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Scottish Revival

Joe Gregory, President of The Connexion, recently re-read the powerful story of a revival which took place in the Scottish Outer Hebrides in 1949. He has chosen to share the account here to encourage and inspire our Connexion members.

On the Isle of Lewis, there were two sisters, Peggy and Christine Smith, 84 and 82 years of age respectively, and they spoke only Gaelic. They lived in a humble dwelling by the roadside in the village of Barvas. Peggy was blind, and her sister was almost bent double with arthritis. Whilst they were too infirm to attend church services, they were not too ill to pray.

They were greatly burdened because they'd been told no young person attended public worship at their church. They decided to pray twice a week. On Tuesdays and Fridays they got on their knees at 10pm and remained there until 3am or 4am in the morning; two old women in a very humble cottage.

Then Peggy had a vision of the church crowded with young people. They persuaded their minister to call 'a session'. Seven men covenanted 'not to give rest nor peace to the Almighty until He made their Jerusalem a praise in the earth'. Those men also began to meet on Tuesday and Friday nights for some months.

One night in November a young man also began to pray, 'God, are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?' But he got no further. He fell into a trance and lay on the floor of the barn. Within a matter of minutes three other elders also fell into a trance. As a result, the minister and other intercessors were gripped by the conviction that a God-sent revival must always be related to holiness and godliness.

Are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?

An awareness of God seemed to grip the whole community. Little work was done as men and women gave themselves to thinking about eternal things, 'and God seemed to be everywhere.' In the little cottage the two sisters knew God had kept His promise and told their minister to invite a preacher to come and help them.

Duncan Campbell arrives

It was a man named Duncan Campbell who was called to lead a series of meetings. For the first week of evening meetings relatively little happened, though five young people found God.

On 13 December 1949, at the end of the meeting, all had left except Campbell and one other. The Deacon said, 'Don't be discouraged. God is hovering over us, and he'll break through any moment. I can already hear the rumbling of heaven's chariot wheels.'

He began to pray before falling to the ground in a trance. Five minutes later the local blacksmith came back to the church and said, 'Mr Campbell, something wonderful has happened. We were praying that God would pour water on the thirsty and floods upon the dry ground, and listen, He's done it! He's done it! Will you come to the door, and see the crowd that’s here.

Revival breaks out

Even though it was 11pm at night between six and seven hundred people had gathered around the church. They'd been moved by a power they could not explain. A hunger and thirst gripped them, and the meeting continued until 4am in the morning. Strong men were bowed down and trembled in God's presence. Nearby a dance was in progress but the young people ran from it, 'as though fleeing from a plague', and made for the church.

In a matter of minutes, the dance hall was empty.

Others who had gone to bed were woken by the Holy Spirit, got dressed, and made for the church. There had been no publicity except for an announcement from the pulpit on Sunday that a man would be conducting a series of meetings in the parish for ten days. God became his own publicity agent.

Over the next few nights hundreds gathered in different places, in churches and barns or in fields and homes. There was a prayer meeting every day at noon. All work stopped for two hours and people gathered for prayer. No appeals were made. People made their way to the prayer meeting to praise God for His salvation.

So, it continued for several years, and it spread to many of the islands. People who had never been near a meeting before were suddenly gripped by the Holy Spirit, stopped work, and gave themselves to seeking God. Men were found walking the roads at night in distress of soul, while others were found during the day among the rocks. Social evils were swept away as by a flood, and whole districts were completely changed. A wonderful sense of God seemed to pervade the whole place. Duncan Campbell described the atmosphere around Barvas as 'a community saturated with God'.

Duncan came for two weeks and ended up staying for two years!


When revival came to Lewis in 1949 the churches had no choirs, organs, musical instruments or padded seats. There were no meetings for children, young people or Mums and Tots, no Holiday Bible Clubs, no power points or transport laid on, and very few had cars. But God performed miracles and brought hundreds, if not thousands, to Himself. It seems the catalyst was prayer, prayer and only prayer. That was it. God did the rest.

As I have travelled around The Connexion I have been moved by the faithfulness of the folk in our churches. Be encouraged by the events on Lewis which began 75 years ago. Persevere in prayer, seek holiness, it can and does make a difference. Just one or two people can have an impact, like Peggy and Christine Smith. Looking at their example we can appreciate the fact that age is no barrier when it comes to helping the Kingdom of God to grow.

Joe Gregory