Chapter 16



The following article is a personal account of the awakening at Portsoy in 1923, by one of the two men God was pleased to use. William Leed became a powerful instrument in the hands of the Holy Spirit. Both of these men became high ranking officers in the "Army" they served and loved.

I am deeply indebted to Mr. James Slater of Portsoy for access to this personal account.


William Leed. Salvation Army Captain at Cullen. He was one of the leaders of the revival at Portsoy in 1923.

  (Picture: J. Slater Portsoy.)





The editor suggested that I tell something of the story of the North Scottish Awakening 1921-23, and I do so hoping that our faith may be strengthened that the "God Who lived at Pentecost is just the same today'" Why not a world-wide revival in our time?

My title is borrowed from Commissioner Brengle and his observations of God strateg­ically using human events to accomplish His purposes for the salvation of mankind.


Surely Divine strategy arranged three independent spiritual spearheads to simultan­eously attack East Anglia in 1921 with wide­ reaching results. Rev. Douglas Brown was mightily used of God in Lowestoft and surrounding area; in Yarmouth, Jock Troup, Scottish evangelist, then a Salvationist, was conducting spare-time warfare on theatre and cinema queues, also pub closing-time crowds, winning many souls; while Staff-captain Albert Osborn and Staff­ captain Gordon Simpson S.F.T. at Clapton, were undoubtedly divinely directed' to arrange a Charabanc Crusade comprising Training Officers and Sergeants (I was fortunate to be a member) in widely scattered East Anglia, which brought to Christ a multitude of souls - 106 in Norwich alone. Towns and villages were invaded by Crusadets, morning, noon and nights, with outstanding response.


I believe God's strategy with those events was aimed at far wider issues, for the annual invasion of the fishing ports by thous­ands of Scottish fishworkers happened when Revival was getting into its stride. Douglas Brown had prolonged his Campaign, all places of worship being thronged with seeking souls, great numbers of Scots among them.


The fishing season ended, the Scots carried the Revival Fire north and North Scottish towns and villages were aflame, converts "went everywhere preaching the Lord Jesus", thousands being saved. At Peterhead 600 seekers were registered, and Wick Corps saw at least 500, and great numbers of professing Christians were revived; practically all denominations pulsated with new life, and eager converts carried the Gospel to their neighbouring villages.


At Cullen, outpost of Findochty, Lieutenant Reg. Woods (late Commissioner), led some little girls to Jesus and told them to ask their mothers to pray for them. Golden haired Anna Gardiner did so, and her war-widowed mother, stricken to the heart, replied, "My quinie (wee girl) I canna' pray for masel' yet'" Said Anna, "Mither, ye can be saved. too!" That was a troubled night for Mrs. Gardiner, and it was no co-incidence led Lieutenant Woods to bring a group of converts for an open-air next day almost outside her door. Mrs. Gardiner left her washtub, arms full of soap-suds, and standing in the ring with uplifted hands cried, "I want you all to know I accept Jesus Christ as my Saviour!"


Her witness electrified Cullen Seatown; the Lieutenant announced a meeting in the hall which was filled, and that afternoon a soul ­saving work began that never ceased until very many converts were won.


A few months later my Lieutenant (Col. Albert Towns) and I were appointed from Clapton to. Cullen. These wonderful days - crowded meetings in the hall which was filled, and that meetings weekdays and Sunday - 24 meetings weekly outdoors and inside including Y.P. - great enthusiasm - everyone anxious to pray, sing and testify. Our first open-air comprised eighty in the ring, and I felt "surely God is in this place!" That was the night of our arrival and that impression never left me.


To organise the Corps was a glad responsibility, but we were anxious to win souls, but this was difficult - everyone seemed already saved. The D.C. reminded us there was a time for ingathering and a time for building them up in our most holy faith.


1922 was a wonderful year.  To watch these newly-born Christ­ians grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ was an inspirat­ion.      It did much for ourselves also. A Training Officer had

advised me to give my very best in my first address and to improve on that standard in every meeting following. He little realised what he was laying upon me. We had eleven senior meetings weekly besides five Y.P. meetings and ten open-airs, besides constant visitation.    We had to wrestle in prayer.  Certain sects challenged the converts on Army doctrine, which made us search the Scriptures even more thoroughly than when in training, but this confirmed our confidence in the Scriptural foundations of our movement. After a lifetime of prayerful consideration of "the faith which was once delivered to the saints", my convictions thereon are deeper than ever.


Somehow, despite seeming improbability of another great ingather­ing of souls, we believed we would again see God's hand mightily at work. For our New Year motto we chose General Osborn's song "Greater Things", and in our Watchnight Service issued a challenge. After much prayer we asked all who believed the coming year would show "even greater things" to sing the chorus with uplifted hands. I see them now - the packed hal1 - uplifted faces, same tear-stained - hands outstretched to God - a sublime moment of childlike faith in God. We little realised how it should come - another Great Awakening.


Portsoy, one-time busy little sea part, six miles east of Cullen, was our responsibility. We more than once held a two-man open-air there, but there seemed little interest. We were later told the folk prided themselves that in former times when revival swept the coast Portsoy remained untouched. Duncan Mathiesan and James Turner were reputed to have laboured there in vain.


Delivering SD envelopes there early in 1923 I was twice chall­enged;  a woman told me Portsoy could go to hel1 for all the Christians cared, and an elderly fisherman implored me to hold meetings there. Deeply concerned, while cycling home that day, I felt a distinct urge that something must be done. But how? Our Cul1en itinerary was heavy. Owing to a clause in letting of the hall, we dared not close it for one night. Others were keen to use it, and once they got in we would be on the streets.


On the following Tuesday, however, we arranged for someone to hold the fort at Cullin whilst a party of us invaded Portsoy where a hall was engaged     for a meeting.  At the preceding open-air a young man knelt in the ring causing a sensation. The hall was crowded. There was obvious conviction, but none came forward indoors.


Next Sunday a young Portsoy man came to Cullen and claimed Salvation. Begging me to come to Portsoy for a Sunday meeting, he said many there were under conviction and he was sure they would respond. Again local difficulties confronted us, but I asked the Lord if this was of Him would He cause the Lieutenant to offer to go with a. party. To my joy, walking home that night the Lieutenant said, "Let me go with some of the fellows, Captain." I immediately secured the hall and announced the meeting. Next Sunday we turned our Cullen services into prayer meetings for Portsoy.


During one night meeting I was distinctly convinced souls were surrendering at Portsoy . Later I met the Lieutenant on the road home and said, "Before you tell me anything, you have had souls."

"Yes," he replied, "three young men came forwards in the open-air, and six more men indoors."

"Thank God," I answered. "Now you will return tomorrow and others will follow." One of the party said later, "You often speak about the Holy Spirit, Captain. I saw Him at work in the Lieutenant in that open-air. He was truly filled with the Holy Ghost!"


Next day six young men surrendered. God now wonderfully helped with arrangements for our Cullen meetings, and we had nine­teen seekers at Portsoy on Tuesday. On Wednesday the D.C. came. We engaged the Town Hall and twenty-six souls were registered.


And so it went on; the Town Hall was packed nightly, floor and gallery, many unable to gain admittance. Often folks were at the penitent-form before the meeting commenced as the people gathered long before commencing time, singing and praising God.


There were so few to help us with the penitents, we frequently had to leave the prayer meeting to run itself. Eighty year old grannie Pirie, olden-times Salvationist kept things goin’. I see her now walking the aisle singing, "There are angels hovering round ­to carry the tidings home."


The town seemed transformed; one somehow felt spiritual atmos­phere everywhere; the glory of the Lord seemed upon the place. Singing could be heard from the houses as converts gathered to praise God everywhere. I recall a wonderful occasion when an elderly lady pulled me from the street into her home, saying, "Pray wi' me, Captain; I want tae mak' ma peace wi' God!" her kitchen table became a hallowed altar. Many were pointed to Christ in their homes.


One memorable night when a hefty R.C. lady came to the Mercy­ seat a young woman rushed forward embracing her. Enquiring later, I found the girl was her niece. There was bitter estrangement between the families - family dispute - violence - the lady had broken her brother's arm. For twenty years they had not spoken to one another. Two years later I saw both families walking to the Holiness Meeting with Bibles under their arms. "What a wonderful change in their lives had been wrought since Jesus came into their hearts."


The elderly fisherman and his wife who first challenged me, were converted and their home became the first Corps quarters. The lady challenger of that day also came to the Lord. Later she became the Home League Secretary. Her husband was a wonderful trophy of grace. Sixteen years afterwards he thumped me on the back when I briefly visited the town, saying, "Captain Leed you are my spirit­ual father!" I was deeply moved as I also was that day on visiting a grand soul who at conversion was unable to read owing to unfortunate circumstances in childhood. She learned to read in order to understand the Bible and Song Book.  Greeting me with her Song Book in her hand she joyfully said, "Oh Captain, listen tae this lovely sonie I've jist been readin      As she read a thrill of joy came over me.


There was no great preaching, just a simple presentation of the Gospel with earnest appeals to yield to Christ. Sometimes no address was given, seekers came to the penitent form as soon as the meetings commenced. An outstanding feature was that the large proportion of elderly folk who were saved - aged married couples particularly, and faithful Christians they became. There was no undue excite­ment, they not being an over-emotional type. Prior to the Awakening it seemed a spiritually indifferent town. .


Lack of space prevents further reminiscences but many times I have thanked God for the gracious privilege of sharing in that wonderful work of grace, for a lifetime friendship with my Lieutenant of those great days, and the memories of those converts the majority of whom are now in the Gloryland.


"And the hand of the Lord was with them and a great number believed and turned unto the Lord." (Acts 11:21)


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