottish 'armada' prepared for the voyage homeward. For some this was to the fishing ports of Fife or towns and villages to the east and south of Edinburgh such as Cockenzie and Eyemouth. For others it was a much longer journey to towns and villages along the Moray coast or further north still to the likes of Wick, Lewis or even Shetland. The onshore workers left by train soon after, having painstakingly cleared up the curing yards. But whatever the mode of transport, new songs accompanied the blessed fisherfolk, who joyfully sang out the delights of their new-found salvation as they journeyed. One fisherman summed up 1921 as 'of all years, the worst for our pockets, but the best for our souls’.11

 

North East Scotland 1921–22

Fraserburgh (Additional info)

  In a sermon Rev. Ferguson of the Congregational Church said of the revival, ‘The whole atmosphere is charged with spiritual power, and as you listen you heard the Master speaking through a babe (Jock Troup) and you go forth to your work reinvigorated. Life has a new meaning. In short, you have come under the reinvigorating influences of the Holy Spirit. The work, then is divine; it is entirely independent of man…God has come near and the secret of it all may be summed up in one word – prayer’.12

 A journalist for the Scotsman gave a detailed description of a typical evening meeting in Fraserburgh. ‘Troup led the meeting. Waving his arms, walking restlessly backwards and forwards in the pulpit, he is the animating soul of all meetings. The singing over, he called for members of the audience to lead in prayers, and the response came in a moment from a middle-aged fisherman. He spoke with wonderful fluency and with deep earnestness. As this man repeated the story of his own conversion and how he had turned away from sin under the Divine influences moving in the hearts of men at this time, the church resounded to the fervent “Amens” and the deep groanings of men. I could not hear a woman’s voice, and it is remarkable that this revival has manifested itself chiefly among the male population. When this prayer had ended the tale was taken up by a young man of apparently twenty years of age. He also spoke with a fluency which seemed wonderful coming from so young a member of a class which has always been regarded as silent and reserved.

  Later in the service prayers were uttered by many others in the audience and the signs of heart-searching were renewed. Then the evangelist spoke briefly. He declared himself thankful that a helper had come to give him a much-needed rest. Mr Troup, with a dramatic gesture, proceeded: “I thank God for him. I did not ask for anyone’s assistance, but God just raised up a helper. I thought I would have fallen dead here last night after all I have done during the last three months. Do you know that at Lowestoft and Yarmouth I worked sometimes for nearly 24 hours a day? I started at six o’clock in the morning, and I prayed and spoke for five or six hours on end, and after a short rest I went on again. I do not know how I did it. God gave me the strength for there was much work to be done”

  This little autobiography gives one an idea of the strenuous work he is performing under the pressure of his sense of divine calling. As to the sincerity and the passionate zeal of this young Wick cooper with the deep chest, the sturdy form, and the highly strung nerves, there can be no doubt at all. He speaks with the intense earnestness of absolute conviction. One passage in the short address which he delivered bore upon what I have said as to the doctrines preached by those evangelists. “Oh Lord”, he exclaimed, “open the hearts of men. Remind them of the judgement to come. Give them a glimpse of the terrors that await in the hereafter. Those who do not repent now show them what hell and its fires are, and bring them to see the evil of their ways”. This passage may be taken as typical of Mr Troup’s oratory. The evening advances and speaker succeeds speaker, and member after member stands up to pray. The atmosphere of the meeting becomes highly emotional. The evangelist never ceases to speak till he becomes thoroughly exhausted, and sometimes the meetings are very prolonged. The people as they come out troop home by street and road, singing their favourite hymns’.13

   One man deeply influenced by scenes in Fraserburgh was D. P Thompson, later to become a prominent evangelist with the Church of Scotland. Alex Mair of the China Inland Mission recalls that, ‘I had met him in various places as he was taking a good many meetings, and he used to drop into our office for a chat as he was greatly interested in the work of the C.I.M. One day I told him about the revival in Fraserburgh, that the boats with the fishermen had returned home and Jock Troup with them. ‘I said to him, “This is Pentecost, and you should go up there”. He replied, “I would like to go, but I’m afraid it is impossible, because very soon we will be having exams and Professor Clow would not agree”. That afternoon he burst into my office like a hurricane, and D. P. called out exultantly, “I’m going”. Professor Clow has agreed to it!” So he and his friend went to Fraserburgh, left their bags in the police station because they did not know anyone there, and were soon absorbed in the meetings.

  Rev. William Gilmour of Fraserburgh described Troup as ‘a young man of happy, hearty disposition, natural as a child, utterly free from self-consciousness and withal wholly surrendered to God. Thrust into this work, as he himself declares, and burdened with the state of the unsaved, his soul is poured out in strong crying and tears often, for perishing men and women. His appeals are sometimes like thunderclaps, his language ready and apt; and his thought frequently striking and original. He gets his message quickly (I do not say easily), and when the time arrives delivers it with sustained energy and amazing power. God gets all the glory with this man…’.14

    A ‘Special Correspondent’ from the Edinburgh-based, ‘Scotsman’, was sent to Fraserburgh to report on goings on. He wrote, ‘….The fishermen of the North East coast differ in habits and ways and outlook from their neighbours living alongside them in the same small town. Taciturn and reserved towards strangers, they can be loquacious among themselves. Under a stolid exterior they can become very emotional, and their feelings are readily touched. They are in well-contained population, living within a world of their own, and they are usually shy and in some respects simple. The fisherman has beliefs and superstitions peculiar to himself. His frequent absence from land and his life on the sea are no doubt accountable for this.

  ‘To a people of this kind the revivalist can make a strong and effective appeal, and the present evangelical movement is by no means the first of its kind among the fishermen in this part of the country. Similar manifestations have taken place among these people at recurrent periods.

I am told by one who has been in touch with the situation among the fishermen at Lowestoft and Yarmouth that the appeals of the evangelists of the north-east who were temporarily quartered in those places, make comparatively slight impression upon their English fellow-craftsmen, whose religious sense does not appear to be nearly so well developed’.15

Impressions of Revival Movement (Additional info)

  It was noted by some church leaders who came to observe the revival that there was no organisation for the continued shepherding of those who professed conversion, and that it was difficult to procure information as to the number of professed converts and the permanence of the impression made upon them. Some went further, expressing the opinion that the people were being caught on a wave of emotionalism, which might have many beneficial effects, but if the stream of blessing was not to be wasted on the sands, the Church must endeavour to build the people up in Christian faith and knowledge.16

  Another criticism regarding the movement was that it led to cases of insanity among followers. Captain Rhon of the Salvation Army said there had only been four such instances and he condemned the exaggerations that had found vent in certain quarters regarding such cases. Two of the individual cases known to Rohn were, he claimed, mentally weak prior to the revival. The third was one whose life of dreadful sin before his conversion contributed directly to his mental breakdown, and the last case was one in which the person had suffered previously, and was still suffering from spinal trouble.17

 To those who complained that the key players responsible for ‘getting up’ the revival were leading evangelists such as Troup and Cordiner, one fisherman replied, 'Ye canna git up a revival; it must come doon'.18   Others believed the origins of the revival lay in the fact that the groundwork of Christian faith and knowledge already existed among the fishing population, sometimes to a marked degree. They were a strong-willed people, who were not swayed easily. That is why some evangelists who laboured at length in fishing communities failed to attract the very people that were now so powerfully affected. The ‘special correspondent’ assigned by ‘The Scotsman’ to investigate the movement agreed with this view. He said, 'No one who attended the revival meetings could fail to observe the strength of the faces and the indication of mental sufficiency among the men composing the audiences. The emotion does not arise from weakness. The revival was spontaneous on the part of the people, and all that was required of the evangelical leader was a capacity to fan a flame that was already in existence'.19

  This, perhaps, also helped explain why revivals were common among fisher communities, but hardly at all among deep-sea sailors. ‘The fishermen as a class are men of initiative and self-reliance. Nearly every one has a distinct business interest of his own. He is not, like workmen in factories or the crews of warships or merchant or passenger ships, subject to the will of managers or captains and mates. He lives individually, and moves under the impulses of his own personal initiative. For this reason he is more given to self-expression. As he acts for himself, so he thinks for himself, and when he is moved by religious feeling he is not afraid to show it, nor ashamed of utterance. Again, the fishermen have their own communities, in close and intimate communication with one another, and the religious impulses stirred in one section quickly spread among all the others’.20

  The Scottish Press showed an interest in the revival from its early days. All the local newspapers in the north gave detailed reports, often on a daily basis, on the movement, as, too, did the bigger lowland publications like ‘The Scotsman’ and ‘The Glasgow Herald’. Thus in next to no time, the revival became the talk of the town, 'the joke of the street, the gossip of the drawing room and the subject of the Presbytery talks'. Some church leaders felt that initially the secular press wrote sceptically and even cynically of the movement. ‘The Daily Record’ quoted a French psychologist as saying that the cause of the fishermen’s revival was unemployment. ‘This hurricane of enthusiasm now sweeping over these communities will – as in the case of the Welsh revival – collapse when the workers are again merged in their daily toil’.21 But it was felt that this negative attitude largely changed after the two large Presbyterian Churches sent a Commission of Inquiry to several of the main revival centres and published their predominantly positive report. Instead of poking fun at the work, they now began to report favourably on it. And so, ‘the ordinary readers who had cared for none of these things in the past, now greedily devoured all the information they could gather about the revivals’. Indeed, one Glasgow minister felt that ‘the Press had its finger more completely on the pulse of the nation than the Christian Church had ever had’, largely because ‘the Press, secular though it was, had sensed the deep hunger throughout the Church for spiritual revival’.22

  A deputy of three ministers from the U.F.C. Home Mission (John Hall of Edinburgh, formerly of Cullen; Oliver Russell of Paisley and Dr. Drummond of Edinburgh) visited the chief centres of revival in November, including Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Findochty, Portknockie and Cullen. Collectively and individually they attended revival meetings in churches, halls and the open-air. They interviewed the two main local leaders, Troup and Cordiner, and conferred with ministers and office-bearers of the various denominations. In addition, they personally spoke with local reporters and many other individuals, including converts of the movement. Their enquiry found, among other things, that ‘the extent and character of the revival have been exaggerated. It has as yet appeared only at some centres, and has not spread from these to others, but has arisen in them from the return of converted men from the English fishing. Features of extravagance have been confined to two villages somewhat detached from the rest of the community, and even there have been few and slight. All over, there are evident signs of enthusiasm, and often exuberance of expression, but there is surprisingly little excitement’.23

  Rev. Hall told how the humble northern fishermen, in their dependence on God, were afraid to do anything without the direct leading of the Holy Spirit. Convenor of the trio, the Rev. Dr. Drummond, suggested that some were wary of the revival because it was likely only to be temporary. Drummond quoted a ministerial friend who declared that he had no patience with those who could not see good in keeping a drunkard out of a public-house, even for only six weeks. There was at least six weeks of good done in that case. At any rate, Drummond was convinced, there was much of permanent value in the present movement.24

  The group concluded, ‘To our minds, this is a genuine revival of religion, the work of the Spirit of God. For one thing, it owes its origin, and depends for its prosecution, on no individual leader. In different localities it is associated with different religious organisations or with none. The men whose names have come to the front would be the last to claim any credit in connection with it….Those brought to decision in the revival are predominantly young men of from 18 to 25 years of age. Some of them have previously been notorious characters, who had wandered far in vicious ways, but the majority are not men who had been openly vicious. They had simply been quite indifferent to religion and the claims of Christ. Both in the original appearance of the revival and in the character of the meetings there are features of spontaneity which deepen the mystery of it, and serve to emphasise the divine over the human elements in it. There is, indeed, among those at its head a suspicion of organisation, a determination to maintain freedom from too fixed arrangements, for, as one of the leaders says, “You cannot organise the Holy Ghost”’.25

  Other men of academic stature, this time non-clerical, also travelled to the north-east coast to garner the facts underlying this remarkable movement which had so gripped the nation’s attention. Professor W. P. Paterson of Edinburgh University noted a disappointing feature of the movement in Fraserburgh in that it was not accompanied by the powerful presentation of the Gospel that marked revivals in former days. If one did not know much about Christianity before he would not be very much wiser at the end of the meetings in regard to the doctrines of sin and grace. Violent emotion and aggressive action towards an audience, he said, was not an adequate substitute for a luminous exposition of the Gospel of the grace of God.

  But in itself Paterson found the movement to be ‘beautiful and profoundly impressive’. He then described prayer meetings of young men and women. There was an atmosphere of joy and a depth of spirituality and ‘there seemed to be no reason why it should not have gone on for hour after hour…I never before realised so much what the beauty of the Lord is as I did when I looked at the faces of those aged saints, men of sturdy Buchan type, and saw them agonised in prayer, and heard them interceding for God’s blessing, and praying that He would raise up threshing instruments of iron with teeth, and that the people of Fraserburgh might learn to bow to His mercy before they needs must bow to His judgement. The Scottish people, Paterson stated, ‘were the heirs of revivals’. The heirs of so many revivals had in truth no reason to look with suspicion on the coming of another revival. They were to welcome it like life from the dead, radiant and transporting. This was a movement to be treated at the very least with reverence and respect.26

Aberdeen, Dundee & Edinburgh (Additional info)

 Although it has been claimed that ‘the big coastal cities of Aberdeen and Dundee were deeply affected’ by the awakening that was spreading like wildfire elsewhere in the north-east,27 there was no real outbreak of revival in either location.28 Glasgow was a different matter and there were numerous significant pockets of blessing throughout that city (see 'Glory in the Glen pp168-171). Certainly, no opportunity was lost in the endeavour to extend the revival to the east coast cities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Dundee. Jock Troup left Fraserburgh at the height of the movement there to visit Dundee, accompanied by Dave Cordiner and Willie Bruce. The visit of the revivalists created ‘much interest’ in the city, and all the meetings at which they appeared were packed. The principal meetings, under auspices of the Dundee Tent Mission, were held in St. Clement’s Parish Church, and at these there was not the same fervent manifestations in the pews which marked proceedings at the lesser gatherings, which were mainly attended by people who were closely associated with evangelical agencies in the city.

  At one gathering, in Peter Street Hall, ‘a striking feature…was the frequency and the fervency of the ejaculations by the evangelists and members of the audience when prayer was being offered up. Messrs Troup and Bruce dropped to their knees and held their heads between their hands. Mr Troup especially seemed to work himself into a state of extreme emotion’. At another meeting, ‘Troup’s mannerisms seemed to afford considerable amusement to many in the church, notably young women’. The journalist who noted these effects concluded by stating, ‘The campaign was just on a par with other religious revivals in which Dundee has taken part in; in character the meetings resembled the evangelical gatherings held every weekend, but were perhaps a little more intensive’.29 Ministers of different denominations co-operated in the work and plans were made to penetrate the slum districts, which had not hitherto been touched by the movement.30

  There was in fact an ardent desire among both evangelists who had already seen God’s Spirit moving so mightily in north-east communities, and church leaders in the big cities, that He might extend His arm of revival to these larger centres of population. Thus it was that the most prominent revival leaders all found time to hold meetings in these centres. Many who addressed meetings in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow boldly told their audiences of their conviction that revival was coming to that place. The strongest claim came from Fred Clarke, who, speaking in Glasgow, prophesied, ‘This mighty revival is going to sweep the uttermost parts of the British Isles, and the land that has been desolated and broken and bleeding in anguish and agony shall rejoice with songs of thanksgiving because of the mighty outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We are standing on the tip-toe of expectancy for the greatest revival since Pentecost, the last great outpouring of the Holy Spirit before the return of the Lord Jesus Christ in the clouds’.31

  During the first part of 1921, spiritual interest was aroused in Aberdeen as thousands attended evangelistic missions. Irish evangelist Tom Rea had to prolong his stay due to marked expressions of ‘Christian singing, weeping, praying’.32 Then, in the autumn, fishermen from Aberdeen were among those converted in Yarmouth the preceding year and these no doubt helped stir an interest in the revival which had already broken out in smaller north-east ports. In addition, the popular Aberdeen daily newspaper ‘The People’s Journal’ gave reports of the remarkable revival sweeping through these towns and villages.33 Much intrigued by the animal excitement evident in these communities, curious city dwellers were drawn to meetings. Weekly services were begun in which ministers of all denominations co-operated and special ‘revival meetings’ were held in many churches. People had been enquiring of Salvation Army Staff Captain Rohu as to when the revival was going to hit Aberdeen, and he became convinced that a spirit of enquiry was abroad. Douglas Brown spoke at one Aberdeen meeting, while an address given by Dave Cordiner at the Aberdeen Citadel was said to have been ‘remarkable. He spoke mostly in the quaint and pawky ‘doric’ of the fisherfolk, using simple words and phrases such as everybody could understand; (e.g., he made ‘an impassionate appeal to his hearers to join the movement, pleading that every time they had a shot at the Gospel net they had never had a blank draw’); there was no striving after effect, and certainly no eloquence. Yet the address was impressive – impressive because it was natural and from the heart’.34 Still in Aberdeen, George Yullie notes the occurrence of a revival in Gilcomston Park Baptist Church in 1921, under the ministry of Rev. Gibb, who had also witnessed notable awakening among his congregation sixteen years previously.35 It is unclear, however, whether this latter movement occurred before or after the start of what is universally termed the ‘Fishermen’s’ revival’.

  In Edinburgh special prayer gatherings were organised and several revival missions ‘under notable evangelists’ (such as Jock Troup) were held, attracting large crowds and making a deep impression on audiences. ‘Something of the perfervid atmosphere of the religious revival which has swept with unusual influence through the fishing communities of Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Cairnbulg and the neighbouring villages pervaded the Mission Hall at Carrubber’s Close in the High Street of Edinburgh’ when Fred Clarke spoke there on a Wednesday morning in December 1921. The hall held less than 300 people, but was packed, mainly with young folk, and mostly female. The meeting was attended by ‘much religious fervour’.36

  A sense of spiritual quickening was in fact felt in other churches where no ‘revival meetings’ were held. Crowded Sunday evening gospel services led by Graham Scroggie in Charlotte Baptist Chapel in early 1922 regularly saw the Lord ‘present in mighty wonder-working power’. At one, held on January 29th, Scroggie spoke with much unction, and, following an appeal, no fewer than 52 indicated willingness to accept Christ as Saviour. On other occasions people went to meet with Scroggie in the vestry, when again some dedicated their lives to the Lord.37 Yet while there were evidences of first fruits in one or two places, no golden harvest appeared in the city generally.38

  But strong criticism of revivalists in general came from some city ministers. Rev. W. Major Scott preached in Dundee’s Ward Chapel, at the same time as – and presumably non-coincidentally - Troup and co. were speaking elsewhere in the city. In a hard-hitting address, Scott exclaimed that ‘saviours of society must not be confused with professional revivalists, who too often were ignorant of nearly everything except the art of working upon the emotions of a crowd of people. It was greatly to be feared that many attended such services with the desires for an emotional debauch, and the appalling social consequences of engineered revivals, though never fully worked out, were, it could not be denied, of a disastrous nature. There was a real ethical danger attending a crowd of people in a state of eager expectancy and a preacher raising their emotion to fever pitch. Many of the appeals which were frequently made to induce conversion, as well as some of the methods adopted, developed a morbid state of mind, which quite naturally passed into the pathological unstable, ill-balanced personalities. The out-growth of such unhealthy emotionalism had no genuine connection with religion at all’.39

 

East Coast (Undated)

  Graham Mair, in his inspiring collection of fishermen’s stories,40 tells of a mini-revival that followed the dramatic conversion of Peter, a young skipper of a north-east steam drifter.41 Greatly upset by the recent loss of a child, Peter invited a colleague – one of three Christians on his boat - to his home one Sabbath evening to help explain to him and his wife how to be ‘good living’ citizens. Pointing out that salvation was not earned by good deeds but by confessing the need of a Saviour, his friend prayed and read portions of Scripture to the couple. He later followed this up by posting a gospel tract to their house. Wonderfully, these actions resulted in the wife’s conversion, though Peter remained a stranger to grace. While working off the west coast of Orkney shortly after this, the boat stopped at Pierowall, Westray, in the event of strong gales. Here Peter heard a sermon on Hebrews 2:3; ‘How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?’ This made a deep impression on the skipper, who noted how it matched a recent sermon he had heard preached in Grangemouth on the very same text.

  Next day, though still in a heavy swell, the crew set back to sea and shot out a fleet of lines. Hauling them in some hours later, Peter began to lower the mizzen sail when the yard swung over and knocked him overboard. Though a lifebelt was thrown to him, the wind blew it away as fast as he could swim. Suddenly the skipper stopped swimming and for a few agonising moments seemed to give up on trying to save himself. Then he turned round and grabbed a rope thrown to him by a crewmember with all his might and which just managed to reach him.

  Back on board, Peter fainted, but when he came round, and still shivering with cold and a degree of shock, he related how he had been sure something potentially fateful was going to happen to him as he hadn’t slept at all the night before the accident. He spoke also of how, when he appeared to be motionless in the water, his whole life had come up before him, with the words of Hebrews 2:3 ringing in his ears. Replying, ‘Lord, I will not neglect anymore’, Peter turned round in the water and right then the rope came into his hand. On their way back to shore, the skipper declared his pledge to serve the Lord, stating that he now had peace of soul.

 The writer of the story concludes, ‘On reaching home the news soon spread and was the topic of conversation among the crews of the rest of the boats, causing a widespread exercise, which continued through the Yarmouth Fishing and a great many were converted. All the crew aboard that boat were converted except one who later left and went aboard another boat as he could not stand hearing it all the time in conversation. He was later converted during the Yarmouth Fishing and came aboard every Lord’s Day to rejoice with us’.42

 

1 Patrick ‘Recollections of East Fife Fisher Folk’ pp133-137

2 Missionary Record’ 1921 p48 suggests 20,000 men from Scotland

3 In the districts surrounding this latter town, Lionel Fletcher, too, observed a notable move of the Spirit (Lionel Fletcher ‘Mighty Moments’, London 1932 pp89-94). Meanwhile, news of the revival brought invitations from far and wide for Brown to preach. Marked awakening resulted in Ramsgate, Southampton and other parts of south England between September and November, 1921, while in Sunderland over 600 made first-time commitments.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Ritchie ‘Floods Upon the Dry Ground’ p30

7 A ‘Scotsman’ journalist stated, apparently on good authority that it was ‘at Lowestoft and Yarmouth that the appeals of the evangelists of the north-east who were temporarily quartered in those places make comparatively slight impression upon their English fellow-craftsmen, whose religious sense does not appear to be nearly so well developed’ (‘The Scotsman’ 21/12/21 p9)

8 Ritchie ‘Floods Upon the Dry Ground’ p2

9 William Leed of the Salvation Army speaks of a third ‘independent spiritual spearhead’ operating in East Anglia in 1921 in addition to the ministries of Troup and Brown. Staff Captains Albert Osborn and Gordon Simpson at Clapton were ‘undoubtedly divinely directed to arrange a Charabanc (open-decked bus) Crusade, comprising Training Officers and Sergeants (of which Leed was himself a member) in widely scattered East Anglia, which brought to Christ a multitude of souls – 106 in Norwich alone. Towns and villages were invaded by Crusadets, morning, noon and nights, with outstanding response’ (William Leed ‘The Strategy of God’ in Ritchie ‘Floods Upon the Dry Ground’ p98)

10 Griffin ‘A Forgotten Revival’ pp64-65

11 Glasgow Herald’ 20/12/21

12 Ibid. 20/12/21

13 The Scotsman’ 22/12/21 p7

14 Scottish Baptist Magazine’ 1922 p15

15 The Scotsman’ 21/12/21 p9

16 The Scotsman’ 23/12/21 p6

17 Ibid. 24/12/21 p11

18 Ibid. 5/01/22 p7

19 Ibid.

20 Ibid.

21 Which theory the Rev. Dale of Elgin felt was ‘inadequate and fallacious’. If unemployment was the cause of religious revival, he posed, then the churches would have been thronged months ago, for unemployment was no new thing in Scotland. Furthermore, he stated, ‘lack of work produces depression instead of elation…Again, idleness does not produce moral reform, but, on the contrary, moral degradation. “Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do”’ (‘Moray and Nairn Express’ 24/12/21 p6)

22 The Scotsman’ 6/01/22 p6

23 Ibid. 29/12/21 p6

24 Glasgow Herald’ 10/01/22 p9

25 The Scotsman’ 29/12/21 p6

26 Ibid. 5/1/22 pp4-5, 7

27 George Mitchell ‘Revival Man: The Jock Troup Story’, Fearn 2002 p69

28 What is surprising is, not that the populous city of Aberdeen as a whole remained generally unaffected by the revival in progress in nearby northern ports, but that its close-knit fishing community of Footdee, with its strong legacy of revival enthusiasm, does not feature in revival accounts.

29 The Scotsman’ 27/12/21 p3

30 The Christian’ 12/01/22 p12

31 The Scotsman’ 23/12/21 p6

32 Dickson ‘Brethren in Scotland’ p191

33 ‘People thronging the streets are going to church; nine out of ten can be counted on being bound for a place of worship. They are not the conventional type of churchgoer. With them, religion is part of themselves, not to be confused with the donning of fine raiment. So one discovers them in the garb of their calling, the men in blue jerseys and caps, the women with shawls; but there are well-dressed people sprinkled among them, showing that the movement is not confined to the fishing class….Where the church should hold 500, 1,000 or more have contrived to find entry and the doorway is blocked with others who would fain get in….There is no waiting for the fixed hour of beginning. Prayer is offered spontaneously, without a break, the worship switches again into hymns and choruses. Voluntary testimonies are frankly and eagerly made by recent converts. Tales of drink and gambling, of domestic unhappiness, of soured existence flow from the lips of men and women who passionately plead with the unconverted….The message is simple. There is insistence on one point – the acceptance of Christ as the only road to salvation. Figures in tens and twenties move down the aisle to prostrate themselves at the stool of repentance. More come out to increase the numbers of motionless figures at the front. It is an experience that sends a thrill coursing through the veins….The people refuse to leave the building. Once more the singing breaks out, as full throated as ever’ (‘The People’s Journal’ 17/12/21, quoted in Mitchell ‘Revival Man’ pp69-70)

34 War Cry’ 12/01/22 p22.

35 Yullie ‘Baptists in Scotland’ p90

36 The Scotsman’ 22/12/21

37 Balfour ‘Revival in Rose Street’ p169. It was also around this time – in 1920 – that Scroggie formed the Charlotte Chapel Evangelistic Association, with a vision of taking the gospel into the villages and towns outside the boundaries of the city (Ibid. p203). See 'Glory in the Glen p219.

38 RHM&CEC-UFCS 1922 pp32-33

39 The Scotsman’ 27/12/21 p3

40 Graham Mair ‘The Fisherman’s Gospel Manual’, London 1994

41 It is of deep regret that neither the location nor the exact year of this story – which was extracted from the Brethren periodical ‘Joyful Message’ – has been passed down.

42 Quoted in Mair ‘The Fisherman’s Gospel Manual’ pp169-171

 

 
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