Canna (1842)

The revival described below spread to a lesser extent to Canna.

The revival went all over Skye and beyond. On Eigg, the minister, John Swanson, was reaching his ordinary Sunday sermon when contrition on account of sin affected the whole congregation and the meeting house became 'a place of weeping', from which cries could apparently be distinctly heard at the distance of half a mile. 

'GSS Report' 1843, page 30.

Swanson wrote in his journal, 'It was an outburst of the whole so that no mouth was silent and no dry eye; old and young mourned together and the blooming and withered cheeks were all wet with tears. The scene was indescribable and I sat down mayhap to weep too.' 

'Disruption of the Worthies', page 133.

'The meeting place was a low dingy cottage of turf and stone,,,, a pulpit grotesquely rude, that had never employed the bred carpenter and a few ranges of seats of undressed deal.'

''GSS Report 1843', page 21.

A report of Roderick MacLeod on the revival said:

Soon after the awakening broke out in Unish, it appeared also in Geary, another Gaelic School station in Waternish, under Mr Murdoch MacDonald, the teacher there, and also at Glendale in the parish of Durinish, so that from that extreme and intermediate point, where it first commenced, it proceeded to the right and to the left, till now, in a series of regular successive movements, it has traversed the whole extent of the island, from north to south, yea and beyond, on to the islands of Eigg and Rhum, in the parish of Small Isles, the most distant bounds of the Presbytery Skye.'

The minister of the 200 nominal Protestants on the Island was John Swanson. Most of the island was Catholic. During a service on August 7th, a witness reports that 'I may say the awe of God fell upon all.' On Sunday, August 14th, Swanson preached from Acts 17:3: 'Christ must needs have suffered.' He later recorded:

'The whole congregation was moved, the house was a place of weeping as if the promise was literally fulfilled, "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced and mourn". It was an outburst of the whole so that no mouth was silent, and no eye dry; old and young mourned together, and the blooming and withered cheeks were all wet with tears. The scene was indescribable, and I sat down mayhap to weep too.' By November around 40 were affected by the revival and a similar number on the Island of Rum.

A Gaelic School Superintendent recorded: 'I was but a few minutes here talking with those thatching the house when all the people of the district assembled and filled the house to excess. I had no intention whatever of opening the bible here, but when I saw the poor people coming without any invitation on my part, though it was in a manner transgressing the rules of the Society, I addressed them - saw a number of old and young very much affected, and some crying out.'

At the Disruption in 1843, Swanson walked out to join the newly formed Free Church. Unfortunately, the owner of the Island refused to allow a Free Church or Manse to be built, so Swanson bought a small boat on which he lived. In 1845 a witness, who was visiting the Island, reported:

'The building in which the congregation meets is a low dingy cottage of turf and stone ... We found the congregation already gathered, and that the very bad morning had failed to lessen their numbers. There were a few of the male parishioners keeping watch at the door, looking wistfully out through the fog and rain for their minister; and at his approach nearly twenty more came issuing forth from the place, like carder bees from their nest of dried grass and moss, to gather around him and shake him by the hand ... Rarely have I seen human countenances so eloquently vocal with veneration and love ... The rude turf building we found full from end to end, and all esteem with a particularly wet congregation, some of whom, neither very robust nor young, had travelled in the soaking drizzle from the further extrem¬ities of the Island. And judging from the serious attention with which they listened to the discourse, they must have deemed it full value for all it cost them. I have never seen a congregation more deeply impressed, or that seemed to follow the preached more intelligently. ... There was little of externals in the place as can well be imagined. An uneven earthen floor - turf walls on every side and a turf roof above; two little windows of four panes apiece, down which the rain-drops were coursing thick and fast; a pulpit grotesquely rude, that had never employed the bred carpenter; and a few ranges of seats of undressed deal. Such were the materialisms of this lowly church of the people; and yet here, notwithstanding, was the living soul of a Christian community, understandings convinced of the truth of the Gospel, and hearts softened and impressed by its power.'

This has all been taken from, ‘The Skye Revivals,’ by Steve Taylor, published by New Wine Press, p47, 89-94.

Related Wells