Shetland and Orkney.

The Scottish islands were among the proposed mission fields mentioned in Coke's missionary Address in 1786. But an appeal to Coke in 1808 for the launching of a mission to Shetland came to nothing. In 1819 John Nicolson, converted by Methodists while in the Army, returned to his native Shetland and in two years had formed a 'circuit'. He asked for Conference's help and, with Adam Clarke's support, John Raby and Samuel Dunn were sent in 1822. Despite opposition from the Kirk, by the time of Nicolson's death in 1828 there were four circuits and 1,000 members. From then on, in spite of heavy emigration, Methodism remained comparatively strong and at the 1932 Union there were 1,398 members. By 1995 there were only 379, and by 2015 the number was down to 200.

Methodist work was initiated in Orkney by Adam Clarke in 1825. Samuel Dunn made a preaching tour and a few societies were established, of which Stronsay was the strongest under the leadership of John Knowles. But they gradually declined and those who remained joined the Free Church after its formation in 1843. In the 1980s, however, a Methodist 'house congregation' was formed in South Ronaldsay.


'We deeply regret to state, that intelligence has just reached us of the death of the Rev. Dr. Adam Clarke. He arrived at Bayswater, near London, at the home of Mr. Hobbs, on Saturday, the 25th inst., intending to preach at the anniversary of the Methodist chapel in that place on the following morning. He was thern in a state of ill-health, and became much worse early on Sunday morning, so as to be unable to fulfil his engagement. His disease, the malignant cholera, continued to increase, so as to baffle all the skill of physicians and the power of medicine; and he expired about twenty minutes past eleven o'clock on the evening of that day. He attended the late Confeence in Liverpool, in his usual health and spirits, and preached twice with great energy and pathos during its sittings; he took also a lively interest in the business of the Conference, and the general affairs of the Connexion, and expressed the most cordial attachment to his brethren and zeal for the furtherance of the cause of God. We stop the press to announce these particulars.'

Wesleyan Methodist Magazine, September 1832, p.692

  • Peter M'Owan, 'The Shetland Mission', in WM Magazine, 1835, pp.858-67, 941-48
  • Harold R. Bowes in WHS Proceedings, 38 pp.136-46
  • WHS(S), 4, pp.17-20; 6, pp.9-20

Entry written by: MB
Category: Place
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