In July I was invited to my first ever 100th birthday party. I was asked to play the favourite hymns for my friend’s mother. In fact she played her favourite hymn herself – What a friend we have in Jesus. It was amazing! We think of 100 years as a very long time – and it is. However, 1921 was the year this lady was born – in India. This lady experienced the events of independence and partition and has stories to tell about leaving India to start a new life in East Africa. My point is – I met somebody last month who was alive when this 1921 revival was happening.
The revival of 1921 was the last revival in mainland Britain
and it began in East Anglia in February of that year in Lowestoft in Suffolk.
In the Autumn of 1921 it spread to the fishing towns and villages all up the
East coast of Scotland. This was because some 10,000 Scots made an annual
migration down to East Anglia to follow the herring. After a hopeless year’s
fishing in 1921 this was their last chance to make some income. Bad weather had
blighted their fishing season and it continued in Lowestoft and Yarmouth. They
couldn’t put to sea as they had hoped and huge numbers were stranded on land
with little to do. Now God had been at work in Yarmouth and Lowestoft since
February that year, chiefly though the ministry of a Baptist minister from Balham
in London called Douglas Brown. Early that year Douglas Brown had a great
struggle with God through which he came to a place of brokenness and submission
as never before. He came into an experience of what it means to be crucified
with Christ and to experience Christ’s resurrection power working in and
through him. He was immediately called to Lowestoft to mission work – something
he felt he was not suited to. God had other ideas. A large number of local
people came to faith in Jesus through Douglas Brown. Then in September came the
annual Scottish invasion. 1921 was a terrible year for the fishing industry but
God had other fish to catch and the two
particular fishermen he chose to be “fishers
of men” were Rev Douglas Brown, a refined, cultured Baptist minister and
Jock Troup, a rough, uneducated cooper – a barrel maker, an essential service
for the fishing trade. Two entirely different men, one middle aged, one only
25, one English, one Scottish, one educated and ordained, the other worked with
his hands. Yet, these two came together as a wonderful team, supporting each
other in 5 weeks of joint fishing for
men. They would sometimes share a pulpit, and there are descriptions of them
preaching together in the pulpit, arms around one another and weeping together
as they pulled in the nets. They were
united because they both were on fire for the Lord. Interestingly, Jock Troup
also had had a life changing encounter with God earlier that year. More of that
later – –
Here are some background facts for helping us understand the lead-up to the 1921 revival. 1. 1. Some of the areas which experienced revival in 1921 had a history of revival. It was as though there were wells already dug waiting for a fresh outpouring. Areas like the Morey Firth coast had older generations who had experienced revival. Around Buckie and Cullen there had been revivals in 1859, 1863, 1874 and the 1890s. Revival was in their heritage. They had experienced it and longed for it again. 2. Some communities had been praying for revival for years. The tiny fishing village of Whinnyfold (Funnie fa) had held a weekly prayer meeting for revival, every Sunday morning from 6.30-9.30am since 1900. This was not unusual.
3. Fishing was very dangerous and many fishermen lost their lives. This meant that fishing communities lived with an awareness of eternity. Fishing communities were used to sudden tragic death, experiencing sometimes multiple deaths at the same time. 4.This was also only 3 years after the Great War. There was a lot of disillusionment around and an apocalyptic feel. The preaching often centred on the Second Coming and the End of the World.
Jock Troup. I want to focus on Jock Troup as one of the main characters used by God in 1921. He was a young man of 25 in 1921. He was huge and strong with a bull neck – a typical cooper from Wick. He was a very warm and jolly personality. Jock began open air preaching in Lowestoft in October 1921. The fishermen were grounded because of bad weather. They were hanging around the town with little to do. Jock had a huge voice and he could soon draw a crowd with his banjo playing and rich singing voice. A little before coming south in October 1921 Jock had an experience of the Holy Spirit’s power coming upon him at the Fisherman’s Mission in Market Street in Aberdeen. He had been asking God for power to serve him and he had an experience of the Holy Spirit that was so powerful he had to ask God to hold back. What he experienced was so wonderful that he rarely ever spoke of it. It was an experience of God’s power coming upon him. So he was totally fired up when he came down to Yarmouth and Lowestoft. He experienced Acts 1:8 – the power of the Holy Spirit coming on him. This led to 5 weeks of fiery preaching in Yarmouth and Lowestoft , often in the open air. People were gripped with the fear of the Lord and strong fishermen would fall to the ground as Jock preached “Man’s need and God’s deed” with the focus on sin and the cross of Jesus as the only answer. The open air meetings would go on for hours. Soon Jock had to leave his work to preach full time. Here is a local newspaper description of Jock. This is from the Yarmouth and Gorleston Times. Nov 24th 1921. Jock is an excellent advertisement for Christianity. There is a heartiness about his Amens and Hallelujahs that makes people believe he has something worth having. (Jock says) “What will the ould divil be thinkin noo I wonder? I bet he’s havin’ a rare bad time.” Every evening and three times on Sundays he has held open air meetings in the Market Square or on the Hall Quay. Many converts kneel down in the street each night.”
This now starts to sound like Acts. One night at Yarmouth in November 1921 Jock
had a clear vision of a man from Fraserburgh praying for him to come there. He
knew this vision was from the Lord and the next day he set off on the train.
When he arrived in Fraserburgh the next evening he met a group of men from the
Baptist Church who had just had a meeting where they decided to send for Jock.
Among them was the man Jock had seen in his vision.
Read the account in
Griffin, A Forgotten Revival p 67. (Latest edition p 70) On arrival in Fraserburgh Jock went to the
Market Place and began to preach the gospel. Although it was a cold and windy
night a crown soon gathered and listened attentively to the rugged preacher. “Why
not go to the Baptist Church?” suggested someone when he had finished. “I don’t
know where it is.” Jock replied. He was immediately led to the church,
accompanied by many of his hearers. They arrived just as the pastor, the Rev W
Gilmour, and deacons were leaving after a meeting at which they had decided to
write to Jock to urge him to come to Fraserburgh! Among the deacons was the
very man whom Jock Troup had seen in the vision he had received in Yarmouth.
They all went back into the church and encouraged by the pastor Jock went up on
the platform and started to lead a meeting. He had only just commenced with a
few choruses when people began weeping over their lost condition. The revival
had spread to Scotland.
Five weeks of constant reaping followed in Fraserburgh.
Over the next couple of years the impact of this revival was huge, all along the Scottish East coast. Not just in numbers saved but in lives and communities transformed. Whole families came to faith in Christ and whole ship’s crews were converted together. Estimates of conversions were made at the time. These are numbers reported in the Christian Herald in January 1922.
Here are just a few. Wick – 400. Brora – 200. Buckie – 500 Portessie – 100. Dundee. 600-700.
Some are more precise: Findochty – 115. Cullen – 79. Peterhead – 242. Pittenweem – 76. One village, Cairnbulg near Fraserburgh had 500 out of a population of 1500 converted in a two week period.
One interesting thing is that many of the converts were young men between the ages of 18 and 25.
Books / Sources. The 1921 revival is well documented. Here are the main books about it.
- A Forgotten Revival. Stanley Griffin. Day One
- Jock Troup, Revival Man. George Mitchell.
- Glory in the Glen. Tom Lennie. Revivals in
Scotland, 1880 – 1940. Christian Focus.
- Jackie Ritchie. Floods on the Dry Ground. No
longer in print but excellent. Full of eye witness accounts.