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‘A Goodly Heritage’ (47): Revival Along the East Coast (2): Scotland

R Cargill, St Monans

In last month’s article we noted that Jock Troup from Wick had arrived in Great Yarmouth in October 1921. His job was making wooden barrels for the salted herring that would be shipped in their thousands to continental markets. But he knew he had a greater (and, to him, a more important) job to do - that of preaching the Gospel. He did this regularly in the open air, to crowds of mostly Scottish fishermen and women on the quayside and elsewhere, and many were saved. However, this took so much of his time and energy that, in November, his employer dismissed him. He went on to preach in churches in partnership with Douglas Brown, and great blessing continued. They were two quite different characters, but united in the work of the Gospel, and they were supported by much prayer. One prayer meeting, on 5th November, started at 6pm and continued until 11pm, with 1,500 people present, praying spontaneously and giving their testimonies!

A few glimpses of these revival days are worth recording here:1

On the third Saturday in October, at the first of many open air meetings held at the Market Place, Jock preached with power on Isaiah 63.1. The Holy Spirit convicted many tough fishermen of their sin and need. They fell to the ground seeking salvation, which they found in Christ there and then on the cobble stones.

Other men who heard the message were deeply troubled but undecided. Their now-converted crewmates were praying for them, and several were saved on their boats out at sea on the fishing grounds. One man’s telegram home said “Saved ... last to ring in on the ship.”

Many of the fisher girls were likewise saved at these meetings in the street. Others spent an anxious weekend at their lodgings, and were so miserable in their sin that they were unable to go to their work on Monday. Their boss sent for Jock to lead them to the Lord, and then it was all joy in believing, and they got back to their work.

John, a 20 year old man from St Monans, was going ashore for his usual Saturday night’s pleasure after a week of miserable empty nets. At the quayside he came upon an Open Air Meeting with Jock Troup preaching. Unable to continue on his way he listened, was convicted of his sin and, on his knees, he trusted Christ as they sang “She only touched the hem of His garment ...”. He was the first of a whole family to be saved later.

One day the skipper of a drifter was insulted by his younger son, whereupon the lad’s older brother gave him a beating. The younger lad then threw himself into the harbour. He was rescued however, and the next day was drawn to a Gospel Meeting where his father and brother had already gone. All three came to Christ that night and, by the end of that week, the other seven members of the crew of that drifter were also saved.

When the boats sailed home, and the womenfolk returned, what reunions and surprises awaited them, for God had been working in their home towns too. Many had been praying for unsaved loved ones far away, and God had answered their prayers. As the boats sailed into their harbours the men were singing Gospel hymns, and those waiting on the piers to welcome them joined in and swelled the song across the water – what a thrill for them all! Places such as Eyemouth, Port Seton, St Monans, Peterhead, Fraserburgh, Portknockie, Buckie and up to Wick witnessed scenes like these, and in many of these towns churches were greatly strengthened. Not a few Scottish assemblies today also have these events as part of their history.

After Jock was dismissed from his job at Yarmouth, he felt led to return to Scotland, where God had already been working through other evangelists. In his home town of Wick, Faith Mission preachers and Salvation Army officers had seen many saved at their meetings; over 120 on one Tuesday evening alone. In two small villages near Fraserburgh, out of a population of 1,500, no less than 600 had professed to be saved, and most of them were baptised in the local burn. These are just two examples of what had been happening in these fishing communities in the autumn of 1921. Nor did the revival diminish quickly. In the new year, practically all the fisher families in the small village of Whinnyfold found salvation under the preaching of David Walker of Aberdeen. A year later over 400 were saved in Portsoy. In nearby Portknockie, Cullen and Findochty there was similar blessing. No wonder this revival is still remembered in these parts of the Scottish coast, and traced back to those momentous days at the autumn fishing in the south.

From Yarmouth, Jock returned first to Fraserburgh, where he immediately began his usual open air preaching. He had hardly concluded his first meeting when he was taken into the nearby Baptist Church, where he found its deacons in earnest prayer, asking God to send Jock Troup to their town. These praying men experienced the truth of Isaiah 65.24. Crowds soon gathered in the Church and, weeping over their sin, found peace and joy in believing. Great blessing followed in later meetings in different parts of that district, as it also did when Jock preached in Dundee and Aberdeen that winter.

Jock Troup (1896-1954)2

Jock Troup was born in Dallachy, Morayshire to Christian parents, and moved to Wick when he was seven. He resented his upbringing and became an adventurous and rebellious youth. He joined the Royal Navy Patrol Service in 1914, and was drafted to Dublin where he became a typical seaman who loved the drink. But God was hearing his parents’ prayers. On shore leave he found a welcome at the YMCA in Dublin and, through the care and tactful interest of Mr and Mrs West, who were in charge there, he was deeply convicted of his sin. One night he left them saying “I think I’ll get converted.” He went back onto his ship, got into the wheelhouse, and on his knees accepted Christ as Saviour. What a change that brought into his life!

In 1919 he returned to Wick, where he joined the Salvation Army and became well known for his loud, clear preaching and singing. He formed a friendship with Angus Swanson, another cooper, himself saved in Wick during its recent time of visitation.3 Together they travelled around many Caithness towns and villages to preach the Gospel. On one notable occasion, close to midnight in the open air in Wick, many were convicted of their sin and, falling to the ground, crying to God for mercy, they found salvation in Christ.

In 1922 Jock was invited to Glasgow, and studied at the Bible Training Institute for two years. He became widely known as an effective preacher and, for around 12 years, was a regular visitor to Ulster, particularly Bangor. He married Kate Black in Inverness in 1928, and they had three children; Rona, Betty and Ian. From 1928 to 1931 they set up home in Kirkcaldy, Fife where he served with the Gospel Union.

In 1932 he was asked to return to Glasgow to become superintendent of the Tent Hall. Thousands gathered to hear him from the first; many of them the rough and tumble from the city’s tenements. Along with his preaching he provided meals for the poor and the hungry, who then listened to the message he had to tell them. During the 1939-1945 war he provided a welcome Rest Home for countless servicemen and women, and ministered to both their temporal and spiritual needs. His hard work affected his health however, and he resigned from the Tent Hall work in 1945.

After the war he engaged in itinerant preaching throughout the UK. He also made occasional trips across the Atlantic, where his preaching was in great demand and much appreciated. On 18th April 1954 in Spokane, Washington, he had only just begun to preach on “Ye must be born again” when he suddenly collapsed and died. He went home to Heaven while preaching the message he loved and lived for!

1 Jackie Ritchie, Floods upon the Dry Ground, Peterhead Offset, 1983 gives homely first-hand records of many of these happenings.

2 George Mitchell, Revival Man, The Jock Troup Story, Christian Focus Publications, 2002.

3 Angus Swanson (1904-1990) became a well-known and much-appreciated preacher and teacher among the assemblies, latterly in Aberdeen.

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