AT Tullibody Old Kirk lies a grave belonging to a young woman who has become part of our county’s folklore.

Around 1450, the local priest at Tullibody, Peter Beaton, met a young woman called Martha Wishart. She was said to be beautiful and charming, and was the only daughter of a wealthy landowner, the Laird of Myretoun.

As time passed, Beaton seduced her, and she, in turn, fell in love with him. Their passionate affair, however, was short-lived.

One day, Martha told Beaton she was pregnant. Expecting him to propose marriage so the child would be born in wedlock, she was heartbroken to discover he no longer wished a relationship with her.

The unscrupulous and ambitious priest had his sights on rising through the ranks of the church, not be a husband and father.

The Abbot of Cambuskenneth, David Kelly, already had knowledge of Beaton’s errant ways and his ecclesiastical ambitions. It is even said that Beaton’s name reached the Vatican in Rome.

The Wisharts, on the other hand, had no knowledge of this, and Mr Wishart had expected Beaton to marry his daughter.

The inconsolable Martha kept her pregnancy secret from those out-with the family, but her health deteriorated quickly, and legend has it she died of a broken heart long before the baby was born.

On her deathbed, she instructed her parents to place her body in a raised stone coffin by the north door of the church at Tullibody so that every time the priest entered he would have to walk past it.

It is reputed Beaton blocked up that door following her burial, meaning entry was via the south door only so he could avoid passing her grave. Eventually the story came out and the priest was shunned by the locals, so much so, it is rumoured he died of insanity.

The anonymous poem Martha of Myretoun declares that:

‘When the sun shone bright in the noontide sky,

Fair Martha’s image met his eye,

Her spirit stood in the hallowed door,

And cried “thou must enter here no more;”

Then frantic, shunned and shunning men,

He a maniac died in the dim wood glen.’

The glen in question is thought to be the spot where the lovers secretly met at Balquharn Glen behind the Myretoun farm.

A much more detailed poem called The Maiden’s Stone in Tullibody was penned by Andrew Beveridge in 1871.

The hollowed-out stone coffin in the shape of a body can still be seen in the old Kirk Yard today.