Huntly - D L Moody (1874)

Fourteen years have now swept along the course of time since open-air religious meetings were inaugurated at Huntly. The proposal to hold such meetings came from the fertile mind of our deceased townsman Duncan Matheson and was most cordially entertained by the good Duchess of Gordon to whom the suggestion was first made and warmly supported by the Rev Mr Williamson, the then minister of the Huntly Free Church, now of the Fisherwick Place Church, Belfast. So heartily did the Duchess enter into the matter, that, she not only took upon herself the whole of the expense connected with the meetings but also undertook no little share of the burden of correspondence connected with the securing of the supply of suitable speakers for the occasion.

The place of meeting fixed upon was the Castle Park in the rear of the Gordon Schools and no more suitable or appropriate spot could have been found. The platform was erected, as it has been at all the meetings since in front of a gently rising ground, on which the thousands took their seats. The two days meetings held in July 1860, were a great success and but few would venture to deny that a mighty tide wave of revival was then sent over the North, and especially among the many parishes forming the extensive and important district of which Huntly is the capital and centre. The meetings were continued in 1861, 1862, and 1863, with increasing interest every year. People flocked from far and near and the annual gatherings in the Castle Park were looked forward to with much interest and came to be in many quarters recognized as one of the standing institutions in the North, the numbers attending generally being estimated at 7,000. On the 31st of January, 1863 Elizabeth Brodie, Duchess of Gordon, was taken to a better world, and, to the regret of multitudes, the annual Huntly meetings ceased to exist.

In 1872, after a lapse of nine years, the meetings were revived, under the management of some of the ministers in the town, and a number of office-bearers and laymen, who had agreed that circumstances seemed to warrant a resuscitation of the annual gatherings.

The attendance in 1872 and last year, though far from being so great as in former times, was nevertheless encouraging and it can hardly be called in question that, from many excellent and telling addresses which were delivered on these occasions, by some of the most eminent, faithful, and pious ministers in the North, there were some good results- more than will be known until the time when all things shall be revealed.

We have deemed it proper to preface our report of this year's meetings with the above outline of the origin and history of the evangelistic meetings formerly held at Huntly, as it would appear that hopes are being entertained - and which, we trust, may be fully realized - that from the recent gathering, we may date the commencement of a new era in the history of evangelistic work in Huntly.

As soon as it became known that the services of the distinguished American evangelists had been by a concurrency of influence secured, a largely increased attendance from anything ever seen in Huntly before was everywhere confidently expected. Nor was the expectation disappointed. Some parties actually arrived on Saturday, worshipped in our churches on the Sabbath and attended the preparatory meetings. At an early hour on Monday the people from neighbouring parishes came flocking in from all directions. All sorts of vehicles brought their living freights of both sexes, and the number of pedestrians from neighbouring localities was altogether unprecedented. The village of Aberchirdir almost emptied itself, and we understand the same may be said of many of the fishing villages along the coast, the exodous from which was so great that the powers and resources of the railway were severely tasked, and on the return journey the train had to be cut in two, the half of the passengers being left to enjoy... (rest missing) 

"The Christian", July 19th, 1874.

Monday, 29th June. 

Huntly, so famous for religious and evangelistic gatherings in the days of the last Duchess of Gordon, could not but be of special interest to Messrs Moody and Sankey; and the associations of the past gave unwonted force to the inducements held out to them to visit it. They were assured of a large attendance from the whole surrounding district, and of the likelihood of much blessing in a place for which so much has been done spiritually, and where there are so many praying people. The proceedings of this day will long be gratefully remembered in that town and district.


At 9.30 A.M., a conference was held in the Independent Chapel, which was very largely attended. At 11 o'clock the people had congregated in the park from all the villages and towns and rural districts around to the number of about 10,000. Mr Moody had not yet arrived, but Mr Sankey with his choir a goodly number of which had come with him from Aberdeen was present. The 100th Psalm having been sung, the Rev. Messrs Burnett (Huntly), Collie (Aberdeen), and Moir (Greenock) engaged in prayer. Mr Sankey next sang as a solo, 'I am so glad,' etc., the choir joining in the chorus. Addresses were delivered by the Rev. Messrs Markham (Forres), J. Duncan (Aberdeen), Morrison (Urquhart), and Collie (Aberdeen), while the hymns, "Hold the fort," "Jesus of Nazareth passeth by," and "Whiter than snow," were sung as solos by Mr Sankey, at intervals during the service.

Open-air Meeting,

After this first meeting closed, and while the opportunity was given for people retiring for refreshment for an hour, a young men's meeting was conducted in the park by Rev Messrs Moir, Lowe (Aberdeen), and Forbes (Drumblade), and addresses were delivered by these gentlemen. Meanwhile, a thunderstorm had come on, and it raged with much severity for a time, the rain falling in torrents. The people now began to assemble in the Established and Free churches for the afternoon service, only a fraction of them finding accommodation there; but the weather clearing, it was intimated in both places that Mr Moody had gone to the park. Ere many minutes were over, the vast audience had assembled, and not fewer than 12,000 or 13,000 people were believed to be present. Before the platform, the multitude spread themselves out on two concentric ridges, and in the hollow between. Had the platform been a little more elevated, little would have been left to be desired. As it was, however, the voices of the speakers were, in general, heard by all, Messrs Moody and Sankey having no difficulty in commanding the whole company.

The Rev. Mr Moir of Greenock prayed, and after another hymn from Mr Sankey, the Rev. John M. Sloan gave a brief address on John iii.16. J. S Gordon, Esq., Craig Castle, then led in prayer; and the audience having sung "O bliss of the purified," Mr Moody addressed the assemblage from Mark xvi.15: "Go ye into all the world," etc. Other two hymns being sung, the Rev. Mr Webster of Cluny addressed the meeting briefly. Tents had, in anticipation, been erected for inquirers - one for males and another for females. About fifty of each sex were now conversed with, many of them being very hopeful cases. The fact that so many men were among the anxious, and also that so great a proportion of men constituted the audience through the day, is very noteworthy.

Evening Meeting in the Park.

At half-past seven, the weather still favouring, a large gathering assembled again in the park. About 3,000 were present at this service, the great majority of the vast audiences of the forenoon and afternoon having had to return to their homes by train, etc. 

The scene, as viewed from the platform, all through the day, but especially in the evening, was exceedingly lovely and picturesque. The deeply interested congregation in front, listening eagerly to truths fitted to save the soul; the wide reach of the park beyond; the girdling background of trees covered with luxuriant foliage fresh with the welcome showers, showing itself on the heights and in hollows all around; with the grey, gaunt walls and towers of the old castle seated on its knoll and embowered in wood. as the most conspicuous object in the view; and then, beyond, the quiet wary outline of remote hills,-all these formed a scene which a painter would have loved to delineate. The effect was heightened by the evening sun glancing athwart the landscape and brightening at times human faces, sweeps of hill, woods and the old castle towers. Now and again, too, and especially as the music was wafted across, the battlements of the castle were peopled with adventurous visitors, anxious to survey the scene from that giddy height.

During this service, Mr Sankey sang at intervals as solos, "The Lifeboat," "I am sweeping through the gates" and the hymn "Mary Magdalene." Mr Morrison of Urquhart, and Mr Chambers of Aberdeen, prayed; and addresses were delivered by W. Ferguson, Esq., of Kinmundy, Mr Chambers, and Dr Black of Inverness, the last-mentioned gentleman choosing as his text Gal. ii. 20. Mr Moody's subject was John iii. 3, 4 "Except a man be born again," etc.; and from this he delivered an address full of the most urgent and precious truths of the gospel, enforced and illustrated with his usual felicity and power. Though an audience largely composed of country people is less impressible, to outward appearance than a city congregation, there were clear evidences of deep emotion in many a countenance. This we observed both during Mr Moody's discourse and during the singing of "Mary Magdalene" by Mr Sankey.

Prayer Meeting

From the park an adjournment was made after 9 o'clock to the Parish Church. There a prayer meeting was held for an hour,- the large building, accommodating nearly 1,800, being quite full. Several hymns were sung and prayers offered, and Mr M Phail of Elgin gave a very suitable and solemn address from Mark vii. 24 ff.


On Tuesday the meetings were continued and on the plan of the previous day. In the morning a conference was again held in the Independent Chapel; in the forenoon, in the park, an evangelistic meeting; after mid-day, a meeting for young men; in the afternoon, a service again in the park; and in the evening a meeting, likewise in the Free Church. While the attendance on this second day was by no means large, the attention was close and the interest lively.

"Times of Blessing," July 9th, 1874.


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