Friday, 6 November 2009

New book from Norman Campbell

My old mucker Norman Campbell, of Radio nan Gaidheal fame, has written another book, this one a biography of the Rev Archie Cook, the 19th century Free Church crusader.

"One of Heaven's Jewels" tells the story of the life and times of Cook and the 19th century Highland church. His preaching was preserved on many Highland bookshelves into the 20th century in copies of "Cook's Gaelic Sermons". This is the story behind the legend.

The pulpit and the congregation were driving forces of politics in the 1800s and the radical land reform movement helped tear the Presbyterian church apart. Cook was bang in the middle of that upheaval and this book gives you a flavour of the spiritualism and the politics of the age. You can buy it through the click-through below.

Cue drum roll, here's the plug:

A fearless minister who influenced wide areas of the Highlands and islands is the subject of a new book -- One of Heaven's Jewels -- published in aid of Bethesda Care Home and Hospice on Lewis.

Vast numbers of west coast fishermen and herring women heard him preach at the Gaelic services he set up in Wick in the 1820s and this helped bolster the new wave of evangelical ideas in places like Lewis and Skye. His brother Finlay was the first evangelical minister in the Church of Scotland in Cross in Lewis. People can still recall hearing anecdotes of preaching by Rev Archie Cook of Daviot or reading his Gaelic sermons. The original Free North church in Inverness was built for this Arran-born preacher who attracted thousands of hearers at communion seasons.

Cook would challenge landlords face to face about plans to evict individuals he knew and Cook fearlessly criticised the competitive tenancy where people were forced to bid against each other for the right to pay rent on crofts or farms. The losers in the process often had to leave the Highlands and author Norman Campbell suggests the clearances in Arran during Cook's childhood may have radicalised him.

One of Heaven's Jewels tells how Archie Cook's generation lived and worshiped. A warm-hearted mixture of community, social and church history, it describes a man of deep spiritual discernment who was loved for his ability to detect and encourage the least sign of genuine spiritual life, while also exposing hypocrisy. A man of action, he would tramp through deep snow to keep preaching .

It also tells of a time when preachers were the celebrities of their day and when the Scottish Gaelic culture was dominant from western and southern Caithness to the south of Arran in the Clyde estuary. Campbell also places the stirring events of these days in Scottish and British political and historical context. Some of the issues such as Patronage (where the landlords and councils and crown chose ministers up until the late nineteenth-century) went right to the heart of debates about freedom and state recognition of religions.

The first six chapters describe the revival-era atmosphere in Arran where Archie Cook grew up, as well as his three pastorates and the famous struggle by the Daviot people during the Ten Years' Conflict to call him as their minister. Several further chapters describe urban grass-roots evangelism in Inverness, the 1857-1861 revival movement in the Highlands, the Union controversy, the early Inverness career of the Rev Duncan Macbeth (now better known for his later Ness ministry), Cook's friendship with Rev Jonathan Ranken Anderson, communion seasons and the Separatist movement. The last two chapters discuss the possible influences that his mentor, the godly Dr John Love of Anderston, Glasgow, had on Cook's thought, and Cook's own emphases.

The paper-back sells at £19.99 pounds and all profits will go to the Bethesda Care Home and Hospice in Stornoway.
One of Heaven's Jewels has 27 colour photos, several black and white pictures, 278 pages and reflects many year's worth of research by Norman Campbell. It is available in Borders Inverness, Roddy Smith's (Stornoway), the Blythswood book-shops in Dingwall and Stornoway, Harris Christian Bookshop (Tarbert) and on-line at the Bethesda Care Home web-site shop:

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