Chapter 14

PORTSOY REVIVAL 1923

 

Port soy on the Banffshire coast knew something ~f delayed action regarding the evidence of the awakening of the Spirit. Only a few men and women were converted at Yarmouth, but they were genuine. God moved in 1923, there were people already prepared. One such was George Currie. He had been a hard case before his.

conversion, but when he found Christ the change was remarkable. His entire family eventually became Christians. Another was Jock "Tartan" Pirie. These two men were ready to take responsibility when God moved two years later. 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. In charge of the work was the spiritual giant Albert Osborne, who was later to become General Osborne. This young highlander was being prepared for the move of God in Portsoy years before it took place.

 

Lieutenant Towns and family.

(Picture: J. Slater Portsoy.)















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. It was a known fact that many had boasted that Port soy was not touched by any revival. 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 Insititute.

 

Salvation Army Hall, Portsoy.

(Picture: G. NIcolson, Peterhead.)










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. "I was just going into my teens when I heard of the transforming power of Christ in the lives of the men who returned from Yarmouth in December 1921. Somehow Portsoy was never the same. Every Saturday night at 9 p.m. I would go to watch the drunks come out of the pub. The fights would be tremendous with blood flowing from the hardened men as they fought fiercely with each other. Fights also took place at the Shorehead.

Little did some of these men realise that a few months later they would be standing and testifying to the power of Christ in the very same place. Why? Because Christ had come into their lives."

 

Place of open air meetings, Portsoy.

(Picture: J. Slater Portsoy.)










The same brother goes on to tell of that first meeting held in Portsoy on March 25th 1923. "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. Alex Pirie was later drowned in the early days of the seine-net fishing on the Dogger Bank. 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.

 

Some of Portsoy Salvation Army Band during revival.

(Picture: J. Slater 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. It was said that there were 400 souls saved in Portsoy and the surrounding villages at that time.

 

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.

 

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