That a work of true religious revival has begun upon this island is now beyond a doubt. It first appeared among us several weeks ago at the meeting for United prayer held in Balfour village. A few young people, apparently in great distress of mind, expressed the deep sense of sin and hardness of heart which they experienced, as well as their earnest desire to be further instructed in the way of salvation. The same feeling became more general, and anxiety about the welfare of the soul was clearly depicted on many a countenance and formed the subject of conversation in many a family. Meetings for prayer and instruction have been held in various parts of the island, which have been numerously attended. The people generally manifest great desire to meet and reluctance to part. For three hours every evening they cheerfully and earnestly listen to instruction and engage in devotional exercises. During last week large large meetings were held every evening in the united Presbyterian Church. On Monday Rev Reid of Firth spoke on the nature, necessity and evidences of conversion. For an hour and a half his address was listened to with the most earnest attention. After the benediction almost the whole assembly remained desirous of more instruction and an opportunity of conversing with each other regarding the state of their souls. Many were in great distress and some at once began to pray that their sins might be forgiven and their hearts renewed. About 11 o'clock however, those who still remained were, after suitable counsel, persuaded to go to their homes.
On Tuesday evening the United Presbyterian Church was again filled by a most earnest and attentive audience. An elder addressed the meeting and before concluding he gave special exhortations; first, to those who were still unawakened, entreating them at once to reflect how matters stood between God and their souls; secondly, to show who were in distress about their souls, directing them to Jesus for salvation and the Holy Spirit for renewing; and thirdly, to those who had recently found peace, encouraging them to advance in knowledge, righteousness and true holiness.
On Wednesday evening at similar meeting was held and the church was filled again. At this meeting there was a considerable number of young persons, several of whom appeared much affected by the part of the address intended specially for youth. At the end about 20 individuals spontaneously remained, desirous of still further instruction in the way of Salvation.
On Thursday evening a meeting was again held. On this occasion the church was packed and the attention throughout most earnest. After the benediction from 150 to 200 persons remained, who were again addressed and those apparently most distressed were individually conversed with. Prayer was again offered up and the meeting closed.
It being the wish of the people, another meeting was held in the same place on Friday evening. The attendance was again large. One of the most interesting features of the revival here is that persons of all ages are brought within its blessed influence. Boys of not more than 10 or 11 years of age are evincing great anxiety about their souls and earnestly desire to serve the Lord. Grown-up persons and people far advanced in life, are seeking salvation as they never did before; while those who for years have given evidence that they are Christians are stimulated and refreshed.
'Orkney Herald', 22/1/1861
The religious meetings in this island still continue and are largely attended. The audiences are large and the attention earnest, without any great external excitement. Indeed with the exception of the first nights of the movement here we have had little outward demonstration; but very many there is reason to believe have been truly converted. Besides smaller district meetings where the ministers take part, there are numerous small gatherings conducted by the people themselves and these we regard as most promising nurseries of vital Christianity. There is also a manifest change in the general appearance of the people. The family altar is erected in many households where it has long been neglected; and even young men in bothies read and prayed together before retiring to rest for the night. Such results are eminently gratifying; for when religious duties are discharged without the stimulus of outward excitement there is the more reason to believe that the true foundation has been made.
'Orkney Herald', 5/2/1861