CULLEN, PORTKNOCKIE & FINDOCHTY
Fishing had for decades been the only source of financial income for the Banffshire towns of Cullen, Portknockie and Findochty. 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
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
Old view over Cullen harbour.
(Picture: St. Andrews University.)
The Christians of Cullen, some who had been revived and others just saved, were to play a prominent part in the move of the Holy Spirit in Portsoy in 1923. When Captain William Leed and Lieutenant A. E. Towne, the Salvation Army officers at Cullen decided to go to Portsoy for meetings in March 1923, they were supported by a loyal band of Christians on fire for God, from Cullen. These folks were willing to cycle even in winter weather in order to tell their neighbouring townsfolks of the One Who is mighty and strong to save. No wonder Portsoy, Sandend and other villages were moved by revival blessing and many were saved.
There were others who unashamedly blazed the trail for God, because wherever the men of Portknockie went in pursuit of their calling as fishermen, they would fearlessly and fervently proclaim by life and lip that Christ is the answer.
One of the well-known characters around the Banffshire fishing villages at that time was a fisherman from Portknockie called John Innes. Saved at the turn of the century, John was tall, of erect bearing, and could often be seen standing alone at some street corner, holding forth the word of life. His preaching took its character from his way of life and was invariably interspersed with quaint witticisms. Preaching in the days when radio was in its infancy, he would say, "I'm always tuned in to glory." The words of the song he frequently sang revealed how this man of God saw the journey of life as a voyage at sea, and how one needed Jesus as a pilot. Those who heard him sing said that he sang with conviction and the passion that only a soul burdened for others could sing. This is his song:-
"Ye sons of the main that sail o'er the flood
Whose sins like a mountain, have reached unto God,
Remember the short voyage of life soon will end,
And so brother sailor, make Jesus your friend
Look astern on your life, see your way marked by sin,
See what dangers your vessel and cargo are in,
If the hard rocks of death should grate on your keel,
Can you say with assurance, your soul will be well?
Lay by your old compass, it will do you no good,
It n 'er can direct you the right way to God,
Mind your helm brother sailor and don't fall asleep,
Or you vessel and cargo will sink in the deep.
There are treacherous shoals then on every hand,
On the voyage of life, to that happy land,
Consult your chart and compass every day,
And your vessel will sail safely on all the way.
With the Pilot on board we can sail right along,
Through calms and through storms till we reach our blest home,
Then come unto Jesus, my dear sinner friend,
For remember the short voyage of life will soon end."
A few miles west of Portknockie is the town known locally as "Finichty". Around the first two decades of the 20th century Findochty contained some tremendous men and women of God.
One such was James
Campbell, a Sergeant-major in the local Salvation Army Corps. James preached in his sea-boots in
Another was James "Callie" Campbell. Some of his family did not enjoy a full measure of health, but this only drove those saintly souls nearer to the Christ they loved. He proved God in these circumstances, because his faith in Christ was as deep as the sea that he sailed in search of a modest living for his family.
One man who was always rejoicing in his Saviour was George Flett. Known locally as "Sailor", he played his cornet in the Salvation Army meetings. He is reputed to have played his instrument to the glory of God in every port he visited as a fisherman. His one-man, plus God, open air meetings were well listened to. What a character for Jesus, Finlay flett was. With his boat, "Brae Flett", he moved to Wick, taking his whole family with him, and proved his worth as a Salvationist.
It was a privilege of mine to know another stalwart of these days of revival. I met Bill Bruce while I was conducting a Gospel Campaign in a tent at Buckie in 1964. Immediately a great friendship was forged between us. The sweetness of the fellowship in his home with his dear wife "Lass" will live with me for a long time. As I sat and drank in the stories of triumphs for the Cross, my heart would just cry, "Lord, do it again." These few men along with others stood for the truths of the Gospel even before 1921. No wonder Findochty was especially blest when God moved amongst the fisher folks.
The weekend after
the drifters had sailed for
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
During that next
week letters and telegrams began to arrive at Findochty,
telling of the blessing flowing at
The record states that as the men walked from Buckie to Findochty, a distance of two or three miles, the songs of their pilgrimage to heaven were sung all the way. One of the most noteable 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.
The abiding fruit of these few months are still evident, with another generation experiencing the same Christ as Saviour today in "Finichty".