Colportage has been carried out for the past 220 years. In 1793 the work was founded by Rev. John Campbell. His aim was to distribute tracts, free of charge, to as many people as possible in order to spread the gospel.
The work developed and came under the control of the Edinburgh Religious Tract and Book Society. The name changed in 1925 to the Scottish Colportage Society.
Each summer, students from the Bible Training Institute set off to do colportage in various parts of the country. Later the Scottish Colportage Society became part of the Scottish Evangelistic Council, founded in 1930.
A further change took place in 1996 when the Evangelistic Council closed. The final 17 years, under the title ‘Colportage Society — Scotland’ has been carried out by four people, one of whom was a retired colporteur with the Evangelistic Council. After fully two centuries, this outreach has finally had to come to an end.
Some may ask, ‘What is colportage?’ It is the distribution of Christian literature: tracts, pamphlets and books. From modest beginnings, the work spread throughout Scotland, from the Shetland and Orkney Islands in the far north, to the west in the Hebrides and all over the mainland.
The Society also moved southwards into England, to places such as Bournemouth on the south coast, Leicester in the Midlands and Sheffield in the north.
The dedication of the many colporteurs, who travelled initially on foot, later on bicycles and finally by van, as they visited farms, towns and villages is impressive.
The story of colportage from 1793–2013 is contained in a book called Out in all weathers. The book is available from Miss M. P. Milne, 20 Balfron Crescent, Hamilton, ML3 9UH, at a cost of £2.00 for postage and packing.