The Baptist Magazine, Volume 19, 1827 and Harris

On pages 324-325 their is an article on the ‘Baptist Highland Mission’, and I have selected three pieces for perusal:

The following extracts are taken from the journal of Mr Campbell, one of the Itinerants employed by this important and useful Institution:

July 2nd, Sabbath day: Having, during the previous week, intimated as extensively as possible our intention to preach at Tarbert on Sabbath, a great number of boats full of people assembled from all quarters, besides many people who came by land. We both preached to an audience of about 350…

3rd – Travelled this day to Caolas: The road was the worst imaginable: indeed there was no track or road of any sort, but rugged rocks and moss, and lakes of water. At times we did not know whither we were going…


5th – Preached at Strand to 60, some of whom followed us for two days, and in the evening at Roudel to 35. Most of the inhabitants here were from home, as mentioned above, otherwise three times the number would have attended. Had a long conversation with a blacksmith, of the name of Morrison, a native of the place. He preaches to the people of Strand, and appears to be a good man, and well acquainted with his bible. It would appear he has been very useful in this place, both by preaching and writing. He is one of the best poets in the Highlands of Scotland,; his conduct exemplary; possesses excellent talents, and a sound judgement. The people told us, he can communicate his ideas with facility and force. They have built a large meeting-house for him, where he preaches three times every Lord’s day, and Wednesday evening. The people of the south would feel it not an easy task to attend his three lectures on Sabbath. We are told, he begins at seven, and continues till ten – again at eleven, and insists till five – lastly, at six, and concludes the services of the day between nine and ten. This is certainly going to an extreme; meanwhile it evinces the good man’s zeal.


There is much that interests me here. What a wonderful picture is evoked of an armada of boats arriving in Tarbert on that particular Sunday! It is also a valuable reminder of the transport of (somewhat limited) choice of the people, and the description of the journey to Caolas (which I think is Kyles Stockinish, not Kyles Scalpay) emphasises the point.

They preached at Geocrab, Manish and Finsbay before arriving at ‘Strand’ and their choosing the Bays of the East in 1827 reminds us that these were turbulent times in Harris. The phrase ‘some of  whom followed us for two days’ is simply stunning – they must have thought themselves on the shore of the Sea of Galilee rather than that of the Sound of Harris!

The phrase, ‘most of the people here were from home’ is somewhat ambiguous. Did he mean that they were away, perhaps engaged in fishing or at the sheilings, or did he mean that people hadn’t travelled to hear them preach? The answer would lie in ‘as mentioned above’, but for the fact that there is no such mention that I can discern.

Finally, we have a description of his meeting with ‘a blacksmith, of the name of Morrison’ and this of course is none-other than ‘Gobha na Hearadh’. For a missionary Baptist to describe John Morrison’s Sabbath activities as ‘going to an extreme’ certainly explains why ‘The people of the south would feel it not an easy task to attend his three lectures on Sabbath’!

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