FEARS have been raised over the future of the grave belonging to one of Renfrewshire’s most iconic historic figures.

Habbie Simpson, who lived from 1550 to 1620, was the town piper in Kilbarchan and villagers are informally known as “Habbies” to this day. Simpson’s significance to the village’s history is also marked every year at the Lilias Day celebrations.

However, members of the community are now worried his historic resting place could be left to ruin after the Kilbarchan West Kirk and Hall were put on the market for a combined price of £175,000.

Although the graveyard itself is not included, villagers such as independent councillor Andy Doig worry any sale would leave the site untended.

Cllr Doig, whose ward represents Johnstone North, Kilbarchan, Howwood, and Lochwinnoch, is now leading calls for a community buyout of the kirk and hall, which he believes could be used as a “Museum of Village Heritage and Culture” to ensure that the site of Simpson’s burial is preserved as well as other historic sites in the community.

He told The Gazette: “As we approach Paisley 2021 I can see great potential in a Museum of Village Heritage and Culture which could form a joint Heritage Hub along with the Weavers Cottage, not just for Kilbarchan, but to promote the story of industries like weaving which was pivotal across all the West Renfrewshire villages.

“This is the year of archaeology, history and heritage, so is a very appropriate time to start a community discussion on the need to showcase the rich narrative about the history and culture of West Renfrewshire in a way which will both enhance the Paisley 2021 bid, and secure further funding for the villages should that bid succeed, which I hope it does.”

Cllr Doig added: “The sales schedule accepts that the church hall is of significant historical and architectural interest.

“And over a decade ago the West of Scotland Archaeology Service did an investigation in the graveyard, which is the site of the pre-reformation St Catherine’s Chapel and the heart of Medieval Kilbarchan, and deemed it to be of special archaeological significance, due to its rich history and heritage.”

Renfrewshire Council says it welcomes any proposals which will help showcase history of all areas and highlight potential as a tourism destination.

A spokesman said: “The Culture, Heritage and Events Fund has supported creative initiatives across the region, giving independent artists, community groups, schools and businesses the opportunity to showcase their talent and creativity while enhancing the local cultural scene.”

He added: “The council has agreed to investigate funding options for the creation of a Museum of Village Heritage and Culture and will work with the appropriate partners to assess its viability.”