TILLICOULTRY is well-known as the place where in the 6th century St Serf brought the two dead sons of a woman in the village back to life.

However, it was not the only miracle to occur. In early 1758 William Hunter, a miner who lived in the village, had been confined to bed for around a year and a half.

This was caused by chronic rheumatism that caused him pain whenever he moved his arms or legs, meaning he was very limited in what he could do.

His wife and family attended to him, caring for his every need, including washing him and changing his clothes.

On the first Monday of the New Year some of his neighbours came to visit him and cheer him with the help not just of good conversation but Alloa ale too.

This was known as Handsel Monday.

Traditionally on this day, small gifts, tips or tokens known as handsels, were given to beggars, servants and children, or to someone who was owed a debt of gratitude by friends and neighbours.

It was said if silver was given on that day, the rest of the year would bring good fortune.

On the other hand, if something sharp was given, it was said that the friendship would be severed.

The Alloa ale given to the Tillicoultry man was a new version that contained barm or yeast and although he could not get out of bed, he heartily joined in their conversation and drank copious amounts of the ale as it was passed round.

By the time his friends left, he was well and truly drunk and soon fell sound asleep.

When he woke up the next morning, instead of having a hangover as would be expected, he felt elated. This was because, after eighteen months of confinement, he had full use of his limbs.

He rose slowly from his bed but managed to walk, using his arms and hands to steady himself.

Whatever was in the ale had cured him of his complaint. There was simply no other explanation.

His neighbours soon heard of his miraculous recovery and the news spread rapidly.

After a short time of exercising in order to build up his weakened muscles, he was able to return to work where he laboured until his death 20 years later.

During those years, his rheumatism never once bothered him, and he was able to lead a full and healthy life.

Handsel Monday did not fare so well. It disappeared from the calendar but was absorbed into First Footing.