Edinburgh City Mission history timeline

Founder: David Nasmith (1799 – 1839)

  • 1832: “On the 1st March, eight gentlemen met together in the shop of Messrs. Young and Miller, 375 High Street, to confer with David Nasmyth in regard to the formation of a City Mission in Edinburgh.” (Annual Report, 1895)City Missions’ motto: “Let the glory of God, and the salvation of souls, be your chief – your only end.” (1826)Vision: Edinburgh split into 30 districts to be thoroughly evangelised by ECM and associate missionaries through Christians working in unity from different evangelical churches. Reaction of some of the church leaders: IMPOSSIBLE, OUTRAGEOUS AND UNNEEDED!

    Six missionaries employed in first year (only three other missionaries in Edinburgh in 1832)

    Mr. Charles Spence: First General Superintendent

  • 1839: ECM spearheads city-wide evangelism so that “a missionary spirit” is released in the churches
  • 1840: ECM HQ moves from 375 High St., to 126 High St.
  • 1841: Revival in The Shelter (Grassmarket) through ECM: “a place of weeping” Graham Speirs, Sheriff of Edinburgh and Chairman for the Annual Meeting, publicly says: “A single Bible was worth a thousand penal statutes and one missionary would do more than a whole legion of policemen.”(30th November)
  • 1847: Mr. George Clarkson: Second General Superintendent
  • 1848: 19 out of 30 Districts covered by ECM, including: High St.; Canongate; Stockbridge; Greenside; Catherine St; Joppa and Portobello; Corstorphine and southern and western parts.
  • 1852: Rev. James Trench: Third General Superintendent
  • 1853: Sub-saving Banks for the poor set up by ECM, and Mother’s Meetings. Appointment of Missionary to the Police.
  • 1854: Rev. D. Muir: Fourth Gen. Super.
  • 1855: Galloway’s Entry Mission Hall, Canongate, established
  • 1856: Open air evangelism becomes very popular with ECM. “Huge crowds” gather. Loan libraries set up in all 30 Districts. Some missionaries do public lectures on science and history to educate men and preach the Gospel. Rev. Alex Millar: Fifth Gen. Super
  • 1859: United Prayer Meetings in Edinburgh. Revival breaks out in Pilrig School. It centres on Carrubbers Close Mission, High St., where ECM’s friendship with them brings in a huge harvest for Christ together. Amazing transformed lives! Great unity in the churches and Christian organizations for prayer, evangelism and good works
  • 1860: Appointment of lady missionary to the “Fallen Women” (Prostitutes).
  • 1865: ECM HQ moves to 5, St. Andrews Square. Missionaries start using modern technology – “magic lanterns” and “diagrams”.
  • 1870: “Public interest in City Missions was never greater than now.” Missionary to the blind appointed to ECM. Rev. William Galletly: Sixth Gen. Super
  • 1872: Rev. William Turner: 7th Gen. Super
  • 1873: Moody and Sankey Revival: Thousands converted. One missionary leads about a hundred to Christ in three months in his dining-room
  • 1874: Missionary to the Edinburgh Tramway Company appointed. Lord Shaftesbury declares publicly at a large meeting in Wemyss Bay, that the British government recognised that the work of the City Missions had been the key that had prevented the Revolution in Europe from coming to Britain.
  • 1875: Record number of ECM missionaries (salaried by ECM or associated and under ECM supervision): 33. Also number of combined missionaries in Edinburgh: 130.
  • 1886: Appointment of “Extraordinary Directors”, in an advisory capacity. There were 19 of them, besides the 24 directors, 6 doctors, 12 examiners and others, making a total of 63 support staff! Many were lords, earls, judges, and church ministers. Some were church moderators and bishops over the period from the nineteenth century until the 1970s. Statements like the following show the high regard Edinburgh had for ECM:

    There is no Society that more deserves the support and thanks of the community than the Edinburgh City Mission.”

    Lord Provost, W.S. Brown, 1909

    ….(the churches) felt the reproof the City Mission addressed to them, and followed the example it set them.

    Dr. Guthrie, Founder of the Ragged Schools, 1866

    There is a fine spirit in the Mission, and it is just the Spirit of Christ.

    Rt. Rev. Dr. Norman MacLean, Moderator of the Church of Scotland, 1927

  • 1887: Missionary to the Breweries appointed
  • 1892: Missionary to the Public Houses appointed
  • 1894: Rev. John Forgan: 8th Gen. Super
  • 1895: Niddrie Mission and Grassmarket Mission under ECM supervision.
    Holiday Fund to provide 2,000 children holidays
  • 1896: Parish nurse appointed to miners’ families in New Craighall on Niddrie Estate. Bailie Pollard, Chairman of Public Health Committee of Town Council is one of ECM’s directors. Through collaboration Pollard and ECM get council to vastly improve sanitary conditions in Edinburgh.
  • 1904: Mr. G. A. Barclay: 9th Gen. Super
  • 1907: Mr. Stuart S. Miller: 10th Gen. Super
  • 1908: Tea and Coffee Van at nights (horse-drawn) as outreach to Cabmen
  • 1910: Kitchen Meetings (evangelistic dinner parties)
  • 1913: Christian rehab by ECM for men at 6 Drummond St.
  • 1914: First World War
  • 1915: “Never before have our City Missionaries won and held the confidence of the people to a greater degree than now.”
  • 1924: Mr. Michael Peden: 11th Gen. Super
  • 1928: Logie Green Rd Mission Hall., in Broughton, owned by ECM. Other Halls used at this time: Little Lochend Close, 115 Canongate; Galloway’s Entry, 53 Canongate; Comely Green, 9 Comely Green Place; Dumbiedykes, 47 St. Leonard’s Hill and Free Buccleuch and Greyfriars Church Hall, 24 West Crosscauseway
  • 1934: 4,000 people cram into multiple meetings in 6 Mission Halls every week. Many saved
  • 1935: Police Station converted into Abbeyhill Mission Hall for ECM, instead of Galloway Entry. At this time there were missionaries to: Transport Men (trams and buses); Cabmen and Taximen; Lodging Homes; Burgh Court (Police Cells); Districts; Benevolent Work and Open Airs
  • 1939: Outbreak of Second World War
  • 1946: Mr. Albert Long: 12th Gen. Super
  • 1959: “Many elderly people accept the Lord Jesus” in hospitals. “Children weeping under deep conviction of sin” on a summer camp, in which 113 were converted
  • 1964: HQ moves to 122 Thirlestone Rd., formerly the HQ of the Monthly Visitor Tract Society, founded by David Nasmith
  • 1965: “Many conversions in hospitals”. Mission to Burdiehouse for children: “Many hundreds of children are being reached for Christ each week.”
  • 1966: Billy Graham Edinburgh Christian Crusade: “literally hundreds of people, young and old coming to a knowledge of Christ.”
  • 1968: Inch Mission Hall opened. Rev. Charles Main appointed to Post Office
  • 1974: Niddrie ECM Outreach Café starts
  • 1975: Ann MacDonald joins ECM as secretary (Ann Laidlaw!)
  • 1976: Rev. Bill Chalmers appointed to run the Inch Mission Hall
  • 1978: Gorgie Railway Mission (formerly Gorgie Gospel Mission) given to ECM
  • 1979: Mr. Alex Dunbar: 13th Gen Super
  • 1981: William Bullin appointed to West Pilton District
  • 1982: 27th November St. Andrew’s Hall, Arthur St., handed over to ECM
  • 1983: West Pilton Christian Centre opened
  • 1984: HQ transfers to 9 Pilrig St. Six Mission Halls: Gorgie; Niddrie; Inch; St. Andrew’s; Dumbiedykes and West Pilton
  • 1985: Bill McGillivray assists Derek Laidlaw (Ann’s husband)
  • 1986: There is Hope Campaign to reach the city
  • 1988: Operation Outreach (later, Streetlevel) to train 6 student Christians alongside missionaries. Dumbiedykes Mission Hall turned into St. Leonard’s Hill Hostel for the homeless
  • 1989: Rev. William (Bill) Chalmers appointed as General Superintendent (later re-named as Executive Director).
  • 1991: Care Caravan established by ECM as a mobile unit for food and drink for the homeless at Waverley Bridge
  • 1993: John Hopper appointed as Chaplain to the Lothian Buses (originally Edinburgh Corporation Transport in 1935) and the Royal Mail (1965)
  • 1994: ECM extends John Hopper’s ministry to cover the Forth Ports (ECM had appointed missionaries to Leith Port in the early days) and Parcel Force (a division of the Royal Mail)
  • 1996: Care Van established to replace Care Caravan: a joint venture between ECM and Bethany Christian Trust
  • 1997: Ken MacLean appointed to Royal Mail
  • 1999: Church of Scotland approaches ECM to hand over chaplaincy of the BAA Edinburgh Cargo Village
  • 2000: Jesus video Millennium Adventure to give all the homes in Edinburgh a chance to have a film about the life of Jesus
  • 2002: Alan Barlow appointed as Executive Director of ECM
  • 2004: Paul James-Griffiths starts street-outreach to reach New Agers, Pagans and university students. This ministry later becomes Cultural Ministry
  • 2005: The Celtic Tour starts
  • 2006: Eternity Classical Music Group and Edinburgh Creation Group starts
  • 2008: Lawrie Hudson appointed as Executive Director at ECM
  • 2009: The Christian Heritage Centre starts in St Columba’s Free Church
  • 2010: Basics Bank starts


Use the Links below to see the different topics in this section.

David Nasmith: A Dynamic Founder of Missions (1799 – 1839)

David Nasmith: A Dynamic Founder of Missions (1799 – 1839)

May the glory of God and the salvation of souls be your chief – your only end!

David Nasmith, 1826

David Nasmith: A Dynamic Founder of Missions (1799 – 1839)

In 1799 David Nasmith was born in Glasgow. He grew up to become a devout Christian with endless energy and passion for founding missions. In fact, in his short life (40 years) he founded over 60 Christian City Missions and agencies, including the YMCA.

He founded the first city mission in Glasgow on January 1st, 1826 and proposed the original vision of the movement thus:

…That the object of the Society shall be to promote the spiritual welfare of the poor of this city, and its neighbourhood, by employing persons of approved piety, and who are properly qualified to visit the poor in their houses.”

Delores Burger, Practical Religion: David Nasmith and the City Mission Movement, 1799 – 2000, p.27

At the first Annual Meeting on 1st January, 1827, in the Trade’s Hall, Glassford Street, Glasgow, the message to the first missionaries was:

You will convert the houses that were tenanted by men of the foulest passions, into churches of the Redeemer, where the Lord the Spirit will dwell and the God of Salvation will be loved and served. You will arrest the progress of vice and promote the interest of virtue. You will make our poor, our ignorant, our degraded population stand forth in all that freshness and fairness of moral and of spiritual excellence.

Ibid., p.28

Nasmith was daring to challenge the spirit of the age and shake the churches out of their slumber with three key principles:

  1. Evangelize our cities when the churches mostly believed the lie that Britain was “Christian” and didn’t need missionaries.
  2. Evangelize our cities using ordinary men and women without theology degrees, which was unheard of.
  3. Evangelize our cities using evangelical Christians from all Church denominations, when people said it would be impossible.

W. Edwyn Shipton wrote in 1845, that the missionaries were:

Christian men, bound by no other ties than those of the “common faith” and of common object. The City Mission from the first was nondenominational.

Ibid., p.29: Shipton, W. Edwyn, Lectures: Delivered before the Young Men’s Christian Association, 1845 – 1846, Vol. I, London, James Nisbet and Co., 1875

And again:

This was something new. A Mission of laymen, not trained in University or theological colleges, but able to proclaim the facts of the Gospel in everyday language……. Someone who would go where they lived, meet them on their own ground, sit to listen as well as well as to talk, and then explain in words they could understand, the message that was proclaimed from the pulpits of churches to which the slum-dwellers never went.

Ibid., p.29

In 1828, Nasmith mailed his vision and plans to principal cities and towns in Scotland, England, Ireland, France, and other places on the continent of Europe, to Asia, to Africa, and to Canada and to America. He spoke out passionately at the founding of the Manchester City Mission in 1837:

…..if we expected the poor to flood to our churches, we were greatly mistaken, and if we wanted our places of worship to be crowded, we must carry the Gospel to the homes of the poor. The object of the mission is not to make people Protestants or Roman Catholics, Baptist, Episcopalians, Methodists or any other sect: its object was in no way sectarian, but to unite all denominations of Christians, and by one strong effort, to pluck sinners as brands from the burning.

Ibid., p.46: Manchester Guardian, May 3rd, 1837

In a day when ordinary evangelical Christians of all denominations and organizations work together in reaching the world for Christ, only God knows the full extent to which the Church owes the God-given pioneering life of David Nasmith, who by his vision, preaching and personal example broke the mould of a Church bound by the traditions of men.


Use the Links below to see the different topics in this section.

The Stirring of the Churches

By 1839 the churches were well aware of what God was doing through ECM, as it spearheaded outreach in the city:

In regard, indeed to the whole operations of the Mission, its indirect effects are at least equal to all the other good which it produces. Of these the most important is, that a missionary spirit has been excited in the city.

Annual Report: 1838 – 1839, p.11

Stirred by the example of ECM, churches and individuals set up missions and supported their missionaries, so that, including ECM workers, there were 30 in the field by 1839, whereas before ECM there were only about three (ibid.).

The fear of God seemed to accompany ECM workers as they sought people for the Lord in the dens of iniquity:

A sight of the missionary is not unfrequently sufficient to quell a riotous brawl, and induce the guilty wretches to rush into their lurking places, and, when he comes in close contact with them, conscience frequently operates so powerfully, as to induce them to admit the truth that condemns themselves.

Ibid., p. 56

A spiritual breakthrough was coming to Edinburgh:

During the past year the people of God have been aroused from lethargy……Sinners in numbers, not like the gleanings of the vintage, but like the firstfruits of a coming and abundant harvest, have been made to cry, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ And many have been added to the Lord.


Use the Links below to see the different topics in this section.

The Early Days: 1832 – 1859

In the first year six missionaries were salaried by private individuals and the city was split into 30 districts. The vision was to have missionaries from ECM in all those districts. By 1834, seven of those districts were covered.

The first report on ECM in 1834 records the following: 2178 meetings were held; 39, 377 people attended those meetings; 16,873 homes were visited; 5,488 sick people were visited; 152 copies of Scripture were given out, or sold at a low price; 12,837 tracts were received ; 33 children were sent to day school; 13 to Sabbath Schools and 304 were attending ECM run Sabbath Schools. By 1837 sixteen missionaries were employed and the records state:

  • 49,543 people attended meetings
  • 46,715 people were visited at home
  • 16,109 sick people were visited
  • 200 Bibles were given to people
  • 45,763 tracts were given away
  • 110 children started day schools
  • 22 Sabbath Schools were run by ECM
  • 506 children attended ECM Sabbath Schools.

As the missionaries pressed on in their task of reaching people they unearthed the real state of the city; in parts it was given over to a decadence of shocking proportions – much to the horror of the churches that lived in a sort of religious ghetto, thinking the nation was “Christian”. The cry went out through ECM to shake the Church:

Oh! Professing Christians of Edinburgh, awake! No longer shut your eyes to this dismal state of things.

Annual Report: 1834 – 1835, p. 35

The missionaries’ strategy seemed to be the one laid out by Jesus; they searched in their district for “a man of peace” and settled there, using that home as a base for reaching folk in the area. Many were indeed converted and transformed, but thousands were ignorant of the Gospel.


Use the Links below to see the different topics in this section.

The Influence of ECM on the City Authorities

God gave a promise to Abraham:

….I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.

Genesis 22: 17 – 18

Who would have thought that God’s vision through David Nasmith would prepare the way here for such a massive breakthrough, that in turn would release thousands of missionaries trained here in the Bible colleges of Edinburgh to impact the world, bringing in millions of people for God’s Kingdom, the effects of which are still reverberating around the world in such places as Africa and China? Who would have thought that through that vision and little gathering of men in 375 High St., the Lord would have opened up the way eventually for Christianity to transform our nation through men in “the gates” or places of influence and policy making in Edinburgh? No wonder Scotland became known as the “Land of the Book” as these movements were added to the rich Christian history of the Reformation and Covenanters.

ECM had already appointed a team of Directors to run the Mission back in 1832, and a team of “Extraordinary Directors” was appointed in an advisory capacity in 1886. Their names reads like a “Who’s Who” in Edinburgh, showing the high regard that people had for ECM. In the Period between 1832 and 1970 the following men were either Directors, Extraordinary Directors, Examiners or Supporters, especially at the Annual Meetings. Some of these are listed below:

  • Rev Dr. D.T.K. Drummond (Director and founder of St. Thomas, a church through which have come the present day congregations of P’s and G’s and Emmanuel)
  • Rev Dr. David Dickson
  • Rev Dr. John Brown
  • Rev Daniel Bagot A.M.
  • Lord Provost, Adam Black, M.P. (his statue is in Princes Gardens)
  • Charles Cown M.P.
  • Colonel George Cadell
  • Sheriff Graham Speirs
  • Lord Provost, the Duke of Argyll
  • Rev Dr. Guthrie (founder of the Ragged Schools)
  • Rev Professor Thomas Chalmers (first Moderator of the Free Church of Scotland)
  • Principal Dr. Cunningham
  • Very Rev Dean Montgomery (Bishop of Edinburgh)
  • Sir William Muir (Principal of the University of Edinburgh)
  • Rev Professor Blaikie (Moderator of Free Church)
  • Major General Nepean Smith
  • Colonel A. G. Young
  • Sir Archibald Campbell
  • Professor Sir T. Grainger Stewart (Head Surgeon)
  • Earl of Moray
  • Councillor R.A. Douglas
  • Councillor John Laing
  • Councillor Neil McLeod
  • Bailie Martin (Head of Public Health)
  • Judge John Pitcairn
  • Sir Allan Colquhoun J.P.
  • Sheriff Orr K.C.
  • Sir Colin Macrae
  • Sir Andrew Frazer
  • Judge John Laing
  • Bailie Richardson
  • Bailie Pollard (he was the ECM Director who, by using our records, put pressure on government to reform sanitary conditions in Edinburgh, Annual Report 1896)
  • Lord Alness
  • Lord Polwarth
  • Lord Sands
  • Sir John Cowan
  • Rt. Hon. Robert Munro K.C.
  • Lord Provost Inches
  • Judge William Baird
  • Rev. Dr. Graham Scroggie
  • Bailie Rev. Dr. A.D. Sloan
  • Rt. Rev Professor Hugh R. Mackintosh (Moderator of the Church of Scotland)
  • Rev Dr. D.E. Hart-Davies
  • Hon. Lord Wark
  • Professor Sir John Frazer
  • Rt. Rev Professor David Lamont (Moderator of the C of S)
  • Rt. Rev Dr. James M. Black (Moderator of the Free Church)
  • Principal D.W. Lambert (Faith Mission)
  • Rev Professor Allan Barr (Moderator of the UF Church)
  • Lord Guthrie
  • Sir John Falconer
  • Lord Cooper
  • Earl of Southesk
  • Lady Stuart
  • Rev Dr. Dr. Whitley (St. Giles’ Cathedral)
  • Very Rev Charles L. Warr (St. Giles’ Cathedral)
  • Lord Provost, Alexander Stevenson
  • Rt. Rev Dr. Leonard Small
  • Judge W. R. Hall O.B.E.
  • Rt. Rev Professor Thomas F. Torrance M.B.E.
  • Rev Derek Prime (Charlotte Chapel)
  • Rev Colin Peckham (Faith Mission)

It was because God’s vehicle of ECM had such an impact on Edinburgh that the Church, Council and Government had great respect and support for its work, bringing about a lasting transformation.

Here are some of the comments made by the City’s leaders:

I am therefore glad to find that, in the operations of the City Mission, this principle (i.e. of having missionaries attached to 30 districts in the City) has been so far proceeded on, and should rejoice if, by the extension of your resources, you were enabled to carry it forward even till you have reached the desirable consummation.

Professor Dr. Thomas Chalmers, First Moderator of the Free Church, from his letter addressed to the first Annual Meeting, Jan 30th, 1846, in the Music Hall, George St., Annual Report: 1846: p.12

I approve of this society exceedingly, in one respect, especially, that it employs lay missionaries……..I rejoice…….in the unsectarian character of this society……

Lord Provost, the Duke of Argyll (Annual Meeting, Music Hall, Dec 23rd, 1850, Annual Report: 1850: p.7 – 8)

….(the churches) felt the reproof the City Mission addressed to them, and followed the example it set them.

Dr. Guthrie, Founder of the Ragged Schools (Annual Meeting, 1866, Annual Report: 1895: p.10)

There is no Society that more deserves the support and the thanks of the Community than the Edinburgh City Mission.

Lord Provost, W.S. Brown (Annual Meeting, Dec 22nd, 1909, Annual Report: 1909: p.3)

I believe in the City Mission……the old Gospel is not worn out. People who doubt it should come and make the acquaintance of this Society. There is broken earthenware being repaired in Edinburgh, and instead of remaining a curse to society, these become good husbands and fathers, and useful members of the community.

Sheriff R.L. Orr K.C. (Annual Meeting, Dec 19th, 1911, Annual Report: 1911: p.3)

This work has the warm approval of the City Authorities.

Lord Provost, Inches (Annual Meeting, Dec 16th, 1915, Annual Report: 1915: p.6)

There is a fine spirit in the Mission, and it is just the Spirit of Christ.

Rt. Rev Dr. Norman Maclean, Moderator of the Church of Scotland (Annual Report, 1927: p.8)

This Mission exists for the bringing of souls to Jesus Christ.

Bailie The Rev Dr. A.D. Sloan (Annual Meeting, March 20th, 1933)

There is no more valuable work done by any other agency in the City.

Hon. Lord Wark, High Court Judge (Annual Meeting, March 19th, 1934, Annual Report, 1934: p……)

The City Mission is doing a great work.

Bailie George D. Brown, City Treasurer (Annual Meeting, March 16th, 1937)

The Edinburgh City Mission is…….repeating the authentic spirit of Jesus Christ.

Rt. Rev. Professor Daniel Lamont D.D., Moderator of the Church of Scotland (Ibid)

We honour the Edinburgh City Mission, its workers, its ideals, its achievements…for it is a daily evidence of the Divine Command that we should love one another.

Professor Sir John Frazer, K.C.V.O, M.D., F.R.C.S. (Annual Meeting, March 22nd, 1938)

City Missions are indeed no longer upon their trial, their value having been proved and acknowledged for many years past….as Lord Shaftesbury remarked, Glasgow, to which we might add Edinburgh – puts London fairly to shame.

North British Daily Mail (Annual Report, 1873: p.12)

This is an extraordinary statement when we consider the previous paragraph had been a quotation from Lord Shaftesbury, who says that he, the former Prime Minister of France (M. Guizot) and Sir George Grey, all agreed that Christianity in London, particularly through the work of London City Mission, had held back the Revolution of 1848 that swept through Europe. The statement that ECM “puts London fairly to shame”, is indeed a sign of the national love and respect we had in those days.

The quotations of Lord Shaftesbury, who gave a speech at Wemyss Bay in the autumn of 1874, are recorded below:

“Were it not,” says his Lordship, “for the London City Mission, and other kindred associations, I really know not what would be the condition of the metropolis of London. But I am certain of this, that if God had not put it into the heart of excellent men like David Nasmyth, of whom all Scotsmen may well boast, some five and thirty years ago, to found and carry on the London City Mission, and kindred institutions, the metropolis of London, and a very large proportion of the empire of Great Britain would have been totally uninhabitable by anyone who pretended to civilization, morality and religion……I remember the great Revolution of 1848, when, as you know, every throne was in the dust….I remember, after that day, talking with M. Guizot, who had been Prime Minister of France, when he said, “I will tell you what saved your empire. It was not your constables; it was not your army; it was not your ministers, it was the deep, solemn, religious atmosphere…..it is the religion of England that saved the empire of Great Britain.” He was right…….Sir George Grey said to me “I am satisfied, as Secretary of State, that London could not have been kept in order, had not the state of mind been prepared by the operations of associations such as these.”

Lord Shaftesbury (Speech of Earl of Shaftesbury at Wemyss Bay, autumn, 1874, ECM Annual Report, 1874: p. 11 – 12)


Use the Links below to see the different topics in this section.

The Great Revival: 1859 – 1861

In 1859 Christians were stirred to pour out their hearts in united prayer across the city, and God answered them with a deep revival:

A spirit of fervent prayer and of earnest ‘waiting for the promise of the Spirit’, has of late years pervaded, in a remarkable manner, many of the churches in town, and has found the means at once of its expression and its maintenance, in the Union Prayer Meeting, held in Queen St. Hall, and in similar devotional services conducted elsewhere [such as the Tron Kirk].Annual Report: 1859: p.18

An outbreak of God’s Spirit in Pilrig School, Leith, led to a deep conviction of sin and salvation to many of the pupils there. This resulted in a movement which spread throughout the city, particularly in the Old Town and Newhaven, and which centred around Carrubbers Close Mission on the High Street. This had formerly been called the Whitefield Chapel, but had become run down, and had ended up having the infamous Celebrated Cathedral of the Prince of Darkness, an atheist society, running there, before Christians re-consecrated it and renamed it Carrubbers Close Mission. Indeed, ECM worked “in unison with that of those friends, chiefly from Carrubbers Close, who have of late years conducted so many devotional and evangelistic meetings in and around Edinburgh, and in whose success they have shared.Annual Report: 1861: p.15)

We read in the ECM reports about the revival that centred on this (non-ECM) building, sweeping into the missionaries’ work:

….Multitudes who would formerly have resented any direct inquiry respecting their state before God, began eagerly to court opportunities of being conversed with on this topic, and some would follow the missionary to his house, or accompany him in a walk to the country, pressing, in various forms, the momentous inquiry, ‘What must I do to be saved?’Ibid

Another missionary wrote:

There has been a great stir among the young people of the district, some of whom are wonderfully changed in spirit and deportment. Every evening they come to the meeting, or the class, seeking for Jesus.Ibid., p.19

In this time of abundant harvest we are told: “Many institutions are happily in operation, all more or less directly subsidiary to the great objects of the gospel ministry: the Bible Society; the Religious Tract and Book Society; the “Monthly Visitor” Society; City, Country and Coast Missions; Sabbath Schools; Industrial Schools, Temperance Societies and Savings Banks; Refuges, Reformatories, and Hospitals; the Destitute Sick Society; the Societies for supplying the poor with cheap coals, clothing, meal, and bread; and to these may now be added the Society for teaching the Blind to read.Ibid., p.24

The huge harvest of seeking souls was caught in this unified evangelical network and the 1860 Report joyously recounts it:

In the words of the recent ‘Call to United Prayer’, ‘There is a visible moving of the dry bones in this great valley of the dead….one reaper after another has been sent to us, and each has found his own field white for the harvest. As the fruit of a manifold agency, coarse and reckless men have become as little children entering the Kingdom; harlots have returned into the bosom of their wondering families, testifying of Jesus; the self-righteous and the secure are asking with burdened hearts, ‘What shall I do to be saved?’p.14


Use the Links below to see the different topics in this section.

The First Revival: 1841 – 1843

The First Revival: 1841 – 1843

The first wave of revival and awakening hit Edinburgh in 1841. The Shelter, in the Grassmarket, had been set up by some Christian ladies in 1840, for the purpose of providing a rehab house for young women who had been involved in crime and prostitution. ECM missionaries were invited to preach there on a rota basis. One of them reported:

As I formerly stated, there has been for some time past a considerable awakening among the inmates of this institution with regard to their souls. I held a meeting with them this evening and addressed them from Matthew xiii. 45, 46, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man seeking goodly pearls, who when he had found one pearl of great price went and sold all that he had and bought it.’ Not only did an extraordinary deep feeling pervade the meeting, but it might be termed what Scripture calls a Bochim, a place of weeping; many of them wept nearly all the time of the address, and a number of them cried aloud; however I was enabled to get through without my mind being much embarrassed, and I scarcely ever felt more liberty and enlargement of heart. After the exercises were over, a young girl, apparently about fourteen years of age, came to me weeping, and earnestly desired me to go and visit her parents – I said, “My young friend, what must I say to them?” She replied, “They are not religious, and I wish you to speak to them about their souls, and about Christ,” but she had much difficulty in telling me this for weeping.”

Annual Report: 1842 – 1843: p.10

Another wrote:

In the evening, the place is generally crowded with the poor, the ragged, the unwashed, and the miserable, who listen with deep attention and tearful eyes to the truths presented before them.

Annual Report: 1844 – 1845: p.19

By 1848, 19 of the 30 districts in Edinburgh were covered by 25 ECM missionaries. Five of them worked in the High St. and Canongate; four in the southern part of the city; one in the western; one in Stockbridge; one in Greenside; one in Catherine St.; one in Joppa and Portobello, and others elsewhere. Some of the missionaries were financed by ECM; others were supported privately, but Nasmith’s vision to spearhead a united evangelical city-wide mission was becoming a reality.

The 1853 Annual Report mentions ministries that had emerged, apart from the main district work. Mother’s Meetings had been set up, as had Subsaving Banks to help the poor to budget effectively. A missionary was also appointed to the City Police. By 1856 Open Air outreaches were underway and Church ministers joined the ECM missionaries in preaching the Gospel in the Meadows, Queens Park, the Pleasance and in other places:

…..the audiences were usually very large and exceedingly attentive. From 10,000 to 12,000 tracts were distributed on these occasions.

Annual Report: 1856: p. 21

A smaller ECM open air outreach in one of the closes on the Royal Mile

ECM ran outreach meetings in the Victoria Lodge in the Cowgate and Merchant St., in the Metropolitan Lodging House in the Grassmarket, in the Female Industrial Home in Corstorphine, and in the Shelter (Grassmarket).

Besides this, loan libraries were set up by ECM in all 30 of the districts, which greatly helped the process of educating the masses and hundreds of children were encouraged to attend day schools, as well as Sabbath Schools.

Some missionaries, to combat the influence of atheism on the men, set up public lectures on science related subjects, in order to educate people, with a view to eventually bringing them to Christ:

Sometimes a Missionary finds it useful to invite the more intelligent working men in his district to explore with him the volume of nature, as well as the volume of revelation, by the aid of the telescope; microscope, or other scientific instruments, and especially by lectures and conversational meetings on interesting and important subjects of general information, which are treated as naturally to present the truth as it is in Jesus in all its grandeur and attractiveness………Short lectures on Geology, Astronomy, Zoology, and History have been delivered by the Missionary….the object of these meetings was to combine science and religion.

Annual Report 1856: p.20, and 1857: p.23


Use the Links below to see the different topics in this section.

The Peak Years and the Moody Revival: 1865 – 1900

The Peak Years and the Moody Revival: 1865 – 1900

In 1865 ECM moved its HQ from the High Street (first 375 High St., then 126 High St.) to 5 St. Andrews Square and in this period the number of missionaries either being salaried by ECM, or working in conjunction with it, grew to 33, which was the highest number on record. By 1875 there was a combined 130 missionary workforce across the city united by its common goal – the salvation of Edinburgh in a population of 200,000 (Annual Report: 1875: p.11). In 1870 we discover that “public interest in City Missions was never greater than it is now.” (Annual Report: 1870: p.10)

ECM produced its first advert in 1869, which read:

Special Services Rendered by City Missionaries:

  • Children sent to ordinary Day and Sabbath Schools, or according to circumstances, to Ragged Schools and Reformatories.
  • Situations found for young persons of both sexes
  • Bibles and other books and tracts circulated
  • Lending libraries established in the Mission districts
  • Popular lectures given on interesting and useful subjects
  • Classes for Mutual Improvement formed or encouraged
  • Penny savings banks, Mother’s Meetings, and Bands of Hope promoted
  • Drunkards reclaimed; Fallen Women sent to Reformatories
  • Large Lodging houses, Night Asylums, Hospitals and Police Cells are specially visited
  • District meetings held for Reading the Scriptures, simple exposition and prayer
  • The sick and dying visited, funerals attended, and assistance and advice given to
  • benevolent persons and societies in the distribution of cheap coals, meal and bread etc.

The year after that we read of ECM missionaries to the blind (250 blind people in Edinburgh), to the elderly men, to the Cabmen, Police Force, Fallen Women (women missionaries appointed to the prostitutes), and to the soldiers (Annual Report: 1870: p.10).

In 1873 Moody and Sankey from America hit Edinburgh like a whirlwind. Horatius Bonar, the hymn writer and former minister of St. Catherine’s Argyll, reckoned that almost every home in the city had been affected by this revival. The previous waves of blessing in the city had prepared people for this huge current that swept through the population, converting thousands to Christ. We hear about the deep impact from ECM:

By far the most important circumstance connected with the history of the City Mission for the past year, probably the most important during the whole period of its past existence, is the religious awakening by which the community has been, and still is, moved, chiefly through the influence of the work of Messrs. Moody and Sankey.

Annual Report: 1873: p.13

One ECM missionary said:

I have seen more of the Lord’s mighty doings during the past three months than I expected to see in this life…Nearly a hundred persons have met around our tea-table for converse and Bible instruction, nearly all of whom profess to have got pardon through faith in Jesus.

Ibid., p. 14 – 15

D.L. Moody, the American evangelist


Use the Links below to see the different topics in this section.

Thirty Years On: 1864

ECM celebrated its 30th anniversary with this glowing report:

When the Edinburgh City Mission was formed, not one congregation in the city was known to employ and support a missionary; there are now at least forty congregations in town that have a salaried missionary agent, daily engaged in evangelistic work in some part of the city. Some years before the establishment of the City Mission, there had been as many as eight or ten individuals appointed to give more or less time to the reclaiming of spiritual wanderers or outcasts in various parts of Edinburgh. But there had been such lack, either of sympathy and support on the one hand, or of method and efficiency on the other, that by the time the founders of the City Mission met, the number of these earlier agents had been reduced to three or four, who were with difficulty feeling their way through a few of the more destitute localities. There are now not fewer than…. a grand total of 96.30 with ECM (p.12)


Use the Links below to see the different topics in this section.

1900 – 2000

1900 – 2000

The 1898 Report concluded that “Multitudes have been lifted out of the degradation into which they had fallen, and larger numbers have been prevented from falling.” (p.10) It had been a glorious time of harvesting; particularly between the years 1840 and 1880. Now ECM and Edinburgh were entering a new century. What would it be like?

By now ECM had become very well-known and respected in the city and other missions put themselves under its supervision. Both Niddrie Mission and the Grassmarket Mission did this. ECM had spread its influence throughout the city, being called upon to help with all sorts of things. Extraordinary ministries, such as the Children’s Fortnightly Holiday Fund, had been set up under Mrs. Stirling Boyd, which allowed 2,000 children to go on holidays from 1895.

A parish nurse had been appointed by ECM to minister to the miners’ families in Craighall on the Niddrie estate, and ECM took on the Coalmen’s Mission. In 1907 there were six District Missionaries: two in Canongate; one in Dumbiedykes; one in Meadowbank; one in Arthur St., (1886, where HQ is today) and in Fountainbridge. Missionaries were appointed to the Public Houses (1892) and Breweries (1887), to the Cabmen (1856), Police Cells (1852) and Police Force (1861), Lodging Houses (1895) and Fallen Women (1860).

In 1908 we see a photo of a missionary with a horse pulling his mobile tea and coffee wagon for his street outreach to the cabmen. The next year ECM and Evangelization Society joined forces to hold Tent Meetings in the Cowgate and in Canongate, with much success. Kitchen Meetings, or evangelistic dinner parties, became popular from about 1910, although missionaries had been doing this informally for many years before then.

Open air outreach in 1908

We still hear of effective evangelism, and particularly in the Mission Halls. For example, in 1913 we read that 33 people were converted one evening in the Canongate Hall:
…..every night saw wonderful miracles of grace…….Every night souls surrendered. Fourteen of these live in my district, and are all going on splendidly. (Annual Report 1913: p.4 and 6) In that same year ECM also opened up a rehab home for 12 men at 6, Drummond St.

Crowds queuing up to get into one of the ECM Mission Halls

In 1855 ECM took over a building in the Royal Mile as an outreach base. This was called Galloway’s Entry Mission Hall in the Canongate. At one time there were six ECM Mission Halls in and around the Royal Mile

In 1855 ECM took over a building in the Royal Mile as an outreach base. This was called Galloway’s Entry Mission Hall in the Canongate. At one time there were six ECM Mission Halls in and around the Royal Mile

St Leonard’s Mission Hall, Dumbiedykes. Later this became a base for the work amongst the homeless. Churches worked on a rota basis with ECM to provide a care shelter in the winter months. This building was eventually knocked down and the Care Shelter was set up by Bethany Christian Trust

1935: Abbey Hill Mission Hall, which used to be a police station


Use the Links below to see the different topics in this section.

The War Years: 1914 – 1945

The War Years: 1914 – 1945

Amidst the carnage of the First World War, the ECM workers were kept very busy, counselling and encouraging many who had lost loved ones. The 1915 Report says: “Never before have our City Missionaries won and held the confidence of the people to a greater degree than now amidst the widespread sorrow and anxiety consequent upon the war.” (p. 1)

The Missionary in his daily round of visits has to lead sorrow-stricken ones into the deep heart of things – to the God of all comfort and compassion.


The team of ECM missionaries in the 1930s Mission Halls Run by ECM

By 1928 six Mission Halls were run fully by ECM. They were:

  • Galloway’s Entry: 53 Canongate (since 1855)
  • Little Lochend Close: 115 Canongate
  • Comely Green: 9 Comely Green Place
  • Dumbiedykes: 47 St. Leonard’s Hill
  • Broughton: Logie Green Rd
  • Free Buccleuch and Greyfriars Church Hall: 24 West Crosscauseway

Besides these, Halls at Niddrie and St. Andrews (Leith) were used greatly by ECM workers.

The Halls were full to breaking point, to such an extent, that people sometimes had to be carried out because of the stuffiness in summer! The 1934 Report estimates that about 4,000 people met in the six Halls each week for a multitude of different meetings. Whilst the preaching of the Gospel remained the main thrust of ECM, we also notice the practical care of those missionaries to the poor and needy. The 1934 Report relates that they provided:

  • 100 tons of coal
  • 820 parcels of groceries
  • 353 pairs of boots and shoes for boys and girls
  • 36 hot water bottles for the old and infirm folk
  • milk and nourishing food for children. (p.4)

In 1935 a police station was converted into Abbeyhill Mission Hall, and the old Galloway Entry Mission Hall was replaced by this premise because of its larger space.

ECM listed seven Mission Halls during this period and missionaries were working with the Transport Men, Cabmen and Taximen, Lodging Houses, Burgh Court (Police Cells), Districts, Benevolent Fund and Open Air Meetings. Since the end of the nineteenth century, music outreach had become popular, both in the open air meetings, whether in the smaller gatherings in the courts and closes off the Royal Mile, or at the big gatherings with other churches, or in the Mission Halls.

James Wilson visits the prisons, 1932

In 1939 the Second World War broke out. Again the nation went through a deep crisis; again ECM was there for the multitudes who grieved and suffered. A Mission Hall at Jane St., Leith also opened up for ECM during this year, as the work carried on moving forward.


Use the Links below to see the different topics in this section.

Post War Years and into the Swinging Sixties

Post War Years and into the Swinging Sixties

In 1958 effective work began in the Inch, meetings being held in a primary school, and much District Work was done to reach the locals.

Hospital visitation was blessed by God in an extraordinary way, as many elderly people gave their hearts to the Lord Jesus. One ECM Missionary says: “……in Queensberry House, where we have seen many of the elderly people accept the Lord Jesus as their own personal Saviour.”(Annual Report: 1959: p.6)

And again:

“Many pages could be filled with the accounts of other hospital patients converted during the year.”(Annual Report: 1963: p.7)

One glorious afternoon no less than five patients came to the Lord……

Annual Report: 1965: p.5

It was also a very fruitful time amongst the children. One missionary rejoiced with a revival amongst them at a summer camp:

It is difficult to describe God’s moving that week amongst the children. For most of us it was something new to see children weeping under deep conviction of sin, and whole dormitories being moved as the Spirit of God came upon them. Children who were already Christians knelt in small groups and prayed for their friends. Praise God for this mighty working, and pray that the boys and girls, 113, in all, who accepted the Lord Jesus, may be protected from the evil one.

Annual Report: 1959: p.7

We read of the halls overflowing with children and of the mission in Burdiehouse in 1965, with 160 present on average every night. “Many hundreds of children are being reached for Christ each week,” wrote a missionary, and in the Inch, 500 – 600 children heard the Gospel in a three day outreach (p.9).

A highlight of the 1960s was Billy Graham’s Edinburgh Christian Crusade at the Usher Hall in 1966. The meetings were “sometimes overcrowded”, and “literally hundreds of people, young and old, (were) coming to a knowledge of Christ.”(p.4)

However, despite the obvious successes with the elderly in the hospitals, and with the children, and with the crusade, the Church began to realize that morality and indifference to the Gospel were beginning to spread in Edinburgh. The 1961 Report shares some of this reality:

Twenty thousand people have volunteered to be shot into space, and the reason most of them give is – boredom. Suicides, crime, divorce, and road accidents continue to break all previous records. The optimism of thirty years ago has given place to serious apprehension and gloom in spite of the fact that materially “we’ve never had it so good”

Hundreds of millions of pounds are spent annually on drink, nicotine and gambling, and now the authorities are thinking seriously of putting the clock back a hundred years by re-opening the public houses on Sundays. Mankind is sick, and the Gospel is the only remedy.


In 1968, The Inch Mission Hall was opened, and an address was given by Rev. Professor G.N.M. Collins, of Free Church College, and by Rev. Philip Hacking, of St. Thomas, a church which had closely supported ECM since 1842. In the same year, Rev. “Charlie” Main was appointed to visit the G.P.O. Sorting Office, in connection with the Post Office Christian Association.


Use the Links below to see the different topics in this section.