Kilsyth has experienced at least four so-called "revivals" when a proportion of the population appears to have temporarily lost touch with reality through a mysterious process of mass religious frenzy.
Such revivals were not without their sceptics, either then or today. A book by Fisher, James, Edwards, Whitefield, the True Nature of Revival and the 'Old Time' Charismatics (1742), exposed the deficiencies of revivalism and warned against what today would be called charismatic excesses. .... "In short, the defective nature of these past 'revivals,' are shown to 'overthrow the very foundation of faith, and all practical godliness and to establish mere enthusiasm and strong delusion....."
Modern psychologists often attribute such delusions to collective mass-hysteria, and similar outbreaks can sometimes be observed in cults such as the Moonies and Hare Krishna movements. Others are more enthusiastic - see this alternative account by James Hutchison
The early decades of the Nineteenth century saw a series of recessions in the handloom weaving industry, the rapid pace of the encroaching industrial revolution, and some degree of civil strife, and there was much concern about the impact of crime and public morality. For a number of reasons, possibly due to the charismatic and mesmerising abilities of the young minister William Chalmers Burns, then aged only 24, the population succumbed to the revivalist fervour again. Under his influence, people wept, shouted, and lost all control of their bodily functions.
This continued for several days and weeks, and some of the population flocked to the church. Others came from long distances and some reports speak of many thousands attending frenzied services lasting through the day and night.
Sensibly, the church authorities again took action to restrain the personality cult building up around this young and inexperienced preacher. Burns was eventually "moved sideways" to an overseas posting to prevent further damage. He became a missionary to China in 1846, where he worked himself literally to death to convert the population to Christianity.
William Irvine was born in Kilsyth in 1863. From modest early success in business as a quarry manager he went on to found a world-wide, highly secretive Christian fundamentalist sect known by various names as the two-by-twos, Coonyites etc. For several weeks in 1905 the group conducted a mission in Kilsyth, resulting in mass-baptisms in freezing Banton Loch!
Also in 1905, poor housing conditions, ignorance, fear, overcrowding and poverty increased tensions between the Catholic and Protestant communities.
There was widespread discrimination against Catholics by the majority Protestant community and sectarian riots broke out at the Duntreath Arms Inn.
A new church called the "Church of God" was founded in 1902, forming a congregation which is still thriving as an independent church today. Kilsyth was again suffering from a serious recession.
On 1st February 1908 a further revival broke out.
Since 1908 the Kilsyth population has successfully resisted repeated attempts to stimulate further outbreaks of mass religious hysteria, and the most recent census (2001) shows that the population is roughly one third Church of Scotland (37%) a third Roman Catholic (32%), with 8% other Christians A hefty one in six - 16.7% - profess no religion at all and nearly five per cent simply refused to answer the question. These figures show that Croy, Kilsyth and Cumbernauld retain a higher number of Roman Catholics, and are significantly more likely to profess some form of religious affinity, than the average for Scotland:
http://www.paperclip.org.uk/kilsythweb/  ... evival.htm
« Back to index