The Wicked Laird of Tillicoultry

“Should you visit nearby Tillicoultry, friends, I bid you search for an ancient weatherworn slab which marks the last resting place of the wicked Laird of Tillicoultry. A dire and dissolute rogue, the laird was the scourge o’ the local clergy.

Each Sunday the Abbot of Cambuskenneth would march to the Laird’s door, his congregation close upon his heels, there to berate him for his wickedness, calling upon him to repent his wasted, sinful life, and embrace the love of God. There the priest would stand, sure of his faith, emboldened (he told himself) by his sense of duty…but regretful that his holy office burdened him with such a thankless task. The Laird would heap scorn and ridicule upon the friar’s virtue and his vestments, cursing him with the foulest imprecations the cleric had ever heard.Laird of Tillicoultry

At last his torments proved too much to bear. One Sunday the laughter of the crowd grew so great that the clerics calm was broken. He raged against the Laird. If he would not forsake the folly of a life of vice and villainy for hope of redemption, then might he not do so for fear that that Almighty Power might strike him down.

The Laird loured forth, and grinned. No, he said. He did not fear the Wrath of God, he boasted: so steeped in shameless sin was he that ‘twas God Himself that should fear his name. Saying this, he raised his right hand and struck the Abbot squarely on the head, sending the poor man reeling, weeping, sprawling on the muddy path, the laird’s cruel laughter – aye, and that of his flock besides, for they were more fearful of Tillicoultry's wrath than their good priest's scorn – ringing in his ears.

But in an instant the laughter ceased. The Abbot raised his bruised brow from the mud and mire and looked first upon the townsfolk, and upon the terror etched upon their faces. He turned from them and looked upon his foe, and his eyes, too, grew wide in horror. The Laird’s cruel face seemed frozen, ashen, his mouth open as in a silent scream. His mighty fist – still tightly clenched, the knuckles taut and white – beat slowly against the breast that housed his night-black heart. With each beat the Laird’s breath grew more shallow...and stopped. After an instant that seemed to last an age, he toppled forward, and was dead.

Of course, the gossips said, it was only right that a rogue who had committed such an outrage should be taken so rudely from this world. And if the manner of his passing showed the working of God’s Wrath, what sorry fate might his sinful soul expect?

He was buried according to the traditions of his line, his corpse interred with the others of his house, in the kirkyard at Tillicoultry, though many thought it sacrilege that the scoundrel’s bones should be permitted to pollute earth consecrated to God.

Their cries grew louder still when, the very next morn, the Laird’s right hand was discovered, thrusting upward through the new-turned earth of his grave.

Sure, ‘twas as though the sod itself had rejected the impious organ responsible for wounding the unfortunate Abbot.

The grave was opened up once more, and the hand reburied. But, next morning, the fist was found projecting from the tomb once more.

Again and again the unholy cycle was repeated.

How the matter was resolved is…uncertain. Some say the cold, dead flesh was severed – burned, and thus prevented from rising again. Others, that the corpse itself was moved – dumped in some secret and unhallowed spot.

To this very day legend persists that the Laird’s bones still lie in that lonely plot where it was first planted, but that a heavy stone mort-slab – broad, flat and difficult to move – was judiciously placed over the tomb to keep him in his place. Oft-times these stones were used to keep grave-robbers out...but in Tillicoultry’s case.

Should you visit that old churchyard as darkness falls, my friends, listen carefully…for some say they can hear a distant knocking and scratching at the stone...like age-brittled bones feebly seeking, still, to free themselves from the cold earth of the grave.

So take care, my dears, should you chance upon that cold, flat stone as you wander the Crow Road twixt the living and the dead. Does the wicked Laird of Tilly lurk there, still, ever-eager to prey upon the innocents of that place? Unlikely…but should you, of a sudden, feel thin and bony fingers grip your ankles... don’t day you haven’t been warned!"

 

                                   Monologue from Stirling GhostWalk 2010

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