One of the earliest Scottish Protestant martyrs, Helen Stark (or Stirke) was executed by ‘drowning in sack’ in Perth, Scotland. She was among a number of heretics, known as the ‘Perth Martyrs,’ who were condemned during the visitation of Cardinal David Beaton, Archbishop of St Andrews, in January 1543.
Stark was charged with having refused to call upon the Virgin Mary in childbirth and having claimed that the Virgin had no special qualities that made her superior to other women. Along with her husband, she was also accused of disrupting a sermon that claimed there was no salvation without intercession and prayer to the saints. The pair confessed the charge, adding that it was people’s duty to bear testimony to the truth and their right not to suffer false doctrine. The townspeople sought to save the accused but to no avail, since the local priests refused to intercede for any found guilty of such crimes. Helen and her husband left several children, including their new baby, to the care of the townspeople.