The 1921 summer
herring fishing was not very successful so eyes and minds were turned towards
the season in East
Anglia which centred
around the ports of Yarmouth and Lowestoft. All the boats were
freshly painted, nets repaired and hopes rose for a bountiful harvest of the
sea.† Soon places like Smith's Knoll
Bank, Haisboro' Lightship, Lemon Buoy and the Scrobie would be seen. These names were everyday language
to the seasoned fishermen. Young men were journeying south for the first time
and looked forward to the bright lights, for some, their first taste of worldly
pleasure. Little did they know that a material disaster lay ahead, yet it was
to be a time that would go down in the annals of eternity as a great harvest of
Steam drifters entering harbour at Gorleston.
† (Picture: Coates of Wisbech.)
In the Shetland
Isles, Isle of Lewis, Caithness, along the Moray Coast, Banffshire fishing
villages, Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Aberdeen, the East Neuk towns of Anstruther, St. Monance, Musselburgh, Port Seaton, Eyemouth
and even from Southern Ireland, women would be packing their chests to move to
East Anglia. Soon to these women places like the Deans, Exemouth Road, Regent Road, the Market Stalls, the corner in King Street
known as "Peterhead Corner" and "Fraserburgh
Corner" would be familiar in Yarmouth. In Lowestoft there would also be many well known places where they would work
and tell stories of their families back home. Truly the East Anglian fishing was a Mecca, both ports
producing successful boats and fishcurers. Special
trains were run from Scotland to take those concerned south for the season. What many did not
realise was that their eternal destiny would be changed through God's
intervention. Sailing from most of the towns that the women had left, the
skippers would set their courses south. Although very interested in material
prospects, the Christians also looked forward to times of fellowship in the
Gospel. Many of these men would not ha' met since last year.
It was a season of
gales and herring were scarce. Many boats failed to meet their expenses. Some
braved the storms and had their nets torn.†
Others lay at their nets for days, waiting until the weather improved.
Discharging herring from steam drifters at Yarmouth.
† (Picture: Coates of Wisbech.)
Pouring pickle into herring barrels at Lowestoft.)
† (Picture: Owner not traced.)
Filling barrels at Yarmouth during the herring season.)
† (Picture: Coates of Wisbech )
At this time the
Rev. A. Douglas Brown was conducting meetings around East Anglia and was seeing God's blessing in a great measure. The fisherfolk from Scotland
were coming to a situation which smouldered with the prospects of a spiritual
How wonderful is
Godís clock, it is neither fast nor slow. Just as the Spirit of God fell upon
the company gathered on the day of Pentecost, so God chose to move in salvation
blessing when men and women came from many parts of Scotland.† God's timing was so accurate. Some of the
first hand stories I have heard are really tremendous. The main instrument in
the hands of God was the Wick cooper, Jock Troup. He may have been limited in
his academic education, but he learned , be willing
and obedient in God' s school.
Old friends met
together at weekends. The majority sought worldly entertainment. Godís children
met together in fellowship and drank at the wellsprings of grace.† In Fish Street, to
the rear of the Market Place, the Brethren met in their hall. The Baptists
worshipped in their church behind Regent Road.
Methodists congregated in the DenesideChurch and the Salvationists gathered in their own place beside the Town
With a burning
passion for souls and a life filled with the Holy Spirit, Jock Troup accompanied
by a few friends, started to have open-air meetings at the Plain Stone (Market
Place), when the stalls had closed around on a Saturday night. It
was on the third Saturday of October 1921 that God chose to move in power. Many
were thrown to. the ground under conviction of sin
through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ As Jock preached from the first
verse of Isaiah chapter 63, "Who is this that cometh from Edom,
with dyed garments from Bozrah? this
that is glorious in His apparel, travelling in the greatness of His strength? I that speak in righteousness mighty to save." A young
fisherman from Cairnbulg went into the open air ring
and started to sing,
It's altered now,
The devil once had
But Jesus ransomed
When the Holy
Spirit took control, scores of hardened fishermen and fisherlassies
were gripped with the fear of God. They knelt at the Yarmouth Cross and their
burdens were lifted because of Calvary. On account of that event, many lives and communities would never
be the same again. As I listened to men and women who were there on that night
I realised how great was the power of God that was manifested there. One man
talked to told me he was literally "Slain of the Lord" and fell to the
ground. He said, "The ground around me was like a battlefield with souls
crying to God for mercy." My own faith was there, but he was not saved
until the next week when he was aboard a herring drifter, sea, eight miles from
the Haisboro' Lightship.
We may question
such happenings, but similar events occurred when Jonathan Edwards preached in Massachusetts. On
that occasion men and women hung on to the pillars of the church under
conviction of sin. We must realise that when God moves, spectacular things happen.
Services were also
held in the DenesideMethodistChurch and in St. George'sChurch. What
meetings they were! lt is
reported that they went on for hours. One particular night stands out.† Jock Troup and Douglas Brown stood in the
pulpit of the DenesideMethodistChurch with
their arm around one another, weeping as they basked in the Divine Presence of
God. The refined Baptist minister and the rough herring cooper were united and
they became life-long friends. The Market Place and the Post Office were still
the prime places for open air witness. One man who came from Port Gordon, named
Alex Thain, told me that he was strolling past the
Market Place on a Saturday night with five of his friends when some unseen
power made them pay attention to the singing. Suddenly he was left standing
alone, his friends had responded to the call to follow Christ. It was a few
years later until Alex was converted.† At
that open-air meeting, unknown to him, was the woman who was to become his
wife, Agnes Cowe. As the crowd sang that lovely hymn
from the Sankey Hymn book, number 466, she answered
the call, took the step and has lived for Christ all her life.
"Oh tender and sweet was the Master's voice,
As He lovingly called to thee,
Come over the line, it is only a step,
I am waiting my child for thee."
Barrels awaiting shipment at Yarmouth.
† (Picture: Coates of Wisbech.)
Steam drifters tied up at Yarmouth.
† (Picture: Coates of Wisbech.)
On the Monday
morning work carried on as usual. Jock returned to his coopering, his friends
to their fishing, but by no means was the blessing of God confined to meetings.
On the Denes where most of the curing yards were and
across the river at Gorleston in the yards there, the
songs of Zion were sung. Far out at sea as the boats lay at their nets, the
singing of men who were redeemed wafted over the waves. Whenever work was
finished, meetings were held. Often due to bad weather the boats would tie up
and many would gather together at all hours in different places. Meetings would
often go on until in the morning. Souls were often
saved in the houses where the fisherlassies lodged.
In the curing yards amidst the herring, salt, pickle and barrels there were
those who came into the experience of salvation and had their souls preserved
for eternity. It was common for the foreman of the curing yard to get Jock to
lead his workers to Christ at all hours of the day to they could all go back to
their work. The story is told that one Monday morning, (that was the day the
curers would fill up the barrels which had been packed with herring previously,
because the salt had melted and the fish had sunk in the barrel) that three
(lassies from the Isle of Lewis) failed to turn up for work and their employer
went to see what was wrong. When he found them in their lodgings under deep
conviction of sin, he went straight for Jock Troup who led them to Christ. They
rejoiced in this great salvation and returned to their work among the herring.
Conviction was everywhere, hearts were broken as souls
wept over their sins.
Men were getting
saved at sea aboard the herring boats. As they steamed to the fishing grounds by
the Knoll Lightship and the Haisboroí Lightship,
unsaved crewmen would be led to Christ by new converts. The nets were laid in
the sea and as the drifters lay with their heads into the wind, big rough
fishermen, who until now knew no fear, cried out in terror of being lost in
hell.† Engineers in the bowels of the
ships looking after the coal-fired boilers were reminded of the fire of hell
and the lost eternity which awaits the ungodly. They cried to God for help and
found refuge in Christ. During hauling operations which took at least four
hours and even sometime up to ten hours when pulling eighty nets, there were
tremendous times of blessing. Many were saved as the nets were being hauled
aboard.† The soul concerned would just
let the net go, fall on his knees and cry for salvation. What days!
home news of the spiritual awakening to the ports of Scotland.
Letters told of who and where their salvation took place. A telegram from a
certain Bobby Ritchie read "Saved, 10 miles from Knoll -Lightship, last to
ring in on this ship." All the interest was in souls, no wonder a mighty
harvest was reaped for God.
During the time
when a Yarmouth
fishing was at its height, it was interesting to walk along the quay, starting
at the Trawl Market, past the Herring Market and continue right down past all
the "posts" until you came to the Freshing
Market. The visitor could not but note the different registrations appearing on
the sides and funnels of the drifters. If this journey was taken on a Sunday,
it would be evident that the boats tied up on the quays were all from Scotland
for no Scottish skipper went to sea on that day.† Every port represented had its own
BK for the Eyemouth boats,
for the East Neuk of Fife villages of St. Monance,
Pittenween and Anstruther.
Drifters from the
North East of Scotland had
PD for Peterhead,
FR for Fraserburgh,
BF for Banffshire
BCK for Buckie,
INS for Lossiemouth, Hopeman, Burghead and Avoch,
and finally WK for Wick.
At the peak of the
season there would be well over 700 boats based at East Anglia. When the fishing was over they would make their way to their
respective ports, thus the influence of the 1921 move of God at Yarmouth was far
London Road Baptist Church, Lowestoft.)
† (Picture: Owner not traced.)
On a smaller scale
the events at Yarmouth could be placed on a parallel with those in the second chapter of
the Acts of the Apostles. God moved on the Day of Pentecost when people were
gathered from many places and they went home with a glorious experience in
their lives to be witnesses to the living Christ. Peter and John spoke the word
with boldness. Signs and wonders followed the preaching of the gospel in Acts
chapters 3 and 4.† Further on, in Acts
chapter 8, we find Philip the evangelist planting the church Samaria and seeing
a great spiritual awakening.† Then
suddenly he is called away south to Gaza to meet the
Ethiopian eunuch who confesses Christ as Lord. Philip may have had every reason
question the voice of God, but he went.
Jock Troup, while
in the midst of a spirital revival, heard God speak,
and had a vision.† What he saw was a man
praying far north in Fraserburgh. This man was asking
the Lord to send the evangelist He was using in Yarmouth north to
where there was a great need. This man had never seen Jock, but he had heard
what was happening among the fishermen. By this time the cooper-evangelist had
been dismissed from his work because of the call on his time.† He had never been to Fraserburgh,
but he had no intention of being disobedient to the heavenly vision. Jock told
some of his closest friends of what he had seen and of his decision to
leave.† They could not understand why he
was going when such mighty blessing was taking place. He knew that the God Who
had started the work in Yarmouth, would continue it. Many tried to persuade the revivalist to stay,
but nothing and no one would prevent him from answering the call of the Master.
The next day the evangelist left.
Meanwhile in Yarmouth, the move
continued.† In St. George'sChurch the
mission of Douglas Brown was tremendously successful. God was using him in even
greater measure. More young men were coming to the forefront of the
battle.† One of these was David Cordiner, who was to be used mightily in Peterhead.
As the season drew
to a close, fishermen prepared for the voyage to their home ports. Nets were
made up into individual bundles, spare and damaged nets were taken aboard from
the place of storage. With the anticipation of reunion, courses were set for
the North. Through the Cockle Gate, past, the Haisboro'
Lightship, past the Long stones where Grace Darling became a heroine, the
drifters would steam. As the armada sailed north the numbers would decrease
rapidly. Once Peterhead was passed, those sailing for Wick
left the others to alter course to sail up the Moray Firth.
Waterloo Bridge and Lowestoft Harbour.
† (Picture: St. Andrews University.)
stories these men had to tell.† Sins
which had haunted them for years were blotted out like a thick cloud and cast
into the sea of God's' forgetfulness.
Those who worked
ashore would be later in leaving Yarmouth. The curing yards had to be cleared up and everything made secure
till the next season. As the trains left Yarmouth, it was a
different kind of song that was heard and a different kind of language that was
spoken. God was the centre of their conversation.
It was remarkable
that in many of the towns where these men and women were going with their new
found joy, the blessing of God had preceded them.