Fair Hill Market - Coleraine (1859)

Rev. J. A. Canning, minister of the Second Presbyterian Church, relates:

“Upon the evening of the 7th of June 1859, an open-air meeting was held in one of the marketplaces of the town, called the Fair Hill. The announced object of the meeting was to receive and hear one or two of the ‘converts,’ as they began to be called, from a district some eight or ten miles south of Coleraine. The evening was one of the most lovely that ever shone. The richly wooded banks of the river Bairn, which bounds one side of the square in which the meeting was held, were fully in prospect, and there was not a cloud in the sky. Shortly after seven o’clock, dense masses of people, from town and country, began to pour into the square by all its approaches, and in a short time an enormous multitude crowded around the platform from which speakers were to address the meeting. After singing and prayer, the converts, a young man and a man more advanced in years; and both of the humbler class, preceded to address the meeting. Their addresses were short and consisted almost entirely of a detail of their own awakening, and earnest appeals to the consciences of sinners. After the lapse of nearly an hour, it became manifest that more than one half of the congregated multitude could not hear the voices of the speakers on the platform when it was suggested that the people should separate into distinct congregations or groups and that a minister should preach to each group. This was immediately done, and some three or four separate audiences were soon listening with most marked attention to as many preachers, for all the ministers of all the evangelical churches in the town were present.

“I was engaged in addressing a large group of people, composed of all ages and of all ranks of the community, from a portion of Scripture, when I became struck with the deep and peculiar attention which manifestly every mind and heart was lending to what I spoke. As to manner, my address was very calm; and as to matter, it consisted of plain gospel truth, as it concerns man’s lost condition on the one hand and the free grace of God, as displayed in salvation, on the other. I know that the addresses of my brethren were of a like character. I never saw before, in any audience, the same searching, earnest, riveted look fixed upon my face, as strained up to me from almost every eye on that hushed and apparently awestruck multitude. I remember, even whilst I was speaking, asking myself, how is this? Why is this? As yet, however, the people stood motionless and perfectly silent; when, about the time at which the last speaker was closing his address, a very peculiar cry arose from out a dense group at one side of the square, and in less than ten minutes a similar cry was repeated in six or eight different groups, until, in a very short time, the whole multitude was divided into awe-struck assemblages around persons prostrate on the ground, or supported in the arms of relatives or friends.”

The next evening 8th June, a vast crowd assembled in the market place and as the gospel was preached multitudes were stricken down by the power of God. A new Town Hall had been built and was to be opened about this time by a ball. Someone suggested that this new building, not yet officially opened, should be made available to shelter these stricken ones. This was immediately done, and the next issue of the Coleraine Chronicle reported: “Instead of the joyous dance and the stirring music of the ball-room, the walls of the hall gave back the almost despairing groans of the stricken sinner, the heartfelt prayer of a believing penitent, or resounded with the adoring thanks of a redeemed saint. So hour after hour of that memorable night passed away. One after another, ministers and good men, who had prayed with and comforted the mourners, retired worn out. In the niche of a window sat a mother, for six long hours, holding in her lap the head of a son, a wicked son, who now lay prostrated under the awful power of conviction. Would not God, who had borne with her boy in his years of waywardness, vouchsafe to him ‘a sight of the cross?’ Her patience was rewarded; before his dark soul a clear light dawned upon the great atonement, and he went home rejoicing that even such a sinner as he could be received by the Lamb of God.”

During the month of July the outpouring continued. On the evening of the 27th, Rev. Grattan Guinness addressed a crowd of 7,000 persons and many were stricken under the power of the Word. “In the afternoon of the same day,” says the Coleraine Chronicle, “we were privileged to witness a revival scene of intense interest. In a small house in a neglected portion of the outskirts of the town, a child, some eight years of age, was made the instrument in God’s hand of awakening three others—all members of different families; and one of them, a young man, who the evening previous had ‘sat in the scorner’s seat,’ and who was loud in his scoffs at any whom he heard ascribing to God’s Spirit the work of awakening which he derided. Now the hand of God in mercy broke in pieces the hard heart and laid the young man prostrate at the feet of Jesus. He belonged to the 59th Regiment, but is now discharged, and in all the abandon of earnest seeking after spiritual things, the uniform of his earthly sovereign was soiled unheeded, while he sought on his knees the garment of righteousness, provided for all who in sincerity own allegiance to the Heavenly King. By him sat a young woman who an hour or so previously had found peace and joy in believing; and in the same house two other young women experienced saving knowledge of Jesus.

'The '59 Revival', by Ian R K Paisley

Additional Information

The Market was north of Bannfield Lane and was replaced by Gas Works.

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