IN THE autumn of 1731, the Rev Ebenezer Erskine from Berwickshire, moved to Stirling from Portmoak in Kinross-shire.

Having graduated from the University of Edinburgh, he was first appointed minister at Dysart then Portmoak, where he preached from 1703.

On his arrival in Stirling, it is said he was met at Stirling Bridge by the local elders and welcomed to his new kirk.

He was already popular, and his popularity grew as he settled in the town.

Two years later, he became the founder of the Secession Church, dissenters of the Established Church, in the Old Town in December 1733.

He lived in the manse with second wife Mary, the daughter of James Webster, a minister in Edinburgh, whom he had married in January 1724.

Following a long illness, Mrs Erskine died and was duly placed in a coffin ready for burial. According to legend, the sexton knew the body would be handsomely paid for should he be able to sell it to medical students.

So, the day after the funeral, he disinterred her.

As he was preparing to carry off her remains, he noticed Mary had been buried with her wedding ring still on her finger.

It had not been removed due to swelling following her death. He pulled at the ring, but it would not budge, so he tried to amputate the finger with his pocket-knife.

As he began cutting, blood began to pour from the wound. Astonished, and realising the corpse was in fact a living being, he scrambled out of the grave as quickly as he could and made good his escape.

Meanwhile, Mrs Erskine, dressed in her burial garments, realised she was in a grave.

She clambered out of the coffin, up the side of the hole and made her way to the manse.

By now her shroud was filthy and had anyone seen her, they no doubt would have had quite a shock.

The minister meanwhile was observing family worship when he heard the knock at his front door, which he recognised to be that of his deceased wife's, but that was impossible.

He sent a servant to open it. When she saw who was standing there, she fainted, believing it to be the ghost of the minister's wife.

Erskine was obviously shocked to see her but delighted that she was alive and well. In fact, she lived many years after this, dying on 15th March 1751. Her husband died three years later.

Both appear to be resting in peace.