Oasis Church Perth

The 1921 East Coast Revival in Scotland

Part 2.

This is a collection of  contemporary accounts – stories from the time
of the 1921 revival. Looking back to the wonderful things that God has done in
the past some Christians have a tendency to embroider the stories. We are so
keen to glorify God that sometimes we 
exaggerate. God doesn’t need our help. We just need to state the facts
plainly. That’s what we have in these newspaper and eye witness accounts
recorded as God was at work 100 years ago. Most of these stories come
from places I have known since childhood – places where relations live and
where we spend family holidays – places I love. Reading about what God did in
Scotland – in Aberdeenshire and the Moray Firth coast, 100 years ago touches me
deeply. There is life and fire in these stories and I have “felt my heart strangely warmed” reading
them again. I have been moved to tears and Habakkuk
3:2
wells up within meLord, I
have heard of your fame; I stand in awe at your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in
our day, in our time make them known. In wrath remember mercy.
  What
you will hear is not just history.  There is fire in these stories because Jesus
is the same, yesterday, today and forever.
 My prayer is that you and I would catch this
fire. Many of these reports and quotes come from “Floods upon the Dry Ground”
by Jackie Ritchie. Both his parents were converted in the 1921 revival and he
wrote  “Floods upon the Dry Ground” round
about 1980 when most of the converts were old people but still around to tell
their stories.

First, a story
from Findochty from October 1921
.  Jackie Ritchie writes -The weekend after the
drifters had sailed for East Anglia, a Salvation Army officer along with a
mother and her young lassie walked up the hill after the meeting in the
Salvation Army Hall. The captain remarked that there were only 11 or 12 in the
service due to the fishing and the lack of interest in spiritual things.
Suddenly the three of them stopped in their tracks as they realised the
situation. They fell to their knees and began to pray, crying upon God to do
something. Soon their hearts were at rest as they were assured that something
great was on the way.  As they arose from
their knees that Sunday night, souls belonging to their beloved town were
finding Jesus Christ as their saviour, hundreds of miles away in Yarmouth and
Lowestoft. Nearly 60 years later the sacredness of that moment dawned on me as
I listened to that young lassie, now an old woman tell me the story. During
that next week letters and telegrams began to arrive at Findochty, telling of
the blessing flowing at Yarmouth. Some of the most unlikely characters were
being saved there. But things were happening here at home. Women were converted
at the wash-tub, in the shops and in the mending lofts. By the next weekend
there was a large improvement in the attendance at the meeting house.  (Floods p 70.)

2. The Glasgow Herald. December 1921. The prairie fire of religious revival is raging along the coasts from Wick to Peterhead. It was kindled by a torch lit at Yarmouth and Lowestoft. It is filling the kirks and emptying the pubs.  “We came back wi nae muckle siller but wi saved souls.” Is the frequent remark made. They speak affectionately of Jock and Douglas meaning their leaders. Jock Troup, a herring cooper from Wick and Rev A Douglas Brown, a Baptist minister from London. It is obvious that prayer and confidence are the weapons with which this battle is being fought. Meetings started in the open air, then the churches opened their doors and hundreds professed salvation.    “It won’t last long” they said, but the fisherfolks are home from East Anglia and in every port they are spreading the message.  The churches have been revived. (Floods p 102.)

3. Elgin Courant and
Courier. 2nd Dec 1921.
The inhabitants of Hopeman have been
greatly blessed by the recent revival in Yarmouth. Large open air services are
held in prominent places and services held inside with the help of Rev J
Cameron of the United Free Church and Rev S Conway at the Baptist Church. Many
who have been converted are those who have served their country in the 1914-18
war. (Floods p 107.)

4. Buchan Observer 6th
Dec 1921.
(Buchan is the far north east area of Aberdeenshire and Peterheid
was called “The Bloo Toon” because it
was such a cold place!) Religious revival still continues to spread in
Peterhead. The movement has been taken up with great enthusiasm by the
Salvation Army. During the past week open airs have been held every night (Note – In Peterhead by 4.00pm in
December  it is dark!)
  and young fishermen and fisher girls have
given testimony to the experience of salvation. A stimulus has been given to
the revival through a united effort by the Congregational and United Free
Churches. (Floods p 104)

5.  More from Peterhead. The People’s Journal. 10th
Dec 1921
. A stirring incident took place at the monument in Broad Street,
Peterhead when 34 people threw themselves on a muddy road crying to Christ to
save them. At an indoor meeting later in the Salvation Army, 40 knelt at the
penitent form. The testimonies were tremendous. There was the hardened
character who threatened his wife with a razor who got converted and then his
wife followed him.

6. People’s Journal.
17th Dec 1921.
Still on
Peterhead
. People are thronging the streets going to church, 9 out of 10
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 in shawls,
but there are well dressed people sprinkled among them which shows the movement
is not confined only to the fisher class. Where the church should hold 500, 1000
or more contrive to find an entry and the doorway is blocked with those who
fain would get in. There is no waiting for the fixed hour for the beginning.
Prayer is offered spontaneously without a break, the worship switches again
into hymn choruses. Voluntary testimonies are frankly and eagerly made by young
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. There is insistence on one point – the acceptance of Christ as the
only road to salvation.  Figures of 10s
and 20s move down the aisles of places of worship to prostrate themselves at
the stool of repentance. More come to increase the numbers of motionless
figures at the front. It is an experience that sends a thrill through your
veins. The people refuse to leave the building and once more the singing breaks
out, as full throated as ever. (Floods p 103)

7. Now to Fraserburgh
– “The Broch.”  Fraserburgh Herald. 13th
Dec 1921.
One of the most unemotional ministers in the town who has not so
far identified himself with the movement declared  at the close of his sermon on Sunday “The Spirit of God is working, powerful in
this town. There is absolutely no doubt about that. Staid church people may be
shocked by some of the things that are being said and done but we must
exaggerate charity for great good is being wrought.”  
One reporter states “I went along to the Congregational Church and found it full, three
quarters of an hour before the service even started and failed to get in. Then
I went to the Market Square where a few hundred folks were singing and
testifying to the new experience of salvation and peace. Later I made my way
back to the Congregational Church and was fortunate to get into the porch and
hear Troup preach. His text was “I am the way.” He was shouting at the pitch of
his voice with arms and legs in motion all the time.”
(Floods p 106-107)

8. Northern Ensign. (John
O’ Groats Journal) 14th Dec 1921. 
Wick
. The revival inaugurated in Wick by the local fishing community
continues to be held twice a day, afternoon and night at the Salvation Army
Hall. Evening Service on Sunday was held in Rifle Hall which was not sufficient
to accommodate all who wanted to attend. Staff Captain Rohu of Aberdeen gave
the address. The converts already registered number over 400. (Floods p 105)

9. Northern Ensign.
21st Dec 1921. Wick.
The meetings in the Salvation Army Hall
continue with marked success with 
wonderful conversions taking place. Several fisherman converts have left
for West coast fishing. On board, the Mizpah is manned entirely by men who have
professed Christianity and their departure last week for the Stornoway fishing
was a scene of great interest at the harbour. The boat sailed with the
Salvation Army  flag flying from her
masthead and the crew and their friends sang revival hymns. The boat was
stormbound at Scrabster and the crew went to Thurso Salvation Army and held
meetings where a number professed conversion. 
(Floods p 105)

10. Testimonies of lives transformed at Wick. The testimony meetings on Sunday afternoons were special occasions. Don Rosie told of how he stopped smoking six weeks before he got saved in a meeting run by Douglas Brown at St George’s, Yarmouth. It was said the he was one of God’s gentlemen. He sailed in the motor drifter Brae Flett with the Flett brothers and at one time the entire crew were all saved men. Another hard case, an engineer of a steam drifter said “You ask how I know I’m saved? I’ll tell you.  Before I got saved I would find myself under the bed on a Sunday morning because I was so drunk that I could not get into it on Saturday night. Now, I am in bed on a Sunday morning for I have never touched a drop of drink since I got saved.”   

Another said “I’m saved. I know I’m saved. How do  I know? Well, yesterday I went into Walter Craig’s shoppie and on the counter were some knives. I could not steal them. Before I got saved I would have had 2 or 3 in my pocket.”                   

How these uneducated men loved to tell in their own way the change that had been wrought in their lives since Jesus had come to abide in their hearts. They were so keen to testify that the leader during a meeting had to insist on order as 2 or 3 would have spoken at once. (Floods p 80.)

11 Another life
transformed with David Cordiner from Peterhead
.  David was saved as a lad of 13. Then in 1921
he went with the fishermen to Yarmouth. While on board his drifter God spoke to
him and he heard the call to become a preacher. But David was a shy, quiet lad
and  when he shared this with his
shipmates they told him he would never do it. When he got home he told his
mother. She also said he would never be able to preach because he was too
quiet.  “Before I went to Yarmouth” he said “Satan had me in his grip. But God did a work in me at Yarmouth one
night and I re-dedicated my life to Christ and his service
.” David Cordiner
was used by God in Peterhead just as Jock Troup was used by God in Fraserburgh.
He spoke at open air meetings in Peterhead to crowds of hundreds  for six weeks non stop  with large numbers responding to the gospel.
(A Forgotten Revival p 71-72 and Floods 
p 108.)

12. The Portsoy revival of 1923. Portsoy was well known along the Moray Firth coast as a place that revival passed by. In fact some of the people there were proud of this fact. A friend from Portsoy told me that it became known as “The wicked Toon” because of this. However, that was to change in 1923.  There is a wonderful account  round about this time by the Cullen Salvation Army officer, William Leed, who was transferred to Cullen from Clapton in East London where there was a large Salvation Army base.  In a prayer meeting in Cullen be became convinced that people were turning to God in Portsoy. Later he met one of his Lieutenants and found out that 9 young men had responded to the gospel that night. The next day there were six more. “We engaged the town hall and 26  were registered (meaning as converts) And so it went on: The Town Hall was packed nightly, floor and gallery, many unable to gain admittance. The town seemed transformed. One somehow felt the spiritual atmosphere everywhere, the glory of the Lord seemed to hover over the place. Singing could be heard from the houses as the converts gathered to praise God everywhere. I recall a wonderful occasion when an elderly lady pulled me from the street into her home saying        “Pray wi’ me Captain; I want tae mak’ ma peace wi’ God.”                                                                                                                 

William Leed summed  up 1923 in Portsoy with this  verse:                    “And the hand of the Lord was with them and a great number believed and turned to the Lord.” Acts 11:21.   (A Forgotten Revival p 74-75 and Floods p 98-101.)                                                                                            

The Salvation Army building from those days in now Destiny Church Portsoy!

13. Moving far south
to Eyemouth
. Late in 1921 there were scenes of rejoicing in Eyemouth, north
of Berwick on Tweed. As the vessels approached the quay the sound of hymn singing
could be heard drifting over the water. 10 years later, in 1931, Jock Troup
visted Eyemouth for a mission and found that the spirit of revival was still
evident. Jock preached in the open air from the seat of a Baby Austin and
crowds of 3000 gathered to hear him and many people responded and put their
faith in Christ. (A Forgotten Revival p 71.)

14. Finally, back to
the Moray Firth coast, to Gardenstown – Gamrie to locals
. Jackie Ritchie
writes of the lasting effects of the 1921 revival in the lives of the young
converts in the village of Gamrie.  Round
about 1980 he writes of lasting fruit:   
Today after almost 60 years, the effects of the revival are still
visible in the Church of Scotland which is outstanding in its evangelical
testimony, and a thriving Brethren Assembly.” (Floods p 66)

15. The denominations
carefully tested the revival
and Jock Troup was called to give a report to
the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The United Free Church sent three ministers up to the North East to
scout things out and this is a summary of their report which was published by
the Issue of Deputies in the last week of December 1921. “We went to meetings,
together and individually so we have this to say: To our minds it is a genuine
awakening. It is the work of God. The men whose names come to the front would
be the last to take credit. They are honest, modest young men, with a humble
idea of their own ability. Those brought to a decision of Christianity are
young men in the 18-30 age group. We have interviewed the local leaders, David
Cordiner at Peterhead and Jock Troup at Fraserburgh.”   (Floods p 107.)

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However, here we all are at this moment in time in 2021. We
are 100 years on from the 1921 revival. The generation saved in the 1921
revival, our grandparents generation and great grandparents generation for
younger listeners / readers have all passed on to be with the Lord.  They caught the fire  in their day – but the fire still burns today
so we  sing a song which is a prayer for
our generation and the days we live in:

For the sake of the world burn like a fire in me. Light a flame in my heart for every eye to see.  For the sake of the world, burn like a fire in me.                                                                                                                              For every knee to bow down, for every heart to believe, For every voice to cry out – burn like a fire in me.                            For every tongue to confess that you alone are the King. You are the hope of the earth – Burn like a fire in me.

Catch the Fire!