Musselburgh is perhaps the oldest town in Scotland.

We can trace its origins as far back as the Romans and the River Esk has undoubtedly made it an attractive place to settle ever since humans first arrived in the area.

The old bridge, or Roman Bridge as it is traditionally called, is one of the wonders of East Lothian. It reeks of antiquity and was once the main crossing over the Esk. As such, the footprints of Scotland’s history are imbedded in its ancient stones.

While original Roman masonry may still be encased with its arches, what we see today is the result of later medieval repairs and rebuilding. It is, just like Musselburgh town itself, a mixture of ages with antiquity at its core.

And Market Street that leads to it is likewise a route of great antiquity, although much has changed here. ‘Progress’ and development have robbed the street of much of its historic character, although, like the bridge at its end, the parade of key moments in Scotland’s history has literally marched this way.

A house called Eden Cottage once stood in this street. It was a picturesque 18th-century structure, surrounded by a high boundary wall. Some Musselburgh residents may still remember it, and if so they may also remember the legend of the Green Lady associated with it.

There are many Green Lady ghost tales, and I can think of at least four from East Lothian, including another Green Lady ghost who is said to haunt Pinkie House.

But the Green Lady who haunted Eden Cottage no longer has her home, and so she now walks up and down Market Street, and can be seen wandering close by her old house, which is now occupied by more modern housing.

Tradition has not passed down her name, but she was a very beautiful young woman when she lived in the cottage in the 18th century.

She lived alone as a single independent woman, at a time when women were subject to the control of male family members.

She had two suitors who competed with each other to win her affections, but she could not decide which one to choose. The details of this threesome we don’t know, but as we do know, threesomes rarely have a happy ending.

Unable to make up her mind, the two men decided to settle the matter with a sword duel. When she discovered that the two men she cared for most were going to fight over her in such a foolish manner, she resolved to prevent the dual.

She had made up her mind who she truly loved, and so now there was no need for them to settle the matter in such a brutal manner.

She would declare her fondness for them both, but her love for only one. She now knew what her heart felt.

She rushed to the scene of the duel with a sense of rising panic, and when she arrived her fears were confirmed: she was too late. One of her suitors lay dead on the blood-stained grass. She ran towards the body, unaware of the presence of the victor. Her footsteps slowed as she approached the dead man.

“Oh no,” she tried to say, but the words were soundless. She fell to her knees and sobbed over the body of the man she now knew she had truly loved.

The other man tried to console her, but how could he? In his own desire to be with her he had killed the man she had really loved. How could she possibly be with him?

In her grief she fled back to her cottage. An apple tree with strong branches grew outside her window. The following day she was found. In her grief she had hanged herself from the tree.

But, according to the legend, her ghost was soon to be seen in the house where she once lived. And the haunting continued well into the 20th century.

One tenant in the late 1920s reported waking one night. She happened to glance towards the window and saw a spectre of a woman standing in front of the window. Fright electrified her body and she put on the light, which caused the spectre to vanish.

Later, her husband William, who was a dentist, was relaxing in the lounge when their two dogs began a frenzy of barking. When William opened the door to see what was disturbing the animals, he witnessed the outline of a woman descending the stairs towards him. He stood aghast as the woman elegantly but sadly floated downwards, stared at him and then just vanished in a shaft of light.

Other tenants also reported sightings of the Green Lady, although strangely they all described her as grey, rather than green. On one occasion, a tenant was awoken in the dead of night and when he opened his eyes the woman was standing over him, only to quickly vanish.

But then, just over 60 years ago, the cottage was demolished to make way for a development of 32 new houses. So the ghost became the ‘Green Lady of Market Street’.

She was said to wander up and down the street, quietly but sadly. She seems to have a habit of looming up to men, staring at them and then vanishing. Perhaps she is looking for the man she once loved.

I was introduced to this tale by a woman I met at a bus stop in Musselburgh last month. She recognised me and introduced herself and we had a good talk about family stories, and some of her memories of the Honest Toun.

Then she began to tell me this tale. To be honest, I had never heard of this green lady tale before but, sure enough, when I later researched the story, I found records of it. The woman at the bus stop didn’t want me to mention her name, but she knows who she is and I would like to thank her for making the wait for a bus on a dreich afternoon much more interesting than expected.

As the bus approached she had to cut off the telling of her tale, but she left me with an intriguing final comment: “She hings oot maistly by the Roman Bridge now, but I dinnae ken what keeps her there.” That ancient bridge must have many ghosts, I thought to myself, as the bus pulled away. But why would she hang out there? Was it once a special place for her? Did she maybe walk over it hand-in-hand with the man she loved? Was it there she said her last goodbye to him? Or did her frantic flight to stop the duel take her over the bridge?

Perhaps in the darkness she stares at people as they cross, scrolling their mobiles or carrying their shopping, unaware of her searching eyes and vanishing presence.

It’s one of many Green Lady stories, and like many of them, this is a sad tale.

“Perhaps…” I thought to myself as I finally headed home on my bus, “perhaps what keeps her here is her inability to forgive herself, and if so she must, for it was not her fault.”