THE name of St Serf appears all over the county of Clackmannan, such as St Serf’s Church, now Parish Church, in Tillicoultry, St Serf’s Walk in Alva, St Serf’s Grove in Clackmannan and St Serf’s Primary in Tullibody. This holy man certainly left his mark on the area.

St Serf, also known as Servanus, was born around the year 500 and legend has it he was the son of a king of Canaan called Obeth and his wife Alpia who was the daughter of a king of Arabia.

When still small, the boy was baptised in Alexandria in Egypt where he was given the name Servanus because he it was hoped he would serve God day and night and do good works and deeds.

During his time in Alexandria, he began studying at one of the religious schools, and became a monk before being ordained as a priest by the Bishop of Alexandria.

He returned to Canaan where the people chose him to be their bishop and he travelled to Jerusalem, Egypt and Constantinople, now Istanbul in Turkey.

Eventually he made it to the heart of Christianity, Rome, where he met with his papal brothers. Following on from this he travelled through The Alps, along with many clerics and followers.

By this time, he had renounced his rights to the heritable lands in favour of his brother so he could embark on this religious tour which eventually led him to the English Channel and on to Scotland.

He reached the River Forth and saw the island of Inchkeith. He managed to secure passage on a boat and landed on the island where he spent some time with the abbot Adamnan.

However, on his arrival at the island, he asked Adamnan how he could rid himself of his companions. The answer came swiftly. He replied: "Let them inhabit Fife as far as the Ochil Hills."

From the island St Serf caught sight of Culross and decided to make his way there, with a hundred followers in tow, and it became the place where he established his first church.

From his new headquarters he explored the Devon Valley, and preached to locals he met during his travels.

He visited Tillicoultry where his first miracle took place. A local woman’s sons had suddenly died and the legend states:

"In Tullycoultry, til a wyf

Two sonys he raisit from ded to lyf"

In other words, he raised the two men from the dead for the woman.

He is also known to have performed miracles in Alva and Tullibody, hence those town’s close affiliations with him.

During his time in Tillicoultry, St Serf had with him his pet, either a ram or goat, which was accidentally killed and for many years the spot where the animal died was marked by a cairn.

The animal had been stolen by a local man, according to legend, who cut it up into small pieces and ate it.

St Serf looked for it as he missed his companion, and eventually the man was arrested on suspicion of theft

He was brought before him. but swore he had not taken the animal, but a bleat was heard from his stomach and he asked St Serf for mercy.

St Serf is also said to have slain a dragon at Dunning in Perthshire and was visited by the Devil while in a cave at Dysart near Kirkcaldy, but he overcame the temptations put before him. The cave is still regarded a scared place.

St Serf continued his journey in the county and ended up back in Fife at Loch Leven where he fell in love with the beauty and serenity of the island later named in his honour. It is possible it reminded him of his homeland.

Here, seclusion was more complete than that he found on Inchkeith, and it was closer to his established church at Culross.

Adamnan was already on the island and in the course of their conversations, realised that St Serf wanted to create a Christian community on it, so granted permission.

St Serf stayed on the island in a primitively built house which was readied for him. In all, he was to stay there for seven years where he spent his time in prayer and he enjoyed watching the island change during the different seasons.

When St Serf left it, he returned to the church in Culross where he lived out the rest of his life, dying around the year of 583 at Dunning, but his body brought back to be buried in Culross.

The island where he spent so long in devout prayer and contemplation called Inch of Loch Leven is known as St Serf’s Isle, and around the 12th century, monks had a monastery constructed in his honour, with Andrew Wyntoun being its first prior.

St Serf also had connections with St Mungo or Kentigern. Mungo’s mother fell pregnant before her marriage and she was thrown off a cliff but survived the fall.

She had nowhere to go so boarded a boat which landed at Culross where St Serf took her under his wing. When the boy was born, St Serf effectively became his foster-father.