Highland Harvester is the title of a book written by George Mitchell which was published in February 2013 and charts the life, times and legacy of Peter Grant (1783- 1867). He is known in the Scottish Highlands as ‘Peter Grant of the Songs’, and is arguably the most influential Gaelic hymn-writer of the nineteenth century. His collection of hymns ran to twenty editions. Professor Donald Meek writes of them: ‘Grant’s hymns will remain forever as an integral part of the Gaelic spiritual heritage of the mainland Highlands, the Hebrides and areas far beyond, where Gaelic speakers have settled.’
Peter Grant was a powerful Gospel preacher, the second pastor of Grantown-on-Spey Baptist Church, where he served for forty-one years. He worked on his farm, Ballenta, which his family has worked for three centuries, and took no stipend from the church for years. He preached at least five times a week and usually spent a few weeks each summer as an itinerant preacher.
The small Baptist Church in Grantown grew to 292 members and had several outreach Sunday Schools and preaching stations in the Grantown area. The Lord visited the community in gracious waves of revival during Grant's ministry, with two to three hundred people attending each of two midweek prayer meetings. Up to 1200 people attended the baptismal services he conducted in the River Spey.
Peter had no English until he was thirteen years old, and was succeeded in the pastorate by his son William, who also spoke Gaelic. William himself ministered to many of the 2000 or so navvies who camped in the area during the building of the Highland Railway.
George Mitchell obtained many of the papers on which he researched this remarkable Highland revival from Yvonne, the widow of John Fisher of Inverness, and Dr Ian Grant (Peter’s great-great-grandson) writes: ‘I think George Mitchell has captured the essence of Peter Grant in all his character.’
The book reveals Peter’s warmth in his family letters – he had ten children and seventy grandchildren – and the analysis and extracts from his preaching stir the heart. We capture the spirit of a remarkable preacher, whose sole resources for many years were a Bible and a small English dictionary! The book also illustrates the global reach of this Highland ministry.
Peter Grant lived through a fascinating kaleidoscope of social, historical and theological changes. These included the aftermath of the Jacobite rebellions, the control of the Moderates within the national church, the missions of the Haldane brothers, the Agrarian Revolution, the Highland Clearances, the Hungry Forties, the French Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the Disruption of 1843.
Eric Alexander writes: ‘I knew almost nothing of Peter Grant before reading this excellent book. May the book be widely used to create a longing for true revival in the church in the twenty-first century!’