Chapter 6



Famous even then for its prison which held in its security some of the worst criminals in the land, the town had many of its inhabitants held captive by the Devil at his will. Many a young fisherman had returned from the war godless and careless regarding his soul's eternal welfare.  Yet to many of these men who had seen front line action on land and sea, Yarmouth 1921 would be a year when spiritual battles would be fought in their souls.  Scores of Peterhead fishermen were saved and rejoiced in the experience of sins forgiven. Their lives were changed when spiritual debt was cancelled at the place called Calvary.  In some cases whole crews of drifters were converted, either through attending Douglas Brown's services in St. George' s Church or at open-air meetings held by Jock Troup.  Miraculous things took place among the Peterhead fisher lassies as they were gutting the herring at the Denes on the sea-front.  One herring curer told me it was a usual occurrence to see women crying for peace with God among the herring barrels at the Peterhead owned curing stations. The prayers of men like "Petrie Shonie" Strachan, John Noble Stephen and many others were being answered by a covenant-keeping God.  I have personally heard the testimonies of men and women who were redeemed at Yarmouth nearly sixty years ago and they are still going on for God.  When the Lord moved, He saved men and women who established Christian homes, their children were led to Christ and they in turn are bringing up the grandchildren in the same way.  Peterhead was particularly favoured as far as the salvation of souls was concerned.  I am convinced that this was because godly men and women prayed in earnest.  Not only were there new converts, but many who had professed salvation in former days were called to a fresh dedication in their experience.


David Cordiner.

  (Picture: A. Cordiner Peterhead.)

In Yarmouth that year was a young man engaged as cook on the drifter Energy.  David Cordiner had been saved at the age of thirteen in Peterhead Baptist Church through an evangelist named McGregor, but had grown cold in heart during the war years when he served as a corporal of cooks. David attended meetings conducted by Douglas Brown and Jock Troup where he was wonderfully blessed and empowered by the Holy Spirit. While cooking a meal for his shipmates, he took his cigarettes and threw them into the galley stove.  He had made up his mind to be on fire for God. As he slept one night on board his ship which was moored on the river, God spoke to him clearly and told him that when he got home to Peterhead he had to go to Broad Street and conduct open-air meetings.  David told the Lord, as Jeremiah did in Bible days, that he could not speak, but the Lord said, "Open your mouth and I will fill it". After this a hymn came to his mind,

"Must I go and empty handed, must I meet my Saviour so?"

He cried out that night, "I will go." Little did he realise that the vision he had received from the Lord would take him into places and situations where mighty things would be done through him.  Here is an example of what God can do with a life completely given over to Him.


Sailboats and steam drifters in Peterhead Bay.

  (Picture: North of Scotland Library Services.)

As the drifter Energy steamed home from Yarmouth, the young cook shared his vision with the mate of the vessel.  In reply he was told, "David, you will never do that, you are far too quiet." It was midnight on a Friday when the boat arrived at Peterhead harbour. David could never have imagined that God had decided that he was to be a fisher of men instead of a fisherman.  When he arrived home he told his godly mother of the vision. She expressed her feelings that he would never make a speaker. However, she said that she would pray for him, and he testified that her prayers held him up when he went forth to preach at the Broadgate in Peterhead, where he saw many souls won for Christ.


Steam drifters in Peterhead harbour.

  (Picture: North of Scotland Library Services )

"Davie" Cordiner went forth in the name of the Lord, just as his name sake in the Valley of Elah long ago. The next day being a Saturday, he did his work cleaning out the cabin of the drifter Energy.  He met some of the young men who had professed salvation and told them what he was going to do. They were asked to join him at 7 p.m. that evening at the Monument in the middle of Broad Street.  About the appointed time on the way down the street, Davie met two Salvation Army lads and asked for their support. When they arrived at the Monument they found a few people had gathered to see the man who had received the vision. Amongst those standing were "Petrie Shonie" and Alex "Skelton" Summers. The meeting commenced by singing the hymn,

'There is power in the blood of the Lamb".

Davie had taken twelve hymn sheets printed with well-known songs which he shared around. 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 stir 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 7.30 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.


One rainy night when the appeal was made, no one came forward to kneel in the centre of the open-air ring. Davie took off his coat and laid it on the ground. A woman came forward and found Christ while kneeling on his coat. Others, including "Petrie Shonie", Bill's Robbie and Skelton's Alex followed his example and put their coats on the street. At least ninety people were converted that night beside the Monument.


Fisher group dividing coal at Buchanhaven, Peterhead.

  (Picture: North of Scotland Library Services )

By now the denominations of the town had begun to see that the work being done was not superficial, but was a genuine move of the Holy Spirit. Consequently, doors and hearts were opened to the young evangelist.   The elders of the Methodist Church offered him the use of their building. Meetings held there became a harvest of souls. The years of ploughing and sowing had paid off.  A schoolmaster and a student teacher attended one of Davie's services. After the meeting the student asked the teacher what he thought of the evangelist's treatment of the King's English. The older man replied, "It does not matter in the least if his English is not accurate, the important thing is that he is getting results."


On November 27th, 1921, Mr. Alex Marshall returned to the Gospel Hall in Prince Street to conduct a series of nightly meetings. Many were saved during these special services. These converts have stood for Christ for many years.


On returning from Yarmouth, Alex "Soldie" Cowe told the minister of the Congregational Church, a Mr. Hanmer, of the good work that had been done among the fisherfolk. "Soldie" then asked him if he would consider making an outward appeal for souls to come forward after the service on Sunday evening. This was done and at least six made their way to the front as an indication of their desire to get right with God.  As far as is known, this was never tried during the awakening in the Congregational Church.  After this, the United Free Church along with the Congregational Church arranged meetings to be conducted by a Mr. John Moor.  An evangelistic campaign was also held in the Baptist Church by a Rev. Gilmour. These two special efforts saw blessing in a measure, but little compared to that experienced with Davie Cordiner, who was the leader, under God.  One newspaper report concerning Davie Cordiner stated,

"The rugged revivalist says, 'Before I went to Yarmouth I could not and would not speak in the Salvation Army meetings.  Satan had me in his grip, but God did a work in me at Yarmouth one night and I rededicated me life to Christ and His service."

The paper continues,

"He spends his time visiting and telling others of Christ and His power to save, even at the Labour Exchange, where many people gather daily. One of his qualities is inspired praying."


The blessing of God continued on through December and into the New Year. Then the Fishermen's Mission opened in Charlotte Street under the leadership of Captain Andrew Cowe.  Many young converts were strengthened and a goodly number professed salvation. One outstanding feature during the month of December was the march of witness. These marches were led by someone playing a musical instrument.  Scores of new converts followed on singing the well known gospel songs.  This unique procession would start after an open-air meeting in the Broadgate, move into Chapel Street, up Queen Street and on to Buchanhaven.


Scene in gutting yard at Peterhead.

  (Picture: St. Andrews University.)

It was not all encouragement for the leaders of the work.  Many were critical, others discouraged new converts and some said that it would not last, but those to whom God had entrusted the leadership of the work pressed on.  There is plenty of evidence today, in 1981, that the work done in the hearts in December 1921 has stood the test of time for sixty years. 


It will be helpful to take note of what the religious leaders of Peterhead in 1921 had to say about the awakening.


The minister of the Old Parish Church, the Rev. H. D. Swan said, "I rejoice with all my heart and soul that there is a real revival of religion in our midst. I was a sympathetic listener at some of the meetings and found that the young converts were very sincere."


"Without doubt it will do lasting good," said the Rev. A. A. Diack from the West Associate Church.


"The movement ought to be welcomed. Let us thank God for it," stated the United Free Church minister, the Rev. Alex Lawrie.


"I have sat with the converts in my church and have seen the present day production of the disciples in them," said the Rev. George Walker from the Methodist Church.


All the above quotations are reproduced from the Buchan Observer of 27th December, 1921, by kind permission of the Editor.


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