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.