James Haldane - Kintyre (1801)



The detailed account below does not give the right inpression of the powerful revival that the peninsula experienced through Haldane's ministry and other's.

Mr. Campbell's Journal supplies a continuation of the narrative of their tour. He says: "On reaching the west side of Arran we observed a long neck of land stretching towards the northern coast of Ireland. On inquiry we found it was Kintyre; towards the south end of which was Campbelton, the chief town, having a considerable population. As our parish extended to wherever there were human, beings, and hearing that there was not one Gospel preacher in the whole range of seventy miles, except in the chief town, we determined to pay it a visit. We engaged a boat, and left Arran in the afternoon, making towards that part of the coast where there was a little inn, which we did not reach till about ten o'clock at night, and dark. After scrambling over the rocks on the beach, the seamen led us to the inn, where we found the inmates fast asleep; but the landlord was easily roused, struck a light, and soon cooked us a Highland supper, which is universally ham and eggs. He seemed to be quite exhilarated, being evidently willing to do his best to make us comfortable, so that it would have been cruel to have found fault with anything. He had been in the army, and readily joined us in our evening worship. He informed us that there were people living not far from him, who would come to sermon in the morning in front of his house. But only three persons came, with whom we had a little conversation. We then proceeded to Campbelton, where we stopped for several days, preaching mornings and evenings on the green slope of a hill, to about 1,000 people in the morning, and about 1,500 in the evening, and twice in the neighbouring villages during the day."

But their progress was not destined to be always so peaceful. By the advice of friends at Campbelton they had employed a messenger to go down to Kintyre, and intimate four sermons each day at the different villages. The clergy were all Moderate. They were, for the most part, deeply immersed in farming, fishing, or trading in sheep and cattle. Their official duties, if performed at all, were performed in the most careless manner, and many of them were Socinians.* At their instigation the Highland chiefs combined to put a stop to the itinerancies in their neighbourhood. One of the gentlemen, more zealous than the rest, a military man who afterwards succeeded to a baronetcy, encountered the missionaries at a place where he had intended to stop them, had he arrived in time. It was there that he first gave notice that the magistrates had resolved to allow of no more field-preaching. Mr. James Haldane plainly told the Gallant Major, as he had told the magistrates at Ayr, that the justices were exceeding their powers, that such an illegal mandate should not be obeyed, and that he would certainly preach at the places where sermons had been already intimated. The Major, although somewhat disconcerted by the calm determination with which he was met, repeated his prohibition, and said he should be at their next place of meeting before them. He was as good as his word, but ultimately faltered in his course. He sat on horseback during Mr. James Haldane's sermon, in a scarlet hunting-coat, witnessed tracts distributed amongst the people; but without mustering courage to offer any interruption, saw both of the itinerants mount their horses and depart. Soon after, the Major, attended by his groom, passed them at a hand gallop, and then pulling up, turned round once more, apparently resolved on putting in force the arrest which he contemplated. But as often as his eye encountered Mr. James Haldane's unflinching glance, his courage seemed to fail, and he again and again faltered and passed on. Arriving at Whitehouse, which was the next preaching station, the Major was joined by the parish minister and several magistrates, all on horseback, and full of excitement. Field-preaching was one of those things which seemed beyond the reach of their philosophy, and to persist in it after their prohibition, appeared to these little chieftains like "bearding the lion in his den, the Douglas in his hall." It was evident that a great blow was meditated. Still James Haldane, in sight of the assembled magistrates, left the inn to preach in the middle of the town, and, strange to say, against him none of all the party mustered courage to execute the arrest. The people were, however, so much intimidated by the dread of their chiefs and of the magistrates, that, for the most part, they stood and listened at a distance. Mr. Campbell's duty was to preach at an adjoining village, and although his friend was left unmolested in the town, yet no sooner did he set out, than, to use his own words, he was " followed by the person in the red coat, and ordered by him, as a justice of the peace, to return to Whitehouse, which I did, and put my horse into the stable till Mr. Haldane returned from preaching." Mr. Campbell was a man of great faith and strong passive courage, but he was little of stature, and had not much of that bearing which, more especially on occasions of emergency, characterized his companion. On his return from preaching, Mr. James Haldane was surprised to find Mr. Campbell a prisoner at large. But to bring matters to an issue, he ordered their horses to be saddled, whilst he advised Mr. Campbell to go to the gentlemen, who were assembled in the adjoining room along with the parish minister, and inquire by what authority he was ordered to return to Whitehouse. They replied, pointing to a sealed paper, "There is a warrant to send you to the Sheriff of Argyll; and the volunteers who are to attend you will be ready in a few minutes." The parish minister had, on the previous Sunday, silenced their messenger, when announcing the preachings to the people as they were coining out of church. Standing with a heavy leaded whip in his hand, he exclaimed, " If you repeat that notice, with one stroke of my whip I'll send you into the eternal world !"

Mr. Campbell's Journal continues the narrative of their pro?gress under arrest:? "A sergeant, with a party of volunteers in their uniforms, being arrived, we were told we might stop where we pleased; that the soldiers had only directions to see that we went to the Sheriff. As the soldiers had no horses, of course our progress was slow. After dark, we arrived at the town where we should have preached, and learned that a congregation had assembled, and did not disperse till it was almost dark. We took up our quarters at a good inn. As it was our custom to have worship at all the inns where we halted, we had it there, and desired the landlord to invite as many of his neighbours to attend as he pleased. The room, which was of a good size, was well filled, and our volunteers all attended. A chapter of the Bible was read, and an address founded upon it being given, and prayer offered, the company dispersed. Next morning, at seven o'clock, we set off, and had about fifteen miles to march to Lochgilp?head to breakfast. While at breakfast an old man called, who said, ' We heard of your coming, and of your having arrived at the inn; and though I have been a soldier in the German wars of '56, and seen many prisoners, yet never having seen any prisoners for preaching the Gospel, I thought it was my duty to call upon you, and therefore am I come. But you will have some things to converse about among yourselves, I therefore wish you good morning.' On conversing a little with him, he withdrew. After an interview with a Justice of Peace, to whose care we had been committed, we went on to the Sheriff's, about seven miles farther, under the care of the postmaster."

To the Sheriff they were very unwelcome visitors. He was an old. man, and having been apprised of their coming, was by no means disposed to commit himself to the violent proceedings of the anti-preaching chiefs. Ile put several questions, which were satisfactorily answered, and after consulting with a gentleman who sat with him as his adviser, he said, "But have you taken the oaths to Government?" They replied that they had not, but that they were most willing to do so instantly. The Sheriff said that he had not a copy of the oaths, and that they must therefore go to Inverary for the purpose. A merchant, from Glasgow, who had joined the itinerants, quoted the words of the Toleration Act to show that, "if required to take the oaths, they were to be administered before the nearest Magistrate." "Now," said Mr. J. A. Haldane, "you are the nearest Magis?trate. We are peaceable, loyal subjects, transgressing no law, and prepared to do all that the law requires, but to Inverary we will not go, except as your prisoners and on your responsibility." The Sheriff had wished to make the affair a drawn battle, and to screen the Magistrates from blame, at the same time that he declined to act against the preachers. But Mr. James Haldane felt the importance of refusing all compromise, and of bringing the question to issue. The Sheriff was therefore obliged to give way, and after once more consulting with his friend, briefly said, "Gentlemen, you are at liberty."

The consequences were important. A great right had been vindicated, and the lawfulness of field-preaching admitted by the highest judicial authority of the county. The itinerants returned and preached at all the villages where they had been previously expected. The people who had been before intimi?dated from attending, now flocked in crowds to listen. "At Whitehouse," says Mr. Campbell, "when Mr. Haldane returned, the whole town seemed to have turned out." "He was," said another who was present, "in one of his finest keys," and spoke with an eloquence, a fervour, and animation, which seemed to have acquired redoubled force from the circumstances in which he had been placed. Mr. Campbell, too, preached with good effect in the neighbourhood; and in his Journal records the following anecdote, which serves to show the ignorance of the Moderate ministers of that day. He says: "I remember a curious intimation which a parish minister gave to his people on the preceding Sabbath. It was told me by a lady who was present. ' I have to inform you that those preachers who have been for some time disturbing the peace of the country are expected here also, but I hope you will give then no encouragement. It is possible they may preach and pray better than I do, but sure I am they have not a better heart.' "

The arrest was clearly illegal, and the Magistrates concerned in it might have been prosecuted, more especially the gentleman who, to use the words of a Scotch Judge concerning another affair of a similar kind, acted more like a constable than a Justice of the Peace. It is believed that they were informed of their mistake by the then Lord Justice Clerk, who had met the party on the road, and on inquiring the meaning of the formidable escort, was no doubt much surprised. But there was no desire to be litigious or revengeful. It was, however, a remarkable coincidence, and one which will not be overlooked by those who remember that nothing happens by chance, that when Mr. Campbell next met the fox-hunting Magistrate, Who had acted towards him with so little chivalry, it was in the precincts of the Abbey of Holyrood at Edinburgh, where the Major was himself a prisoner at large within the bounds then allowed as an asylum for debtors. It may be added, as one of the little anecdotes which have escaped oblivion, and flit across the scene amidst the lights and shades of these bygone days, that on the morning when they left the Sheriff the whole party were drenched in a heavy shower of rain. Arriving at a small Highland inn, they called for breakfast and a fire, where they might dry their wet clothes. There was but one fire-place in the hut, and they were all crowding round it, with their coats off, some wrapped in tartan plaids or blankets, whilst ham and eggs were in preparation. Mr. James Haldane, whose naturally joyous spirit quickly caught the ludicrousness of the scene, exclaimed, " What a fine subject for a caricature: Field- preachers refreshing themselves after a shower!"

The results of that tour to Kintyre were not evanescent, as will be seen from Mr. Campbell's account of a visit which he made to the same district two years after his arrest. On their return to Edinburgh, they prevailed on a worthy preacher, who was a native of the place, to go and labour in Kintyre. He had just finished his studies at Mr. Haldane's seminary at Glasgow, besides attending the College, and he keenly felt the spiritual destitution and ignorance of his countrymen. Before Mr. James Haldane's visit, Kintyre was, as Mr. Campbell says, a kind of heathen part of Scotland. But .Mr. Macallum agreed to go and occupy the fallow ground, now for the first time broken up. His labours, although at the beginning attended with little effect, were after a few months crowned with signal success, as will be seen by Mr. Campbell's interesting narrative :?

"It was arranged. that his head quarters should be at the very town where we were arrested, and that he should regularly visit out-stations in the region round about. I remember the first evening I preached there, that the sergeant of the party who guarded us to the Sheriff sat at my right hand in his regimentals, which he had previously put on for the occasion, and was now a converted man; and on my left sat the minister's man, also converted, whose case was somewhat singular. When Mr. Macallum first went there, of course this man was prohibited from ever going to hear him, but one evening Mr. Macallum preached in a barn adjoining to the minister's stable, indeed only separated from it by an old gable. The man being in the stable when Mr. Macallum was preaching, and observing a hole in the gable, he naturally put his ear to it,--for stolen waters are sweet. The Gospel passed through this hole to his ear, up to his understanding, and down to his heart, so he became a new man, and his soul not being able to live without food, he was obliged to attend the ministry of Mr. Macallum, and consequently lost his situation at the manse or parsonage house.

"The people had been very anxious to build a place of worship, but no proprietor could be found willing to part with a piece of ground for that purpose; but in a singular way their work was accomplished. There happened to be a contested election, in which the minister took a different side from the landed proprietor in his immediate neighbourhood, which so incensed that gentleman, that, to be revenged on him, he gave to Mr. Macallum an acre of ground to build a chapel and a house for himself upon it, and assisted the people to erect them. There was also room on the ground for a garden. I have slept in the house. So thus God can make even the wrath of man to praise Him.

"I paid a visit with Mr. Macallum and a young man to the western side of the Island of Arran, in order to preach at a few places, and to return to a station of Mr. Macallum's to preach on the Sabbath. The case of the young man was not a common one. He had been, like his companions, very ignorant and careless. He heard Mr. Haldane preach after being freed from his arrest, and went home greatly alarmed about the state of his soul. He could neither sleep nor work; his poor friends did not know what to make him,?some recommending one medicine, others to make trial of another. All failing, they were recommended to take him to the parish minister of a town a few miles off. His mother did so. He inquired of the mother what was the matter with him. She said she could not tell, but he could neither sleep nor work for fear of the day of judgment and hell. The minister informed her that a person had very lately come to the town to teach the people to dance, and was only to remain for a short time; he therefore advised her to put him for a month under his tuition; he had little doubt but he would be relieved. She took lodgings for her son, and placed him under the dancing-master for a month. Of course, he began to teach him how to make one foot point to the east, and another to the west, and so on. About the second day he got tired of the foolish work, jumped out of the window of the dancing-room, ran home to his mother, declaring it made him worse instead of better; so he gave up the dancing.

"Not long after this Mr. Macallum arrived, and commenced preaching in the neighbourhood. The young man went to hear him, and was greatly relieved under the first sermon. During our visit to Arran I had several conversations with him, and found his mind peaceful, and very desirous to be educated for the ministry.

"The Saturday being stormy, none of the sailors would venture to take us across the water to Kintyre. On rising early on the Sabbath morning, we found the wind very little abated, and the sailors determined not to venture. Hearing of a larger boat about two miles along the shore, we walked to it, and prevailed on the sailors to whom it belonged to attempt the passage, which turned out to be a very rough one. But the greatest difficulty was when we got within a hundred yards of the shore, which was strewed over with huge rocks, and foaming billows dashing over them. The sailors of course had taken down the sail, after which they paused for some time till a large wave had retired past us, when all immediately exerted their utmost strength at the oars, and the helmsman steered the boat in a serpentine course among rocks before the succeeding wave overtook us. It was the most skilful piece of seamanship I have ever witnessed. We preached near the spot where Mr. Haldane and I landed two years before, when only about three persons came to hear; now we had a congregation of upwards of 400, the effect of Mr. Macallum's labours among them. On leaving them, about a dozen of the people walked on each side of my horse, telling what miserable creatures they were when I first visited their country. One said he then acted as fiddler at all the dancing weddings round about, which he immediately gave up when his eyes were opened. The people said I had broken my fiddle to pieces, but that was not true.' An aged, grey-headed man then said, ' I was at that time chairman of a whisky-toddy meeting, that regularly met for the purpose of drinking whisky and water in the evenings. After Mr. Macallum came amongst us, one ceased to attend, then another and another did the same, till I was left alone in the chair. I began then to wonder what it could be that they liked better than good Highland whisky. This determined me to go and see; so I went and attended the ministry of our friend, and also found that which I liked better than whisky-toddy.' Thus the chair was vacated, and the meeting dissolved by the force of Gospel truth. Various others related their experience as we walked along, which I cannot now recollect, and have no written memor?andum to help me. What was rather a novelty to me, was that I found the conversions as numerous among those who might be called the aged as among the young, which is seldom the case where the Gospel has long been preached. But in that part of the country I did not hear of any Gospel preacher having been there in that generation, or that of their fathers, consequently it was a kind of heathen part of Scotland. So it was, as among the heathens abroad, under our missionaries: conversions are as frequent among the old as the young; for if the Gospel does not soften it hardens; it is either the savour of life or death."

From 'The Lives of Robert and James Haldane,' by Alexander Haldane, p283-91.

Additional Information

I do not know where they landed, but there are only a few options as the coast is very rocky.


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