Gardenstown revival

From “Protestants and Prawns – Enchantment and ‘The Word’ in a Scottish Fishing Village

 Joseph Webster

In 1874 Jacob Primmer came to Gardenstown to assist the Parish Minister the Rev James Cruden. At this time there was no Church of Scotland in the village, the congregation of Gardenstown and Crovie met for worship in a granary. Mr. Primmer encouraged the people to build a church, and with the help of the fishermen, a building to seat 400 was completed within a year. On a Sunday evening this would be filled to capacity. Sankey-Moody were in Scotland holding revival meetings and seeing much blessing, Mr. Primmer felt that meetings of this kind would be good in the village. He contacted the Rev John Gilmour, Minister of the U.P. Church who was also keen on such an effort. It was agreed to hold them one night in the U.P. Church and the next in “The Mohr Church”. The result being that many people both young and old came to faith in Christ. This was a great time of blessing.

  Gardenstown had the reputation of being Scotland’s only non-swearing village. This followed an amusing court case which came before Banff J.P. Court in February 1954, when two men were accused of committing a breach of the peace and conducting themselves in a disorderly manner by cursing and swearing and using indecent language. The incident was said to have happened in the Garden Arms Hotel, the village’s only inn, one Sunday night the previous December. And the words the men were said to have used were ‘damn’ and ‘bloody’. A 15-year-old boy who heard the men argue in the hotel from an upstairs room said in evidence: “It seemed unnatural in Gardenstown. I have heard the words before in Banff, but not in Gardenstown.” The hotel proprietor, Mr Norman Tennant, told the court that when he asked the men to, leave after refusing them drink, they both became abusive and obscene. “It was blasphemous language, uncommon in a village like Gardenstown, a very respectable village on a Sunday night.” Mr A. W. Lyall,


solicitor, defending, asked him: “But the words damn and bloody are used quite often on the stage?” Mr Tennant replied: “In such a respectable village as Gardenstown, such words repeated at the pitch of the human voice do not have a very creditable effect on my establishment.” Mr Lyall: “Are you telling me that words which you think are blasphemous in Gardenstown are not so if used in Banff ?” Mr Tennant answered: “In Gardenstown your neighbours are so close at hand you hardly need to raise your voice.” He then described the language as “the type that a ploughman uses when speaking to his horses”. Another witness, a grocer from the nearby coastal town of New Aberdour, said both accused were sober and told the bench: “The only strong word I heard being used was bloody. I thought the language was blasphemous but not obscene.” So did the court, for the charges against the men were found ‘Not Proven’ after trial. Gardenstown’s reputation as Scotland’s non-swearing village was upheld in several interviews which appeared in the national Press. Said the district councillor: “I have lived here for some years and I’ve yet to hear anybody use a swear word.” The local minister had this to say: “Bad language is seldom, if ever, heard. Not that I would be in a position to hear it.” Even the village’s only policeman admitted it was the first complaint he had ever had. An article in the Scottish Daily Express attributed Gardenstown’s reputation to “a man who died nearly 100 years ago”. He was the Peterhead cooper James Turner. “And we have never forgotten this”, a kirk elder told the Expressman. Eight miles or so along the cave-pitted Banffshire coast from

5/9/2016 The Banffshire Pilgrimage Group’s second pilgrimage took place last Saturday and was a resounding success.  The sun shone, and the joyful ecumenical spirit of pilgrims from different Banffshire churches resounded in various places in Banff, Macduff, and Gardenstown as they followed “In the footsteps of Revival”.  Traditional pilgrimage ingredients of community, hospitality, prayer, song, stories and reflection were prominent as the participants re-visited places that were important venues during the Revival gatherings of 19th/20th centuries.

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