Revivals Rediscovered N E Scotland



I first began to hear about revival in the north east from my mother, Katherine Young, previously Katherine Smith Latin of Portessie who had given her life to Jesus in the 1921 revival at the age of 9. Her sister, Meg and brother George were amongst others who responded at that time in Portessie Methodist Church.

I remember that whenever my mother was talking to other people about revival, she used to say to them, “You don’t know what a revival is like unless you have been in one.”

Many years later, I realised that every time she had said that, I had agreed with her – except that I had never considered that it applied to me. I think that somehow, I have always had a sense of revival as being the normal – and that anything less that we are experiencing is something out of the ordinary – less than what is meant to be.

However, when I began my personal journey of discovery about revivals in the north-east, I had no idea of the treasures that there were to uncover, and I found myself again and again facing the question, “Why have I not known about this before?”  – especially since so much was about my own community and included my own relatives from previous generations.

What I have compiled here is not the whole story – but rather extracts from some books that I have been able to obtain. Some of these are no longer in print and difficult to find, so I have reproduced them in order to make them available to others who are interested in our north-east revival history. You will find them listed on page 2.

From these, I have produced this summary and overview of the repeated revival movements along the north-east coast from 1859 – 1923.

The stories of these events have stimulated my faith for what is yet to come. An interest in past revivals is probably pointless unless linked with a looking forward in faith for God’s intervention again, and seeking to be prepared for that – whenever and however it may appear.

                                                                                                                                 Graeme C. Young

I have reproduced the following 4 books, copies of which you can obtain from me:

• “The Life and Labours of the Late James Turner of Peterhead” – William Robbie  1863

“Revival power and Revival People – Peterhead to Portgordon  1859-1875”

First-hand accounts gathered in 1875 by E. McHardie under the title “James Turner – or How to Reach the Masses.”

Extensive stories in separate chapters from Banff, Portknockie, Findochty, Portessie, Buckie, Portgordon. This includes stories of subsequent revivals in the area between 1860 and 1875

“Extracts from: “Life and Labours of Duncan Matheson – The Scottish Evangelist” –  by Rev J Macpherson 1871.  He organised at Huntly in the Castle Park revival get-togethers for the whole of the north east.  “The meetings were held for two successive days every summer from 1860 -1863 inclusive” They had about 10,000 people plus attending each time!

• “Floods Upon the Dry Ground   –  God working among Fisherfolk” – Jackie Ritchie.

The revivals in 1921-1923

I have also mentioned in this compilation the following books:

• “The Second Evangelical Awakening in Britain” – J. Edwin Orr (Marshall, Morgan & Scott) 1949 reprinted 1953 –  covering 1859-62 revival with some references to the north east.

• “Children in Revival – 300 years of God’s work in Scotland” – Harry Sprange

The accounts of children in Revivals in Scotland – “astonishing times in Scotland from 18th to the 20th century” (Christian Focus publications 2002) (I have copies of this book)

Glory in the Glen – A history of Evangelical Revivals in Scotland 1880-1940” – Tom Lennie     (Christian Focus publications 2009) (available on and others)

see also

The treasures I have discovered about revivals in the north-east have informed and encouraged my faith for what is yet to come. I am glad to share what I know with others who have a similar interest. Along with the publications listed above, there are other books which cover the subject. I can let you know where they can be found, or I can lend copies of the ones which I own.

Also available from me are copies of my book:

Luke into Jesus”  – How to live as children of His Kingdom.  (whatever age you are!)

It is a practical commentary on the whole of Luke’s Gospel, written in a style that is designed to be particularly useful for followers of Jesus who are young in age or experience – but which is being appreciated by a wide range of readers.

(You can also find it on – and also as an eBook on kindle)

You can contact me:

Graeme C. Young          19, Rathen Road, Inverallochy, Fraserburgh. AB43 8YB

Tel: 01346 582339                                     Email: [email protected]

Website: – resources for children and all-age ministry – and some other articles.

1859 -1863

The Revival which changed the face of the communities of the north-east occurred in the years 1859-63.

That revival, or rather those outbreaks of revival happened in a much wider spiritual context:

“In the year 1858 an extraordinary religious Revival swept every state in the United States of America, adding a million converts to the churches, accomplishing untold good.

In the year 1859 a similar movement began in the United Kingdom, affecting every county in Ulster, Scotland, Wales and England, adding a million accessions to the evangelical churches, accomplishing a tremendous amount of social uplift, and giving an effective impulse to home and foreign missionary activity. In seven years, the British Methodists gained approximately 200,000 accessions to membership, the Baptists 100,000, the Congregationalists – a similar number, and proportionate gains were registered by the Anglican and Presbyterian churches. In Wales an increase of more than 100,000 church members was reported; in Ulster, there were 100,000 converts claimed, in Scotland the converts are estimated at 300,000; and in England their number is partly calculated, partly estimated at double that figure.” (preface page 5 -The Second Evangelical Awakening in Britain – J Edwin Orr)

The population of Scotland was about 3,000,000 which means that about 10% were converted during those revival years!  If the same proportion were to be converted in a similar revival period now, it would mean 537,300 new Christians in Scotland.

“The first recorded outbreak of (this)Revival (in Scotland) was reported from Aberdeen, which enjoyed the firstfruits of the movement to follow. In the autumn of 1858 a united prayer-meeting was begun… the prayer movement brought about many conversions during the autumn of 1858, with increasing revival in the wintertime, when scores of people – up to 100 – professed repentance and decision each night.” (page 59 The Second Evangelical Awakening in Britain – J Edwin Orr)

Banffshire was moved by the revival as early as September 1859 in such places as Deskford, Portessie, Findochty and other fishing villages where “no clerical agency, no missionary appeals, no lay harangues” were the origin of the extraordinary movement. The Sunday-school at Buckie United Presbyterian Church quadrupled its numbers, whilst one was opened for 180 child inquirers in Portessie. The Banffshire Journal, a critic of the movement, reported that four fishermen from Portknockie, zealous revivalists, visited Crovie one forenoon, and “nearly the who assemblage were struck down at once.” In June 1860 the revival meetings in Banff town and country were increasing instead of abating. Throughout Aberdeenshire the same sort of happenings were reported…” (page70 -The Second Evangelical Awakening in Britain – J Edwin Orr)

Many ordinary local people were instrumental in this north-east revival of 1859 and the following years, along with local and visiting evangelists and ministers, but we have access to much information because of the prominent ministry of James Turner. Immediately after his death in 1863, an account was published of his life and revival ministry.  (The Life and Labours of the Late James Turner of Peterhead – with a brief notice of his brother George Turner – by William Robbie 1863)

James Turner and his brother were coopers and fish curers in Peterhead, and throughout the 1850s James was involved in evangelistic and pastoral work.

“Mr. Turner closed the year 1853, with some reflections of a retrospective nature which will give the reader an idea of the amount of work he was able to go through in his Master’s cause. When taken in connection with the fact that he had his business to look after, and, moreover, that he was always of a weak and delicate constitution, it seems almost incredible. In the course of that year, he had preached about two hundred sermons. Took part in two hundred and sixty meetings for prayer. Led the classes committed to his care upwards of one hundred times, and stood by the bedside of the sick and the dying no fewer than five hundred times, and, better than all, “The Lord,” says he “has given me more souls this year than during any previous year of my converted life.”” (page 12 The Life and Labours of the Late James Turner of Peterhead)

In 1859 James Turner wrote:

“For the past four years, my brother has been in company with me in the herring-curing line of business, and, by the blessing of God, we made a little money. And being both on the Lord’s side, we could spend a good part of our time in God’s work.

The fishing in 1859 being low, we kept all our stock and lost about £300. This laid us idle for about three months, so I thought it would be well for one of us to go along the east and west coasts, and hold meetings in all the fishing towns. My brother not being well, I left him at home and took the first turn myself.

For several weeks before I left home, the Spirit of God had been pressing me hard to get my business in such a way as I could leave it for a while. So I told my wife and brother about this, but I did not think that the Spirit was preparing me to gather in so great a harvest of souls. And not only was He preparing me but also the people all along the coast.” (page 24 Revival Power and Revival People – Peterhead to Portgordon 1859-1875)

That “great harvest of souls” began in St Combs on December 6th 1859 and continued as he visited Inverallochy, Cairnbulg, Broadsea, Fraserburgh, Pittulie and Rosehearty all in the same month.

After a month of recuperation in Peterhead he set off again – going to Cullen, Portknockie, Findochty, Portessie, Buckie, Portgordon, Deskford, Banff, Fordyce, Portsoy, Grange, Whitehills and Huntly.

“Completely worn out with his incessant and successful toil, he reached his home about the middle of April 1860” (page29 Revival Power and Revival People)

In May he returned to Huntly and from there went to Aberdeen, then Inverness then back to Peterhead where he held meetings at his cooperage.

In a letter he wrote: There are a good many young converts from the Banffshire coast fishing here, and they help us in the meetings. They have such power with God! Oh, how they pray and preach also! And I give them all work to do.” (page 32 Revival Power and Revival people)

From November his revival travels took him to Banff, Cornhill, Gardenstown, Crovie, Pennan, and Macduff.  Ill health necessitated a change of climate and he was in the Isle of Wight from March to June 1861 Though not fit to do much on his return, he regained enough strength to set out again in November – initially to Buckie as part of his business, but was “diverted” into taking part in meetings in Portgordon, Buckie, then Portessie, Findochty, Portknockie,  Banff and Macduff.

“These last labours were cut short by an attack of his complaint that kept him in bed for weeks, and though he lived for more than a year afterwards he never recovered strength sufficient to work again in public. Still his heart burned on with zeal for his Master’s glory, and not until the last did he give up the hope of being able to resume his loved employment of winning souls to Him.” (page36 Revival Power and Revival People)

Duncan Matheson

Duncan Matheson of Huntly was another prominent evangelist/revivalist in the north east. Like James Turner, in the years before the outbreaks of general revival, he was very active in widespread evangelistic work. In the north east, his ministry covered many of the rural areas –  including the farming related markets.

In 1859 he was involved with others in the revival in Aberdeen and “From Aberdeen he went frequently to the country and found many of the rural parishes awakening as out of a deep sleep. An awakening took place in the Free church of Garioch in August 1859. Mr Matheson was present when the work began….   (page5 extracts from Life and Labours of Duncan Matheson)

Reginald Radcliffe, an evangelist whose meetings in Aberdeen saw some of the first signs of revival amongst children and young people at the end of 1858,  had been invited to the Chapel of Garioch. Duncan Matheson “giving his most valuable assistance on that remarkable night of the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the people gathered there form the surrounding district, his previous knowledge of not a few of them giving him an advantage in dealing with the many souls awakened on that memorable occasion” (page 6 extracts from Life and Labours of Duncan Matheson)

“Towards the close of 1859 he began to extend his evangelistic itineracy to Banffshire, preaching for the most part in the towns and villages along the coast. His labours were specially blessed in the burgh and seaport of Cullen.

Early in 1860 the whole place (Cullen) was moved as by an earthquake. Fear took hold on the sinners in Zion; trembling seized the hypocrites.  Careless ones, whose shadow had not darkened the door of God’s house for many years, found their way to church or chapel; and even worldly men talked to one another about the great question upon the streets.

Our evangelist visited Cullen just as the work of grace was becoming manifest, and preached frequently in the Free and Independent churches, receiving from the pastors a cordial welcome.” (page7 Extracts from Life and Labours of Duncan Matheson)

“The Life and Labours of Duncan Matheson” does not detail all the places that Duncan Matheson was involved at this time, but a comment of someone recorded in Revival Power and Revival People shows that Duncan Matheson was conducting meetings in Macduff at the same time that James Turner was doing likewise in Banff.

A major contribution that Duncan Matheson made at this time was the idea and then the leadership of huge annual two day meetings at Huntly from 1860-1863

Rev R.H.Williamson, Belfast who was at once pastor and fellow-evangelist or Mr Matheson writes:

“Returning from one of these preaching expeditions, he proposed to me the idea of a grand gathering at Huntly, seeking the aid of men of all churches, both lay and clerical, whom God had honoured in the work of revival. The proposal took shape. It was approved of by the Duchess of Gordon, and by others whose good judgment, spirituality of mind, and zeal for the cause of God we could trust. The whole arrangements of the meetings were put into Matheson’s hands, and the results were great and blessed. Multitudes of believers from every corner of the land were refreshed and strengthened, and multitudes of the unsaved brought to Jesus.” (page16 extracts from Life and Labours of Duncan Matheson)

These meetings were held in the open air at the Castle Park in Huntly and attracted numbers reported to be over 10,000.

While you can read much more about the revival experiences of the different north east towns and villages in “Revival Power and Revival People” a flavour of what was happening can be tasted in these brief extracts from “The Life and Labours of the late James Turner”.

Portknockie The first tokens of the Spirit’s presence occurred on the evening of the 7th of February. It appears that several young men, who were beginning earnestly to enquire how they, might be saved had assembled, of their own accord, with the view of having some conversation with Mr. Turner, and, as he was engaged in speaking to and praying with them, the Spirit came down upon them with such power as had never been seen in that place before. As this was one of the first instances of what have been called “strikings down,” which was a not infrequent accompaniment of Mr. Turner’s preaching, and in regard to which so much has been said by those who wish to throw discredit on the revival of religion brought about by his labours, we give the particulars regarding it as related by one who was present, a man of a strong mind, and correct judgment, and, we should say, very unlikely to be deceived in the opinion he would form as to the reality of this work of God…”(page 29)

Findochty Next morning, a solemn awe seemed to pervade the village, and there was evidently something working with the whole community that they could not account for. Without the least notice of a meeting being given, the people, old and young assembled in the Hall, at ten o’clock, a.m., and filled the place to such an extent, that some apprehension lest it should fall was produced. To this meeting, Mr. Turner came, and was just opening the proceedings with prayer, when an agonizing cry of distress that could no longer be restrained, was heard from a soul labouring under strong convictions of sin. In a few, minutes the whole assembly were praying and crying for mercy. The place became a Bochim, and tears of penitential sorrow trickled down the cheeks of scores of people. Some in great distress of soul were crying, “What must I do to be saved?” Some with joy beaming in their countenances were praising God for their deliverance, and others were pleading for their unconverted relatives. This scene continued for four hours, and from this meeting of Tuesday, the 7th of February, 1860, which will not soon be forgotten, a great number of the inhabitants of Findochty date their conversion. During these four hours, Mr. Turner was going from seat to seat, speaking with anxious souls, and pointing them to the Saviour.

It will be observed here that nothing had been said or done by him on this occasion calculated to produce any degree of excitement, for, as we remarked, he was but opening the meeting with prayer, and had only uttered a very few words, when great numbers were suddenly convinced of sin, and led to cry for mercy. It would, therefore, seem difficult to assign any cause for these extraordinary manifestations other than the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in answer to earnest and believing prayer.

This meeting adjourned at two o’clock in the afternoon, to meet again in the evening. (page 32)

Portessie There was, then, no hall of any kind there. There happened, however, to be a house in the process of erection at the time, with only the walls built and the roof on, but having neither doors nor windows, and this place, some of the friends of the cause got seated with planks in the best way they could. Notwithstanding the stormy weather which then prevailed, and the great exposure of the meeting-place to the cold in its unfinished state, Mr. Turner laboured there during the time he was in Portessie. His very first meeting was most remarkably blessed. On his arrival at the meeting place, it was found to be crowded to excess, and a large number were outside unable to get near the door. Many of them, however, opposed the work, and stood out bitterly against it for a time: yet, in some cases, these were among the first to experience the convincing and converting power of God’s Spirit. Mr. Turner gave a very stirring address on that first occasion, after which, prayer was offered up by several of the Findochty converts, and the Spirit was poured out that night in rich effusion. The meeting presented the same features as characterised the one in Findochty already described, some weeping, and some praying, some bowed down under a weight of guilt, and others were rejoicing in a newly found Saviour. Mr. Turner held several meetings in Portessie, which were attended with similar manifestations of the Spirit’s power…(page34)

One night James Turner, during his second visit, asked five minutes of silent prayer, and during that silence the Holy Ghost came like a mighty rushing wind and filled the place. James Turner broke the silence by saying, “Now we have the power,” and there was a mighty work. At another meeting the same thing was repeated, and I am sure that at least there would be twenty cases of real conversion, proved to be so by long years of fruit-bearing. (page148 Revival Power and Revival People)

Buckie Mr. Turner’s first service in Buckie, was held in the Free Church, on Sabbath evening, 12th February, on which occasion, about fifteen hundred were present, and tokens of the Spirit’s power were not wanting. The following night he again preached in the same place, which was once more filled to the door. A great degree of excitement prevailed at this second meeting… Some individuals having been stricken down under strong convictions, were carried out in a helpless state, and this raised such a tumult among the multitude assembled, both within and without the building, that all order was immediately at an end, and Mr. Turner had no longer any control over the audience. It was in vain that he urged them to be calm and allow the Lord’s work to go quietly forward. The commotion, once raised, could not be so easily allayed, and the upshot of the matter was, that Mr. Turner had to close the meeting and adjourn to the United Presbyterian Church, which, to the credit of all concerned, was at once thrown open to him, and was soon filled…

…the meeting which was then convened, was blessed in a very remarkable manner. He continued to labour there for some days, along with the minister of the church. They usually addressed the meetings alternately, while at intervals, some of those present were called on to engage in prayer, and such a work of grace resulted from these services as has seldom been seen among any people. (page35)

Portgordon James Turner wrote to a friend: “Portgordon, famed for drunkenness, has been brought down. The Lord sent me to it ten days ago, that was on Saturday week. I spoke that night but not a move. It was a hard night’s work, and I gave it up at twelve o’clock. I called a meeting next morning at eight o’clock, only a few came, but I carried on the meeting the whole day. At six in the evening, the house filled and many could not get in. The Spirit was largely poured out, and many were smitten down under the mighty power of God. Those who were nearest the door were carried out; others had to lie till they got power to rise. I stayed among them a week, and we had the Spirit’s presence the whole time. Country people came down to scoff and to make sport of the work of God, but painful convictions seized upon many of these also, and they would fain have left the meeting but they could not walk. They staggered like people drunk, and had to be helped into the meeting again. Some of them continued all night in this state, and a cart came to take them home. O that they may all find peace in believing!” (page 38)

Banff (from Revival Power and Revival People – page 73) On the night between Saturday the 10th and Sabbath the 11th March, the meeting lasted from seven in the evening till about six of the following morning. Those who spoke or prayed on that occasion felt unusual freedom and enlargement.

About one o’clock a spiritual power began to move the dense mass which crowded every part of the large chapel. Nine young men prayed in succession with great power and fervency, before there could be any opportunity for praise or exhortation. In their prayers, they touched upon their own personal case, and the cases of their companions who had either found peace or were struggling hard after it. The scene was heart-melting exceedingly. There was weeping in every part of the house. Sobs and subdued shrieks, with a few prostrations, imposed a fearful solemnity. Men, women, and children prayed in succession, in a manner altogether unusual. Young people wept upon each other’s necks, while they clung together in clusters of six or seven in a group. Yet there was no confusion; all was natural and peculiarly affecting. A spiritual power was grappling with saint and sinner. Still there were some hardened spectators looking on, who tried at the time, and afterwards, to turn the whole into ridicule.

It is, however, believed by all who are qualified to judge, that hundreds got saving good to their souls on that night. Many of the young men and others, who had for months been seeking the Lord, were introduced into liberty, and publicly gave thanks. The steadfastness and progress of these converts, during a period now of three months, confirm the conviction of the amount of good accomplished. As yet there has hardly been such a thing as falling away on the part of such as were believed to be converted.

While revival manifestations and power accompanied such as James Turner, it is very important to note that such things were not restricted to such an individual’s presence.

To illustrate this,

Banffshire was moved by the revival as early as September 1859 in such places as Deskford, Portessie, Findochty and other fishing villages where “no clerical agency, no missionary appeals, no lay harangues” were the origin of the extraordinary movement.

James Turner did not visit this area until February 1860.

And a local man from Portessie reported that:

 About fifty of the men were so full of faith, and had such clear minds and simple hearts that, for about four years, with them it was only to ask and receive – even three of them were sufficient to obtain the blessing. Three of them have sometimes gone to a corner of the hall where the worst people were, and have had the house filled with power. (Revival Power and Revival People page 148)


When the representatives of the newly formed Evangelistic Association for Scotland arrived on the Moray Coast to investigate the lasting effects of this revival, they ‘visited some of the fruits of the last awakening’, but also found that another wave had begun at Portgordon, and reported ‘the work commenced here about the beginning of the year’. (1863)

 This time it did not attract the attention of the local press, and only one account appears headed “Portessie, Findochty and Portknockie

In the second place, of 600 inhabitants…the work began among the children … A minister was invited to come and hold a series of religious meetings. The power of God was manifest in the conversion of souls. Backsliders were reclaimed and believer were revived. Meetings were held for some weeks and about the end of the year (1862) the Spirit was poured out in the following way: A number of young men held a prayer meeting among the rocks and such was the deep and overpowering emotion they were under that they determined to go through their village and to speak from house to house, and to invite them out to prayer. Several joined them, and they went through the village singing a psalm. The children determined that they should hold a prayer meeting themselves, as they were not allowed into the other prayer meeting on account of want of room. They went to the walls of a Church yet unfinished. After a time, they all came under deep conviction of their sinful state, and several cried out in agony of mind. With such strong crying, tears, and in ‘bitterness’ were they seized, that the noise of their distress reached the houses. Those of them who knew the truth prayed for the unconverted among them and then went and urged them to receive Christ. These exhortations were so blessed of God that almost everyone became affected and a general spirit of prayer was poured out. From this place, they went to a hall already filled with grown up people. There also the Lord wrought graciously in pouring out such a spirit of concern that the whole place became affected. On the following day, some of the young men went to an adjacent village and there also the same work was manifested. Work stopped for 16 days in the area.

A boy of 8 years of age once, under strong convictions, spoke in the meeting, and his words made such a deep impression that more were convicted and converted than on any other occasion. He still continues to speak, but not with his former power.

In short, the whole place professes to be converted, with the exception of five or six persons who keep close together and apart from the others. They fear contact with God’s people, knowing that some who, in their boldness, went to drag their children away from the meeting have been arrested on the spot, and seized with overwhelming terrors, have cried out for mercy. One woman thus arrested remained in the place of meeting all night in prayer, and did not leave till she found rest in Christ…

A lad who had an impediment in his speech, when converted, all of a sudden began to pray with much fervour and fluency, and even addressed meetings without any indication of his defect. This was remarked by all, but is by no means a singular case. (page 243-245 Children in Revival by Harry Sprange)


J.C. writing from Fochabers:

About 1864, I visited Findochty along with another brother for the purpose of seeing how the Christian fishermen got on, for we were told by two sisters who had visited shortly before, that this village was overshadowed with the Holy Ghost, and we found it so in very deed. We had never seen anything like the power that was here manifested in prayer; and that by illiterate – but pious fishermen. It had a most humbling effect on me. The people were gathered together to hear us speak for the Master, but speak I could not. My brother spoke and spoke well, and the people were blessed under him; but I could do nothing, I was nothing. I saw myself with all my education and talents as nothing, and less than nothing; and could, and did, sit at their feet, and learn from them of Jesus. (page 223 Revival power and Revival People)


The determination and self-sacrifice shown by the people (Portessie Methodists) in their endeavours to build a place of worship did not interfere with the Church’s highest work. Everything was regarded as subordinate to the conversion of sinners, and the progress of the new erection was constantly associated with the gathering of living stones into the spiritual temple. But a more extensive work was desired, and this was sought in the use of the ordinary and appointed means.

“We did not,” said Mr. Major, “send for some eminently useful man to come and do our work. We believed that God would hear our prayers, and save souls by our labours.”

“Accordingly, (from 1864) for two years and three months, more than forty of the members, according to agreement, met at the throne of grace for private prayers, at a given hour, on a certain day in every week. The blessing seemed to linger, and faith was tried by two years’ waiting. A number of weekly prayer meetings was then resolved upon, and sometimes six and sometimes ten were held in one week, and all the cry was, “Wilt Thou not revive us again?”

“At length the answer came, and so powerfully that even devout men were, astonished. In the beginning of December, 1866, every praying man and woman seemed conscious of an unusual degree of grace attending the Word. A few weeks after this, God poured out His Spirit upon both Portessie and the adjoining village of Findochty in an extraordinary manner, and many persons were awakened and converted.

Meetings were held in both places every evening, conducted for the most part by the fishermen themselves, some of whom were remarkably qualified for exhorting the people, and expounding scriptural truth, and had besides, a most wonderful gift in prayer.

It was just at this crisis of the work that the day arrived for opening the new chapel, and then it seemed as if the prayers of all the former years were answered at once; as if the blessing had been delayed and praying faith allowed to wait, that the answer, when it came, might be more striking and memorable. God showed that He took the place which pious hands had reared amid so many anxieties and sacrifices.

From the first hour of its opening, He began to do His own blessed work of saving souls in it, and thus to “make the place of His feet glorious.” As at the dedication of Solomon’s temple, the fire from heaven descended in answer to the monarch’s prayers, in sight of the assembled multitude; so at the dedication of this humbler sanctuary, the baptism of the Holy Ghost and of fire was given; the cloud of the Divine presence filled the place, and multitudes of precious souls, as they were turned from darkness to light, were led to feel,

“The Lord is in this place, this is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”

“It was with feelings of profound gratitude and holy joy that the people called Methodists, in Portessie, assembled on Sabbath morning, December 23, 1866, for the opening of their new chapel. They had occasion for such emotions, not merely in the completing of their undertaking, but in the fact that their prayers for another ‘revival’ seemed about to be answered. A deep religious awakening had already commenced, and it was known that some of the most abandoned sinners were under conviction. The prayer meeting in the fishermen’s hall had been largely attended, and to the Methodists chiefly had been assigned the work of conducting them.

An hour before the morning service, a prayer meeting was held in the hall. The people came from all parts of the neighbourhood, and some from villages several miles distant.

At eleven o’clock, the chapel was densely crowded by a thoughtful and devout congregation, and it was soon apparent that the praying people were accompanying the Word with earnest supplications. They did not pray in vain. Whilst they waited and expected, the answer was given. It was a season of overwhelming influence. The Word came with power and many were pricked in their hearts. Amongst a people ordinarily quiet and undemonstrative during divine worship, some trembled on account of sin, while from others arose exclamations of joy. Then a short adjournment followed, and an experience meeting announced for two o’clock.

At two o’clock the chapel was again filled in every part. With great clearness and unction the people of God gave their testimony to the power of saving grace, almost every one attributing their conversion to the revival that had taken place six years previously, and related some of the trials and temptations which they had since been enabled to overcome. Thus, the influence of the morning was intensified, the unsaved more clearly realized their alien and lost condition, until at length their misery became insupportable. One and another began to cry in the bitterness of their spirit, and soon from all parts of the chapel arose the cry of anxious souls. Thus the “experience meeting” changed its character, being forthwith turned into a “penitent meeting,” which lasted several hours. The whole congregation was engaged in prayer, some for themselves, some for their relatives who were seeking the Lord, and some for the whole village and neighbourhood. Not a few were enabled to rejoice in a newly found Saviour, and to testify for the first time of the sense of God’s forgiving love.

In the evening, the crowd that gathered filled the chapel and the fishermen’s hall, and in both congregations the scenes of the former part of the day were repeated. These meetings were necessarily continued to a late hour, for the people could not be persuaded to leave, and it seemed cruel to urge them to do so, labouring under the deep distress which burdened so many.

Besides, to a population composed entirely of fishermen, there was nothing unsuitable in the late hours. Their periods of labour and rest are determined not by day and night, light and darkness; but by the ebb and flow of the tides. It is not an unusual thing to see the entire population, both young and old, stirring in the middle of the night in pursuit of their ordinary calling; and if, when required, they followed their secular pursuits regardless of the hour, no wonder though it seemed reasonable to them to do this when the salvation of their souls was at stake.

The tea meeting on the following evening proved to be a sort of Christian festival in connection with the opening of the chapel, and ministers of the different denominations were present to offer their congratulations. But the customary speeches were felt by nearly all to be out of place. Many anxious souls were there asking what they must do to be saved, and there was no relish for the ordinary topics.

After a short address from each of the speakers, a prayer meeting was commenced. Several persons exhorted the penitent and unconverted, who at length were invited to come to a spot set apart for those seeking peace with God.

The next moment was one of intense interest: more than twenty persons, chiefly men, pressed through the crowd, and came forward to the place appointed. There was the young man of twenty, and the old man of seventy years of age, bowing in penitence before God, and earnestly pleading for forgiveness in the name of Jesus. And ever and anon one would rise up and tell before the whole congregation how God had revealed His pardoning love to their soul.

The meeting was thrilled to hear such testimonies from those who had never before spoken a word about religious things. An amazement like that of the multitude on the day of Pentecost was felt, as some of the most unlikely characters in the neighbourhood stood up to disclose the wonderful works of God. There were many others in all parts of the chapel unable to get forward for the press, seeking the Lord and following the prayers and exhortations of believers who were near them. Some who had come only because it was a tea meeting, and who would never have dreamt of being found in a prayer meeting, were arrested by the Spirit’s mighty power and influence.

Several of these convicted formalists, who were prominent office-bearers in neighbouring churches, were constrained to cry aloud for mercy. The work was felt to be entirely of God; but little of human instrumentality was used at all, and that of the simplest kind. The power to pray had been given to God’s people, and the answer to praying faith had been vouchsafed in this outpouring of the Holy Ghost. It was a season never to be forgotten by those present, and when the meeting was at length concluded, many small companies might be seen in the moonlight wending their way homeward by the sea-side, to some neighbouring village; but amongst them all, there was only one theme of conversation – they glorified God, saying, “We never saw it in this fashion”.

This blessed work continued with ever increased power for some time and spread to other places on the coast. The Rev. Mr. Major, who laboured incessantly, wrote respecting it thus –

The tremendous power which marked this revival was seen in a variety of ways. The excitement was intense. For nearly three weeks, men forgot their worldly business, and attended to that of saving their souls. Meetings were held day and night with only three or four hours’ intermission. Persons who went to them resolved to seek their souls’ salvation quietly, were often so powerfully affected, that in spite of their resolution they cried aloud for salvation.

Men, who for hours stood with their hands in their pockets coolly surveying the scene, in one moment would be pierced with strong conviction of sin, and would literally roar aloud for mercy. It was no unusual thing for persons to go to bed to sleep away their misery, but unable to do so, rise and come to the meetings in an agony of distress.

Nothing will explain these scenes except the principle of Divine power at work. I have preached two years and a-half to the people, and have yet to learn that they are more excitable than other people. I have never heard shouting or ranting in the ordinary means of grace, and I am afraid many would think us rather dull. Yet, during the period just mentioned, scores of persons would be crying for mercy at the same time, and this too after hours of quiet waiting, and with as much suddenness as a thunder-shower. (page 164-167 Revival Power and Revival People)


“Well, the work thus happily begun went on, and in a very short time the Chapel was filled with members, and great blessings have from time to time been received by them – perhaps it would be more correct to say that many special times of blessing have been vouchsafed to them.

One of them about three years ago (1871) – the time that Mr. McDonald writes of in the papers you have – a mighty work broke out then, and many were the slain of the Lord. I mention it specially from its connection with the work of grace which commenced in Portgordon at that time also. (1871) There was a girl belonging to Portgordon, in Portessie a servant. During the awakening, she was laid down by the mighty power of God in a state of complete prostration. While in that state she received a message direct from God, through the Saviour, to Portgordon. As soon as she recovered consciousness she was led by her sister and another young woman to Portgordon – led by them literally, for she was quite blind; as completely so as the one of old who had to be led to Damascus – and it was not until she had delivered her message that the power of vision was restored.


“WILLIAM SMITH writes: This year, 1871, begins with a descent of the Holy Ghost upon the people of Findochty. The first was a stirring amongst God’s people. The next was a desire with the ungodly for the means of grace. In a very little, many became anxious and by-and-bye got savingly converted to God. The Spirit wrought mightily, and many souls were saved. Night after night, the meetings were crowded; addresses were delivered, and prayers offered from many a heart that every soul in the village might receive the blessing.

The work got on favourably. After the meetings were dismissed from the church, the anxious met in private houses, and persons interested met with them and gave them suitable directions, which they received, and by the power of the Holy Ghost, were enabled to lay hold by a simple faith on Jesus as their Saviour. Indeed, it was a special time of God’s power, every day sounded forth its new song of praise to the God of love for souls saved. This blessed state of things continued until young and old professed to find peace through a Saviour that was willing and able to save them. There were many striking and wonderful manifestations connected with this blessed work of grace; but, thanks be to God, it all bore His own fingermarks, and the fruits were peace, love, joy.

One thing especially that took all considerate Christians by surprise was the dance. It was never for once dreamed of, and at first seemed to many very unseemly. But a prayerful consideration of the source whence it sprung, and the spirit in which it was performed, and the fruits which followed and was manifested by those under the power, at once excluded all doubts regarding its propriety as an act of worship acceptable in the sight of God.

Its first appearance was among the children, and then among persons more advanced in life, and perhaps stranger still, many advanced in the Christian life also came under its power, and in many cases irresistible power. And the persons thus engaged showed symptoms of the greatest joy – and truly their very appearance bespoke them to be under a high divine impulse. This state of things still continues, but not to the same extent. The power of God is still with the people, and some are visiting the place every night from other places, and generally the Lord blesses them, and they go home rejoicing with joy unspeakable and full of glory.

An impression came that they must visit the neighbouring villages. Accordingly, arrangements were made for an organized demonstration. They got dressed for the occasion, and started with banners waving, all of them bearing suitable inscriptions. The day was fine – the weather being mild for the season – and the long train marched on to the westward, each with uplifted heart shouting forth with all their might the praises of that loving Saviour who had so filled, and blessed their souls with His love. I think I shall never forget that day from an incident closely connected to myself personally – my own child coming to a saving acquaintance of the truth as it is in Jesus. That, and circumstances connected therewith, made an impression on my mind that eternity will not efface.

When the procession reached Portessie they formed into a circle at the east end, and at the request of the brethren stayed in that position for some time until they got ready to join our ranks. This being done, we again got marching orders, and away to Buckie we went, our people in the front, and the Portessie people in the rear, with our banners raised, and singing as we went along. We soon came to Buckie, halting for a short time while some bread was distributed to the young people and others also; Mr. Mitchell bearing all the expense of this entertainment.

After this we went on through part of Buckie; onlookers were very much affected, and we learned afterwards that a most powerful effect was produced. After sometime we turned our course homewards, the people all the time praising the Lord; and, as they did so, the power of God upon them waxed stronger and stronger amongst them. Many were overcome by the mighty power of God, and began to exhibit such manifestations as we had never before seen.

Men and women were to be seen in numbers, from one end of the village to the other, who, to a stranger, would have appeared to be under the influence of drink. All appeared to be moved by one great but common impulse, and with a quick pace their long irregular train moved on, multitudes now having joined them without any preparation, dressed just as for household work – and thus they marched along singing out of an overflowing heart the praises of God.

As soon as they reached Portessie, the people of God in that place caught the flame and came under the same power. Onwards to Buckie they went, and every one, male and female, preached the gospel; both warned the sinner, and invited them to Jesus. (page 129-130 Revival Power and Revival People)

“J.C. writes:

In 1871, I got a very pressing invitation to come and help them at Buckie, and I was only too glad to respond.

I went on the Saturday evening, and we had a good meeting, a very good meeting. It was quite evident from the solemn countenances before me that the truth had been taking hold of the minds of the people for some time, and from the prayers of the people one could see that the blessing was nigh at hand. Several of the local brethren, along with the East Coast Missionary, and the late James Riach (a Prince in Israel) had been labouring zealously, and with good effect, for it now only required the slightest fanning to put all in a blaze.

In the afternoon of Sabbath we had a precious meeting in the East Coast Mission Hall. While addressing them, I was three times interrupted by people, grown up, stout, hardy men and women, crying for mercy to their souls. I was quite a stranger to this sort of thing, but I was only too glad to stand still and dumb until they got their cry out, for I knew it was the work of the blessed Spirit. Whether these tidings got to the ears of the clergy I know not, but one of the Established clergy appeared at the evening meeting, for what purpose we knew not then, but we were not kept long in ignorance.

While the address was being given, one woman got up saying she could wait no longer, and she very intelligently prayed to God to have mercy upon her, and save her soul; that she had long professed him but had never possessed Him. This woman sat down blessed, and I believe saved. While she was praying, his reverence seemed very uncomfortable.

Thinking my former address was too arousing, and that I was somewhat to blame for harrowing up the feelings of this female, as soon as she was done I changed my text and subject, but, had only spoken a few sentences when other two, a man and a woman, both at once cried beseechingly for God to be merciful, and save their souls. This was more than the rev. gentleman could stand, and he got up and endeavoured to interrupt.

By this time both were about finishing, and some friends remonstrated with him not to interfere with the meeting, saying that he would grieve the Holy Ghost; and for fear the people should hear the bantering between him and them, I struck up the chorus of a hymn. During the singing of this hymn, or chorus rather, I witnessed such a sight as I trust my eyes shall never behold again.

Those of his people who were in the body of the hall wished him to get a hearing, while those of us who were near enough to hear his arguments, would not allow him to interfere, and kept on singing the chorus. His people were up standing on the tops of the seats, gesticulating dreadfully, and others beside them were pulling them down.

As soon as I could get the chance (for I had always to keep the chorus going), I said,

“You see, Mr.___, what havoc you have made of the work of God.”

“Ah, but is it the work of God?” was his reply. “It is nothing but witchcraft and hysteria.”

“If it’s witchcraft ant hysteria,” I replied, “the sooner you are out of it the better; but if it’s the work of God you will find yourself in the awkward position of fighting against God; and for His sake go home, for I’ll sing this chorus till midnight, in order to prevent you getting a hearing.”

A minute or two afterwards he vanished, but his baneful influence he left behind. The work of God seemed marred, every soul was downcast. We appealed to the common sense of the people whether it was right or not to allow this man to try to stop the work, merely because he thought it was witchcraft and hysteria. Like the disciples of old he would rebuke poor blind Bartimaeus for seeking mercy. I asked the people if they would consider it right or fair for the East Coast missionary (Mr. Grant) to go up to this man’s church and interfere with his services, the more especially that he was never sent for. Then I asked those who were to follow Mr.____ to go, and those who wished to follow Christ to remain.

All sat down except one lad, who went out, but not to remain, as will he seen presently. We commenced that meeting again, but with little apparent effect, every soul seemed wounded, thus Jesus was pierced in the house of His friends. One prayed after another, but there was no power. I prayed, but I might as well not have done so. At last an old woman, Janet Murray or Duncan, prayed in her mother tongue, but with such plainness of speech, and close dealing with God, as I had never heard before. God answered this prayer at once. I was much blessed, so was James Riach, who told me she was one of James Turner’s converts, as he was one himself, that he had watched ever since she was converted, and that her life was in every way consistent; to use his own words, “she never took a step back”.

The meeting was somewhat better now, but our faith for the night was exhausted, and Mr. Grant proposed closing, to which we were all agreeable, for none of us saw any good of continuing it any longer. Now, however, was God’s time to work, and when He works, who dare hinder?

The blessing was pronounced just about twelve o’clock at night, and the parting hymn being sung, when the mighty power of God came down, as a mighty rushing wind; never shall I forget it, nor do I wish to forget. Of all the sights I ever looked upon in this world, to me it was the most solemn and interesting.

I saw about forty men and women all at once, at the pitch of their voices, weeping, as they cried for mercy; the men, strong men, bowed down, or rather bent back, for their hands were outstretched upwards, with their faces, full of agony, looking heavenwards, and their backs bending backwards. Such was their desire for mercy, each called for himself or herself; and all at one time, none heeding the prayer of his neighbour.

To the world, to those of the world there, this must have appeared a Babel, but one feature I noticed in this work was that every one who thus humbled himself or herself to seek it openly, generally sat down rejoicing or satisfied that they had got the blessing.

Talk of an after-meeting, this was one led by the Holy Ghost; no need for other workers, although there were eight or nine of us there, willing to work, or direct anxious souls, our services were not required. The Lord seemed to say, “Stand aside and behold My glory”.

For a considerable time this went on without the slightest intermission, and without interruption, for none of us dare put a hand to it to guide it the one way or the other. We were in no fear of the Ark of God, although it seemed to rock to and fro, and to suffer from apparent confusion and want of order, we were all fully persuaded this was the work of God, and it was perfectly safe in his own keeping.

By-and-bye there was a calm in the meeting, when a young man (a seaman) stood up, and now there was perfect silence in the hall, and all eyes were fixed upon him when he stretched out his hands heavenward, as if imploring God’s mercy, but sat down without uttering one word. Again he stood up, and did the same, with the same result, his face indicating a soul on the borders of despair. The third time he stood up, he got his mouth opened, and I will give you his own words as nearly as I can remember them:-

“Oh God, hae mercy upon my soul! Oh Lord, will ye no hae mercy upon my soul? I’m the guiltiest sinner in a’ Buckie. Lord, will you no save my soul? Oh Lord, save my soul! Lord, I have scoffed at yer work for the last sax weeks. Lord, ye ken, we gaed four o’ us th’ day to Portessie tae scoff at yer blessed work, we took four glass o’ whisky tae steel our hearts against Thee. The Lord bless the lad that spak tae me aboot my soul at the door o’ the chapel, but Lord, ye ken its nae saved for a’ that. Lord, will ye nae save my soul?”

His cry, poor fellow, was piteous. It was enough almost to break one’s heart to hear it. We were all broken-down, and we all shed tears of compassion for the poor fellow in distress, and sent up our silent petitions along with his, that God might be merciful to his soul. He sat down without relief, and with a face black with despair.

A hymn was struck up. We were well acquainted with speaking to anxious souls, but none of us felt inclined to put our hands to this work, or to go and speak with him. But before the hymn was done he rose up again, and this time it was to praise his God for mercy received, and to testify, as he did testify to every one there, that God had been gracious and had saved his soul.

He preached for half-an-hour, and during his speaking a young man was seen to come in from outside the door and take his seat at his feet. This young man (a mason) was weeping like a child, and we all marvelled, for he was a scoffer, and had withstood us all. He had been preached to, and warned of his evil conduct, and spoken to lovingly by our beloved brother Riach, now in glory, but all apparently without effect; yet under the preaching of this new-born child of God, who was yet a few minutes before a child of the devil, he was broken down, confessed his sin, and professed to find peace. Shortly after this, the meeting broke up at twenty minutes to four o’clock, a.m.

This was a long meeting, from 7p.m. till 4a.m., yet none of us wearied so much as we have done during one and a half hours of the dry orthodox preaching we too often get from some of the clergy, thank God not from all. (page 224-226 Revival Power and Revival People)


James Riach went down to Portessie to scoff, but was soon after brought to a saving knowledge of the truth through the instrumentality of James Turner;

Perhaps the most notable of all Mr. Turner’s spiritual children was the now sainted James Riach. “One,” says Mr. Green, U.P. Minister, Buckie, “of the most Christ-like men, in humble life, I have ever been privileged to know. What the late Robert Murray M’Cheyne was among ministers, James Riach was among the fishermen of our Scottish North-East Coast.” (page 188 Revival Power and Revival People)

JAMES RIACH   writes                                                        BUCKIE, 4th February, 1871.

“DEAR BROTHER C__, I received yours. Am sorry to have been so long in writing, but I have been very busy since you left. God is still working in a wonderful manner in Buckie, and many are inquiring the way to be saved.

I do not know how to begin telling you about God’s marvellous workings in this place, but amidst all the reproach and ridicule of men and ministers, He is still working in great power. Our great loss is the want of a place large enough. You will be astonished to hear that I was asked to preach in the Free Church on Wednesday night. I wanted the church into our own hands but they would not give it. Still I went and preached, and after I had done so, Mr. S__ dismissed the meeting.

I am almost knocked up. Tell brother H. I would need him and yourself; for what could God not do by us when filled with the Holy Ghost. Had we a town-hall large enough we would have a glorious work, but we must submit. There are three or four meetings in different places every night; the mission hall crowded to overflowing, and many outside. On Sabbath night, I had to preach on the street to Papists and all sorts, and had this, that, and the other objection thrown in my teeth, and you would have wondered how God gave me a word to them in return. The Papists are wild, but I believe the truth has laid hold of some of them, although I have not heard of any decided case yet. I cannot describe the state of this place. ___ is even bolder than myself – has spoken several times, and has got the right thing I assure you, and is manifesting it, too, in the best of all ways – the daily life. O that every soul were saved! I hope you are having faith in Peterhead. If brother H__ were here, he would get plenty to do. God’s people have been greatly blessed. Love to all.—Yours in Jesus,”JAMES RIACH.” (page 196 Revival Power and Revival People)

“During the twelve years of his (James Riach’s) Christian life he was meek and lowly, often preferring others to himself. But at the same time, he was bold and valiant for the truth, always supporting his arguments by the Holy Scriptures, which he studied much, digesting their glorious truths, and putting them in practice in every-day life. He was remarkable for reproving sin wherever he saw it, either in the drunkard or profane swearer, in the liar or Sabbath-breaker. It mattered not how high in rank the offender might be, he was sure of reproof; and that in accordance with Scriptural warrant…

A detailed account of all his works of faith and labours of love would fill a large volume; as in a word it may be said of him truly, his meat and drink was doing the will of God. With flesh and blood he conferred not when the work of God required his help. The sick he visited, speaking to them words of kindness and love, reading the Scriptures, and praying with and for them, and often by the couch of the dying did he cheer the child of God, in passing through the dark valley of the shadow of death.

On the other hand, he fervently urged unbelievers, neglecters of the great salvation, to flee from the wrath to come, and pointed them to the sinner’s refuge – the only hope of man – the Saviour.

Then again, his labours in preaching the word have seldom, if ever, been surpassed by any poor man who had his own and family’s bread to earn. Like the rest of his seafaring brethren, ‘he got his bread at the peril of his life’. But when driven by storm or stress of weather to the Caithness coast, if in health, he was sure to be testifying for Christ in the streets, or lanes, or any place provided for the purpose; however humble. Nor did he take any thought whether it was Sabbath or Saturday – just as he was, in heavy sea-boots and fisher garb – he stood up and spoke the words of life to listening hundreds. Dunbeath, Helmsdale, Portmahommack, Lossiemouth, all in this manner heard from his lips the Gospel of the grace of God.

At the time of the herring fishing at Peterhead, when multitudes of fishermen were collected from all parts of the Scottish coast, his noble form would often be seen standing erect amidst thousands who were eagerly listening to the earnest pleadings of that sweet manly voice as it tenderly said – “Come, come to the Saviour,” or “Behold the Lamb of God!”

Away too among the rocky shores of the western isles of Scotland his voice was often heard above the waves of the mighty Atlantic during the time of the Lewis fishing. In the moral wastes of the Island of Barra, where ignorance and superstition reign triumphant, his voice was often heard like another John the Baptist in the wilderness of Judea, crying – “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” – and frequently, in all these places, mighty power accompanied the word spoken, so that many believed on the Lord to the saving of their souls.

One reason of his success was his unshaken faith in God, and his entire dependence on the mighty life-giving Spirit to carry home with power the truths which proceeded out of his mouth.

Riach held office in the Wesleyan Church in Portessie as a local preacher and class-leader. As a preacher he was well received, his discourses were full of Gospel truth – the threatenings and promises of God were fully declared by him, but he gloried in the cross, in Christ’s atoning work and peace-speaking blood. As a class-leader he was kind and affectionate, but withal faithful – giving encouragement when needed, reproof where required, and was always ready with a word in season to them that were weary.

For several days previous to his departure from this world, it was noticed that he was much more in earnest than usual. You could see that his whole soul was in his discourses. All unknown to himself or his fellow townsmen, he was fast ripening for glory, and about to be gathered in. Little did those who saw the stalwart form of James Riach going down to his boat that day, in the full vigour of manhood, think that they would never see it more. Yet so it was, and as he walked along with his lines under his arm he sang at the top of his voice—

‘There’s a beautiful land on high, To its glories I fain would fly,…’

Thus James Riach went down to die, though he knew it not – singing the song of the ‘Beautiful Land,’ of which he was so soon to become an inhabitant. During the time they were at sea he talked to his crew as usual of the things that pertain to the kingdom, and sung its songs, but as they were returning home from the fishing ground on the night of the 4th of October, 1871, while the boat was ‘tacking,’ he fell overboard. Nothing, it seems, could be done for him, and the pitiless sea closed for ever over all that was mortal of the much-loved, much-respected James Riach.

“And I have often thought,” said a fisherman, while speaking of this sad event, “how strange it was that his body was never gotten. Now, I think it’s well that it was not so, for so great a hold did he have of the folk here, that I fear they would have been in danger of paying almost idolatrous respect to his body, and to the place too where it was laid.” (page 193-196 Revival Power and Revival People)


P0RTGORDON Methodist Church

On Feb.1874, the chapel was opened.

“That night the God that hears prayer remembered the many petitions that lay before him from that garret, and the many tears that he had bottled up from it, and said –

“Let the blessing fall,” and glory be to His name! it did fall, and that at least ten souls found the Saviour, and a good few who left us at the time of the division came back and joined our little band – of 56 – saying that they could not longer stay away.

It had been resolved to hold a week of special services, and Sunday (the opening day) was the first of them, with results as stated. But by the end of the week, such a blessed revival had broken out that it was thought advisable to leave the chapel open night and day, and the place was continuously filled with seeking souls, four and six being every night brought to the feet of Jesus, many of them those who had stood out against the former works of grace.

A great work was also done among the young, many of whom received the grace of God in truth. We have a class of these young converts on trial, till they come of age to be received unto full membership. This class you saw for yourself, and heard them tell their experience, so I need not say more about them but that their walk and conversation become their profession.

Dear Mr. Purves had gone to America before the opening of the chapel, and our present minister, a noble soldier of the cross, was with us at that time, and laboured hard in his Master’s service. When our meetings were brought to a close we had sacrament, and during that week our roll of membership had risen from 56 to 103 full members, and what is more, there is only one or two out of that number who cannot take part in a meeting, all of them converted men, and it, can be humbly testified – ascribing all the glory to God – that they are burning and shining lights, and the one that was employed to kindle them was that dear man of God, James Turner; and often yet in our class-meetings is his name mentioned, and the blessed year 1860 referred to, as the time when the work of God, the reign of glace, was inaugurated in the soul, and thanks given to the God of all grace for what He has wrought in individual hearts, and also in our little town since that time.” (page 235 Revival Power and Revival People)

Methodist Recorder, 20th March, 1874

PORTESSIE – The wonderful work of grace at Portessie and the adjoining villages still continues and spreads.

Ever since the opening of the new chapel at Portgordon it has been steadily enlarging and growing. Almost every day there have been new and clear cases of conversion. Among others, an elder of a neighbouring Presbyterian church has been heard crying for mercy in the prayer meeting.

Many persons from Buckie have caught the flame of revival at Portgordon and Portessie, and the fire has broken out among them at home. In the house of the Methodist class-leader at Buckie, many scores have during these last few days found pardon. So deep was the anxiety for salvation throughout the town, (Buckie is a place containing several thousand souls), that the Presbyterian churches were constrained to throw open their doors, and the unwonted sound of sinners in distress crying loudly for mercy have been heard there.

Many who have been railing at the work, are now unwillingly compelled to own that it is of God and not of man. I could fill pages with further accounts of the glorious movement.

Yesterday (March 15), -will never be forgotten at Portessie. Even at the morning service, the church rang with cries, and rejoicings, and hallelujahs. Such wide-spread and profound anxiety for salvation, I never saw before. We ascribe all glory to God, who by his quickening Spirit has wrought so mightily among us.    W. B. L.

A few days later the same gentleman again writes-

PORTESSIE, March 30, 1874. – At our communion service yesterday, the results of the recent revival were very manifest. A considerable number sat down with us at the Lord’s Supper for the first time, and the season was one never to be forgotten. There would, I think, be few, if any, short of 300 persons who thus solemnly joined together in showing forth the Lord’s death, according to His Divine ordinance. Never, I believe, was such a sight witnessed in Portessie chapel before.

A fellowship meeting followed in the afternoon, when one after another of the young converts, in homely but touching terms, told of their new-found peace, and of the mighty change which God had wrought in their heart.

In the evening the chapel was densely crowded, and the power of God to save was felt to be present by the waiting worshippers. Altogether it was a day of grace, a season of spiritual refreshing from the Lord.

At Portgordon, the new chapel, which is about the same size as the chapel here, is rapidly filling with regular hearers. During the few weeks since the opening, many have been born again of the Holy Spirit.  Methodist Recorder. (page 170 Revival Power and Revival People)


 In his book, “Glory in the Glen”, Tom Lennie writes of a revival in 1880 in the area of Portessie, Findochty and Portknockie.

“It was reported among those (active in prayer) that they had on several occasions been overshadowed by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then as if out of the blue, that same power came down on the whole village like the rushing of a mighty wind…

On the streets, young men staggering under the influence of the new wine, their eyes filled with tears of joy, and their voices hoarse with suppressed emotion…

For some days all manual labour was laid aside by the arresting hand of the Lord…

In Portknockie, meetings were held in the Free church every night for six weeks, and thereafter in houses throughout the whole district…

“Glory in the Glen” also describes the revival work in the Peterhead area – particularly associated with the coming of the Salvation Army and also the preaching of north east fishermen

“another revival started that was the means of bringing many of our wanderers home and of stirring up the dry bones and the lukewarm ones to do their first works again…”(page 204)

“There was a revival movement of a very genuine type among the east-coast fishermen… crowded meetings, large open-air meetings…tremendous enthusiasm…many added to the Lord” (page 205 Glory in the Glen)


There were a number of local revivals along the north east coast associated with the visits of evangelist, James McKendrick  – and his co-worker James MacFarlane.

Extracts are from the pages of “James McKendrick” – Pioneer series – Gospel Tract Publications – (formerly published as “Seen and Heard”)


In 1893 James McKendrick had meetings in Gamrie and Crovie, then  in Fraserburgh.


“For six weeks we saw evidences of the mighty saving grace of God in that place (Fraserburgh). Having promised to go elsewhere we were compelled to leave, though it was plain that our work there was not done, but only well begun. In a few weeks, MacFarlane was able to return, and for about six weeks a time of great ingathering was experienced.

The blessing extended to Broadsea, and an unprecedented wave of blessing fell on the place, where over a hundred people were truly converted to God and the character of the place completely changed.” (page 93,94 James McKendrick – Pioneer series – Gospel Tract Publications)


“in a short time the soul’s salvation was the prevailing subject of conversation in Rosehearty, and daily some were added to the saved. The congregation so increased that neither church nor hall could accommodate them” (page 102)

“A most remarkable feature of our mission in that place was the number of married people and aged people that were saved (page 103)

“We left Rosehearty after seven happy weeks. Our farewell was pathetic, as so many old people bade us good-bye with tears of gratitude running down their faces. Over a hundred married people were truly saved, besides about twenty unmarried. Most were over thirty years of age, while a good number were over fifty.  I have never known such an experience before nor since.” (page 107)


“At the date of our visit about twelve years had elapsed since any special blessing had been realised in the place. Many young men and women were growing up in a careless manner…

Having met numbers of the fishermen at other ports, I knew that many of them were fitted to take part in prayer… another grand old Christian veteran, George Smith, better known as “Dod Latin” [George Smith Latin – my great grandfather – Graeme Young] … when he had laid bare the general condition, he cried in agony of soul – “We are helpless, Lord – we are helpless! Interfere, Lord – interfere.”  The memory of those prayers still live with me. I felt sure the blessing would come…(page 108,109)

“By Monday night the public hall could not hold half the people. We began about 6.30, and continued the first service till 8.30; then asked all to go, and let others in. All the doors and windows were opened for a short time to air the hall, and our second meeting then commenced, and would last till about 10.30; again we would ask all to go, and make room for others, and our third meeting would last till 2.30. In this way we continued for five weeks, and during that time about 250 people professed to have passed from death unto life.

…All fishing was abandoned – the one absorbing subject was salvation. A beautiful custom in that place is that when a person is converted they at once go to the homes of their relatives and tell them of the change. Their friends rejoice with the converts, and engage in praise and prayer. A favourite custom, when a number of them are thus gathered, is to join hands and sing a hymn with a rhythmic air, to which they keep time with their feet. This has been called by scoffers the Gospel dance.  To see several hundreds thus engaged is a scene never to be forgotten. “(page113)

“…I went to bed about, wearied but happy over the salvation of George and Annie. When I went to the service the next night at 6.30 I could hear that someone had begun to speak, and as I pushed my way in I saw, it was Annie. Truly she was God’s messenger that night. She was speaking of the grace of our Lord Jesus on our behalf. How she depicted Him veiling His glory and assuming our form! She traced the outstanding features of his sojourn with marvellous ability—called attention to, His many wonderful deeds, and every now and again would say in a manner impossible to imitate, “Noo, think o’ that.” She went on to speak of the Saviour’s agony in dark Gethsemane in a way that thrilled her hearers, invariably finishing each incident with, “Noo, think o’ that.” Her description of the journey to Calvary was masterly, and as she dwelt upon the sufferings of Christ upon the cross, “Noo, think o’ that” was uttered with a pathos that melted many hearts. The Holy Spirit of God so fell upon the place and people that she was not able to finish. Unsaved were smitten to the quick, and dropped upon the floor calling for mercy; and as others made the great decision and got peace with God, they shouted and danced for joy. Old. Christians were delighted, and rejoiced with the converts and “We’ll praise Him! We’ll praise Him, hallelujah!” seemed the only way to give vent to their feelings, and was sounded out with an abandon that I have never seen equalled.

No doubt my feeble description of that night’s experience may seem to some of my readers like a religious pandemonium. But had they witnessed the scene, I have no doubt they would have heartily joined in the jubilation, for no one who saw it could doubt the sincerity and spontaneousness of what took place, and in the peculiar circumstances it seemed as natural as the quiet hush of the prayer meeting. The Findochty revival stands out in my memory as one of the grandest works of God’s grace I ever witnessed. Its full fruit will only be known when the day of glory dawns.” (page121,122)


 “I went, and at once found a spirit of anxiety. There was neither church nor hall in the village of about 350 people. But we got the school, into which we were able to pack about 250. I was wearied and worn out with our thirteen weeks’ night-and-day missions at Rosehearty and Findochty. Seeing such signs of blessing and feeling my physical weakness, I wrote for two of my Findochty friends to come and help me. They came and preached the Gospel, and told how God had visited Findochty, and urged upon the people of Sandend their need of being saved. All this they did in the unmistakable power of the Holy Spirit. (page123)

“The grace of God swept through the village, and Sandend, so long dead and barren, now bore much fruit and blossomed as the rose. About half the population were converted. We often met numbers of the converts in after years at different fishing centres, and were glad to find that they continued steadfast and faithful witnesses for God.” (page 125)

In 1894  James McKendrick was involved in revivals in Nairn and Hopeman.



“According to the fishing conditions at that time, the only suitable season was from about the idle of November till the middle of January, when all the fisher folks were at home… We arrived towards the end of November and had good and large congregations from the first. (page 163)

The Friday night of the second week in Portknockie stands out as the most memorable in all my evangelistic career. The spirit of conviction was deep throughout the village, and there was an atmosphere of reverent solemnity everywhere that could be felt. That night after the address, I invited all who were anxious to remain – not one left. I spoke again, with the special object of helping the anxious, again giving all who desired it the opportunity to leave – not one left. Then the godly minister spoke, and a number prayed. Still none seemed willing to leave; and yet none would confess Christ as their Saviour. I spoke about ten minutes longer, and finished with prayer. It was now ten’ o’clock, and we had begun at seven. I made a final appeal, adding that I could say no more, and then advised all to go home.

Suddenly in the centre of the hall a man dropped on his knees, and cried, “O God, save me; be merciful to me a sinner.” This poor man had a skin disease, and his appearance was to many (myself included) almost repulsive; but the minister assured me that behind that unsightly visage there was one of the brightest intellects in the village. As he moaned, and wept, and prayed for mercy, every eye in that place was dim, and many cheeks were wet with tears. After a few minutes, I drew near to him, and repeated what I thought appropriate texts, and then stepped back beside the minister.

That hour and scene live before me as I write; and I fervently wish that every infidel and unbeliever could have witnessed it. Slowly he raised his head, and that hitherto repulsive face was now radiant with the peace and grace of God…….

When he finished his prayer in the hall, I said, “You have heard this man’s testimony, I have said all I can say, and it is now nearly eleven o’clock, and we must go.” Many rose to leave, when a man jumped up, and cried out, ” Oh, praise God, I’m saved! There is no doubt about it—I feel it—I know it. I have been seeking salvation for years, but I have got it to-night.” Then, raising his hands above his head, and looking up, he cried, “Oh God, save everybody here. Oh Lord, save everybody here.” He then stepped on to a seat, and with his face shining, appealed to the people to trust in Christ, and be saved; and again he cried, “Lord, save the people.”

The scene that followed can never be described. The facts may be stated, but that will be a poor representation of the scene which followed. The Holy Spirit of God seemed just to mow the people down, and in less than five minutes over fifty people were on their knees upon the floor, crying to God for mercy. Over forty of these were men above thirty years of age. As one after another was born again and filled with the Holy Spirit, they literally danced for joy, and there was such a scene of excitement and religious fervour as no words can fitly set forth. I besought every saved person in the place to get outside, form into a procession, and give expression to their new-found joy by singing some hymns and marching through the village. I kept a few of the old and experienced Christians to assist Mr. Brown and myself in helping all who were in distress about their soul, and as one after another found peace and forgiveness, they set out and joined the procession. This continued till 2.30 a.m., but even then, many were too excited to go to rest. I have very imperfectly described that night, for it was the night of nights in my career, and in reviewing the extraordinary scenes of which I was an eye-witness on that occasion, I understood as never before how natural it was for ignorant onlookers on the day of Pentecost to imagine that those men on whom the Spirit descended were filled with wine.” (page 166,167,168)

“We continued six weeks, and night and day this wave of blessings rolled on. Homes were brightened, hearts gladdened, and about three hundred added to the saved.” (page 169)



For about two years my mind had been turned towards Portessie, but whenever I mentioned my proposed visit to any of the Portessie fishermen, I got no encouragement, But I was determined to try, and selecting the best season of the year, I began on the last Sunday in November, 1896. Unlike the other places, I found the hardness and indifference were great, the congregations small, and altogether it was a most disheartening experience, and more than once I wished I had acted upon the advice of the fishermen, and gone elsewhere.  Then again, I would think of the power of God to overcome all difficulties, of His love and willingness to bless, and to save; and as I had prayed much about my visit, I felt sure God had led me there, and that blessing must follow, so I gave myself anew to prayer and fasting, and spent hours upon my knees….           It was now Monday of the third week – congregations had been gradually decreasing – Christians had grown hopeless, and ceased to attend. One unsaved man, named Jamie Brace, however, had been coming regularly…            I called again on Monday afternoon, when I had the joy, of seeing my first conversion in Portessie… 

On my way home, I called in to tell my warmest friend, George Smith (better known as “Dod Latin”). He it was who had prayed with J. Sutherland at my opening meeting in Findochty three years before. He said, “My wife says she is not going to any more meetings. She thinks it is no use going on longer. You should have taken our advice, and not have come, and I don’t think I will go to any more meetings myself. I replied, “What a pity you have thus decided—just when God has begun to work: He has saved a man this afternoon.” I can see in my mind now that dear, godly couple, as they jumped to their feet and unitedly cried,

” Who has He saved’!” When I told them, they cried out, “Praise the Lord! Jamie Bruce is saved, there will soon be others.” (page 174)

 “It quickly spread throughout the village that Jamie Bruce was saved, and testifying in the hall, and many came next night in the hope of hearing him… (page 175)

“…Up sprang Jamie Bruce, and for ten minutes he poured out his heart in praise,           prayer, and earnest appeal.  When he finished, John Smith (better known as “John Jeekie,” to distinguish him from other John Smiths) rose again, and confessed          Christ. His every word was in the power of the Holy Spirit, and we all felt as if in the very presence of God.  The saved were cheered and filled with hope and the spirit of prayer – the unsaved were awakened, and the spirit of conviction was deep and general.

“Needless to say, the hall was full the following night, and nightly and daily thereafter additions were made to the converts, till in a short time Portessie was in the throes of a great revival, similar to those we had seen at Findochty, Portknockie, and other places.

I continued seven weeks, witnessing daily the wondrous saving power of God’s Holy Spirit. The joy and the enthusiasm of the old Christians were boundless, as they again saw the good hand of God upon them, and giving abundant effect to their long unanswered prayers. To mention in detail what our eyes saw and our ears heard during those seven weeks would be in many cases only a repetition of what we have already—written of our experiences elsewhere. Suffice it is to say that wanderers were reclaimed—backsliders restored —family quarrels were healed—children who, had been the subjects of tears and prayers were saved, and from then till now Portessie has greatly prospered spiritually. The young men who were converted at that time became most earnest Christians, and some of them able preachers of the Gospel. A hall was built, to be used only for the worship and service of God. (Assembly Hall in Ogilvie Street)

The lesson to be learned from the Portessie revival, by reader and writer alike, is never to despair. God is able to overcome all difficulties. If you are satisfied you are where God wants you to be, then rest assured God has a work for you to do. Don’t look at the circumstances, neither favourable nor unfavourable, but look to God, with whom all things are possible. To His name be the glory for the riches of His grace to Portessie.” (page 177,178)



In linked with his book, “Glory in the Glen”, Tom Lennie gives details about a revival in Findochty and Portessie when James MacFarlane went there for a mission in April 1903.

The article describes how this revival was characterised by the involvement of whole groups of people in the meetings and in the open air, preaching, singing, praying, weeping and testifying, and helping others who were not yet converted, and one of the notable outcomes was the reconciliation of people who had been previously enemies.


Revival was breaking out in the north east – and north east fishermen were returning from their season fishing at Yarmouth and Lowestoft where revival had broken out in meetings conducted by Baptist minister, Douglas Brown and cooper, Jock Troup from Wick.

Extracts below are from “Floods upon the Dry Ground” by Jackie Ritchie.


“With a burning passion for souls and a life filled with the Holy Spirit, Jock Troup accompanied by a few friends, started to have open-air meetings at the Plain Stone (Market Place), when the stalls had closed around 9 p.m. on a Saturday night. It was on the third Saturday of October 1921 that God chose to move in power. Many were thrown to the ground under conviction of sin through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. …A young fisherman from Cairnbulg went into the open-air ring and started to sing, ”It’s altered now, It’s altered now, The devil once had me, But Jesus ransomed me, It’s altered now.”

When the Holy Spirit took control, scores of hardened fishermen and fisher-lassies were gripped with the fear of God. They knelt at the Yarmouth Cross and their burdens were lifted because of Calvary. On account of that event, many lives and communities would never be the same again. As I listened to men and women who were there on that night I realised how great was the power of God that was manifested there. One man I talked to told me he was literally “Slain of the Lord” and fell to the ground. He said, “The ground around me was like a battlefield with souls crying to God for mercy.” … We must realise that when God moves, spectacular things happen. (page 15)


Local fisherman, David “Davie” Cordiner began to preach at the Broadgate in Peterhead.

“…Little did these men realise that although some of them had only been converted a few days, they were on the brink of a tremendous move of the Spirit that was going to have far reaching effects on the town of Peterhead.

Crowds began to gather around the small group. Very soon there was a congregation estimated at about 200, all standing spellbound listening to the cook and his friends telling of Christ’s power to save. The open-air was still in progress at 9 p.m. After that someone said that a part of the crowd had gone to the Salvation Army Hall in Chapel Street. When Davie and his friends got there the place was full. It is reported that so many came forward in answer to the appeal that the penitent form was overcrowded and extra room had to be made for the seekers. Peterhead Salvation Army did not delay in supporting the work of God and were prepared to make themselves available at any time to deal with troubled souls. Their hall was opened during the day for special times of prayer and praise, with gospel services being held every evening.

Open-air meetings were held nightly at the Monument in Broad Street, followed by a march to wherever a special service was being held. Salvation was now the order of the day, with souls getting saved in their homes as well as in places of worship. Large crowds would listen to preaching in the open air. On one occasion the Broad Street stance was not available, so David Cordiner decided to hold his meeting at the Drummer’s Corner. It started at 7 p.m. and by 7.30p.m., Albion Street and Marischal Street were completely blocked by an eager audience. So dense was the crowd that the Police were called to assist. Davie was told that he must confine his open-air meetings to Broad Street. (page 24)


At Pastor Clarke’s meetings in Cairnbulg, God’s Holy Spirit moved in a mighty way. When the fisherfolks returned from Yarmouth it was like moving from one revival fire into another.

Every Sunday morning from 6.30 to 9.30 a.m. there was a prayer meeting….Ages ranged from 16 years to 60 years and the spirit of prayer was tremendous.

In the afternoon on Sundays an open-air meeting was held in the middle of the villages…almost the whole village turned out to listen. The programme consisted mainly of glowing testimonies and joyful singing.

A newspaper report states that out of a population of 1500, over 600 professions were recorded in a fortnight.

On Sundays, after the prayer meeting in the mending loft, the people of the villages would go to their respective churches. Some walked to the Baptist and Congregational Churches in Fraserburgh. Others went to Rathen Church and the local Church of Scotland. The Brethren met in a loft in Inverallochy. During the time of the awakening there was a spirit of fellowship between the different denominations. All were one in Christ Jesus. (page 27,28)


“Jock Troup, while in the midst of a spiritual revival (in Yarmouth), heard God speak, and had a vision. What he saw was a man praying far north in Fraserburgh. This man was asking the Lord to send the evangelist He was using in Yarmouth north to where there was a great need. This man had never seen Jock, but he had heard what was happening among the fishermen. By this time the cooper-evangelist had been dismissed from his work because of the call on his time. He had never been to Fraserburgh, but he had no intention of being disobedient to the heavenly vision. Jock told some of his closest friends of what he had seen and of his decision to leave. They could not understand why he was going when such mighty blessing was taking place. He knew that the God w                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ho had started the work in Yarmouth, would continue it. Many tried to persuade the revivalist to stay, but nothing and no one would prevent him from answering the call of the Master. The next day the evangelist left. (page17)

He went down to the square in Broad Street where a crowd had gathered. Standing on the steps of the drinking fountain, he began to preach. Immediately the crowd moved around him in spite of the cold. As the rain began to fall, the preacher asked if anyone knew where a place was available for meetings. “What about the Baptist Church?” shouted someone…

Off they went along the way, joyously singing with the evangelist. When they arrived at the Baptist Church, the Pastor with his elders were just leaving a specially convened meeting, where it had been decided to send for Jock Troup to come and conduct a gospel campaign in Fraserburgh. The secretary had a letter drafted ready for posting, but that letter never needed to go through a letter box. God had answered the letter before it had been sent off. To the amazement of Jock, as the group of elders left the church, amongst them stood the man God had shown him in the vision at Yarmouth. He had come face to face with the man who had prayed. …As he led the singing of the old-fashioned hymns, men and women began to weep their way to the cross. Blessing flowed like a river. The tide of spiritual dearth had turned and soon God’s flood tide would flow.

Fraserburgh Baptist Church became too small… Meetings were then held in the Congregational Church in Mid Street, with regular prayer taking place in the Baptist Church. Nightly souls were under deep conviction of sin, and after weeping their way to Christ, came to know the great experience of being “Born again”.

There was a spirit of conviction everywhere. Souls were even being saved away from the meetings…By now, the entire town was in the grip of the presence of God. Throughout the last week in November 1921, open-air services were held in the Saltoun Square. Many hundreds attended to hear the testimonies of young men and women, then Jock Troup preached the Gospel. Saltoun Square was the birthplace of many souls who, under deep conviction of sin, knelt on coats provided by the preachers and converts.

On the 20th December, Jock addressed a packed Congregational Church, stating that the work had grown so much that the building was too small. During the week, the meetings would be held in the Parish Church which seated 1200.”


“Traditionally the men from these two villages based their boats at Lowestoft during the East Anglian season. As the folks left their comfortable homes in the two villages, little did they realise that many of them would return two months later as “new creatures in Christ”, putting their trust in the Blest Rock of Ages. Lowestoft was to know showers of blessing in a rich harvest of souls amongst the Pennan and Gamrie people.

After the herring season ended, the inhabitants of Gamrie and Pennan eagerly awaited the return of their loved ones. No one could argue against the changed lives of hardened drunkards who had been transformed by sovereign grace.

Wise old men who had known the power of Christ in their lives for many years gathered the young converts together for fellowship in a building called “Castle Grant”. This three-storeyed building was owned by a man called Francis Wiseman, or “Fish Francie” as he was named. It had been used mainly as a net store. Precious times of blessing were experienced in the middle storey. Crowds would sit on herring nets drinking in the words of life. Young converts were taught the Word of God, while hardened sinners found salvation to be the answer to their long search for peace. (page 32)


“…The inhabitants of these places were closely knit; they rejoiced together in happy times and sorrowed together in times of disaster.

Many left at the annual exodus for the East Anglian fishing, indeed, whole families made the journey south in order to either catch, gut or pack the silver darlings. Children of school age were taught in schools at Yarmouth or Lowestoft, while those under five would be left in the care of friends or grandparents.

These three towns were to know a rich harvest, far beyond that which had been thought possible. Whole families were converted to Christ, even before they returned north. When they did arrive in their respective towns, the blessings received at Yarmouth did not subside, but flowed on and spread into the neighbouring villages and district.” (page 34)

“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 in Findochty. Then the captain remarked that there were only eleven or twelve in the service due to the fishing and lack of interest in spiritual things. Suddenly the three stopped in their tracks as they realised the situation. They fell on 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 sixty years later the sacredness of that moment dawned upon me as I listened to the 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. When the folks returned from the fishing, the difference was remarkable. Homes were united in Christ, wayward families saved and set free.

… One of the most notable features of the move of God in Findochty was that nearly every afternoon of the winter of 1921-22, groups of newly saved souls would leave the town and go into the neighbouring villages and preach the Gospel of Christ with remarkable results. (page 36)


These notes are from the memoirs of my mother’s sister Margaret Riach (in 1921 Meg Smith age 11)

“After the war there was a spiritual vacuum. The (Methodist)ministers were praying. Rev John Haslam in Portessie. He came from Rotherham of mining people. Mrs Haslam from Aberdeen. They were good friends of the family. It was his second term in Portessie as he was minister there when the new Chapel was opened 1913. In Buckie, Pastor Reid, a market gardener from Cockermouth had been a prisoner of war. He came straight from Cliff College. In Cullen, Pastor Wayne, in Findochty, Rev A.B.Cannon, a cultured Londoner. In Portgordon, Rev Alfred Easton, a non-Collegiate straight from Cliff College.

Meetings were planned but without doubt there was a moving of the Spirit. A week of meetings at each place, beginning in Cullen and moving along to Portgordon. The hymns were Sankey evangelical type. Many people in each of the churches went forward to denote acceptance. In Portessie, the many included  George (Meg’s brother- age 13), Katherine (her sister –  my mother- age 9) and Meg (herself – age 11).

The Buckie people spoke about Reid’s revival but we saw it from a different point of view. Without doubt, it gave the coast churches new impetus.

The Salvation Army had no corps in Portessie but the Findochty Army came for “Open Air” followed by a meeting in the Fisherman’s hall, sometimes on a Thursday Evening and often on Sunday afternoon. We left our own Sunday School after service 2 – 3pm and we crossed the road to the Army. We heard elderly people giving their testimony and it influenced us.”



George Currie and Jock “Tartan” Pirie… These two men were ready to take responsibility when God moved…. One day while they were praying for the town, two young Salvation Army officers, who were based in the neighbouring village of Cullen came to Portsoy to do “Self Denial” collecting for Army funds. A request was made for them to come to the village and hold meetings.

It was no coincidence that a Captain Leed, who hailed from Thurso was the officer in charge of the Salvation Army at Cullen. He was a member of the Army team who had seen tremendous blessing around Norwich in East Anglia during 1921.

Lieutenant Towns and his co-worker realised that a few people in Portsoy were burdened over the spiritual state of their town. The officers began to pray along with them. Captain Leed testified that there were many occasions that Lieutenant Towns would weep all night for Portsoy. One day the junior officer asked for permission to go to Portsoy to conduct services. Immediately Captain Leed agreed. He had been praying that his co-worker would volunteer to hold meetings in that town. Services were arranged to start during the week of 25th March 1923 in the form of open-air meetings at the Shorehead and indoors at the Christian Institute.

The open-air meeting took the usual form of others conducted by the Salvation Army. There was bright singing and testimonies from those who had come along with young Lieutenant Towns from Cullen. He then gave a simple message. Crowds gathered to hear. A man who was saved that night tells the story with great conviction.

“At the Shorehead open-air meeting after some songs and testimonies, Lieutenant Towns went into the ring and spoke.  “This is your chance to get saved,” he said. He then took off his jacket and laid it on the ground. Then he fell on his knees and prayed. Immediately, Alex Pirie, James Slater and myself responded to the appeal before a great crowd who knew us well. We openly got on our knees beside the young officer and trusted Christ. …We were asked to testify for Christ right there and then at the Shorehead. Real assurance entered my heart. We all then went to the Christian Institute where a number got saved.”

The spiritual awakening had begun in Portsoy.

The services in the Christian Institute were times of refreshing. Many a night the hall would be packed to capacity with 500 people inside. The cinema was closed and later taken over by the Salvation Army. People walked from Whitehills, Fordyce, Sandend and Cullen to these meetings and there were many conversions. A certain Jimmy Hay was drunk when he cried out, “Lord be merciful to me a sinner.” As he rose from his seat he was sober.

There were some outstanding conversions in Portsoy, but that of Jimmy Hay was a case of immediate transformation. His brother tells of how the news was broken to Jimmy’s mother. “A neighbour cried out, ‘Your Jimmy has got saved in Portsoy tonight.’ I cannot remember my mother’s reply, but she stayed out of bed to see the result of the work of grace. In due course Jimmy came home and cried out, ‘Mither, here’s a new man tae ye the nicht.’ My mother stood for a moment and then sang, ‘Ring the bells of heaven; there is joy today, For a soul returning from the wild. See, the Father meets him out upon the way, Welcoming His weary, wandering child.’ “

The fishing village of Sandend was shaken to its foundations that night. Jimmy Hay would often give his testimony at the Shorehead in Portsoy. There crowds would gather to hear what great things God had done.

It was said that there were 400 souls saved in Portsoy and the surrounding villages at that time. (page 46)

This is my great grandfather, George Smith “Latin” (Dod Latin) who was a close friend of evangelist, James McKendrick.

In 1893, he was instrumental in the revival in Findochty. Along with Joseph Sutherland he prayed in a meeting in such a way that James McKendrick wrote, “The memories of these prayers still live with me. I felt sure that the blessing would come” – And it did in such a way that he then wrote, “The Findochty revival stands out in my memory as one of the grandest works of God’s grace I ever witnessed.”

But just three years later, when James McKendrick held meetings in Portessie, Dod Latin had lost hope of any revival coming there. In the third week of seemingly fruitless meetings, he said to McKendrick, “My wife says she is not going to any more meetings. She thinks it is no use going on longer. You should have taken our advice, and not have come, and I don’t think I will go to any more meetings myself.”

James McKendrick replied, “What a pity you have this decided – just when God has begun to work. He has saved a man this afternoon.” And he writes: in a short time Portessie was in the throes of a great revival, similar to those we had seen at Findochty, Portknockie and other places. I continued seven weeks, witnessing daily the wondrous saving power of God’s Holy Spirit.”

I smile when I read of my great grandfather’s unbelieving words and then the exuberant enthusiasm he demonstrates once he realises that he was wrong – and he immediately changes to confident faith. “Praise the Lord! Jamie Bruce is saved. There will soon be others!”

It makes me wonder what my faith will be like the day before Revival comes.

Findochty and Portessie show that Revival may come when we are longing, seeking, praying and believing for it, or it may come when we are discouraged and are giving up hope.

I like to echo the words which my great grandfather prayed in Findochty:

“We are helpless. Lord –  we are helpless!  Interfere, Lord – interfere!”

Graeme C. Young

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