Friday, 26 August 2011

The Daily Express and Nessie

Back in the 1930s a new sensational story hit the British headlines, a remote Scottish loch apparently was inhabited by a dinosaurian like creature and had been seen by dozens of witnesses.

Perhaps wishing to lift the great British reading public during those years of economic depression and an increasingly bleak outlook abroad, many a Fleet Street newspaper took up the story and ran with it until war was declared six years later.

The Daily Express was one such paper which covered events at Loch Ness as I found out last week as I perused their online digital archive at I paid up for a two day subscription and then went in pursuit of Nessie stories.

The archive was easy enough to use and a reasonable price in my opinion. Articles of interest could be saved at no extra cost as PDF files and the range covered 1900 up to this decade. What one is likely to find in these archives can often be hit and miss but it also gives one a chance to see the cultural impact of the Loch Ness Monster during those heady days.

The first thing I noticed as I keyed in suitable search terms was how the Express put the emphasis more on the human side of the story. Actual eyewitness reports were thin on the ground as were speculations about what these sightings could be. From that point of view, I suspect the newspaper's editor or owner took a sceptical line but nevertheless felt obliged to report on that aspect of the subject which interests people the most - other people.

The picture below from the 23rd December 1933 I found quite amusing as one of their reporters headed to Loch Ness to quiz locals and visitors about their opinions. Zoom in to read their opinions and see where you lie on this mini-spectrum of views.

Perhaps some things do not change. It seems the men were more skeptical than the women. The human side of things was very much reported at that time as any things unusual to do with Loch Ness made it into print. To that end, I note the ongoing trial of Aleister Crowley gained some traction when it transpired he had a house at Loch Ness. Also the discovery of a dead man in a cave by Loch Ness also excited some interest (though no one suggested the unfortunate person had been a victim of Nessie).

And, of course, advertisers could not resist the lure of Nessie as this advert from the 25th January, 1934 shows. The small print says:

"Even the mysterious monster might well be lured from his hiding place by a packet of Post Toasties!"

How Nessie could be seen to boost the sale of corned flakes slightly escapes me! Mind you, I am sure Post Toasties would be just as successful as fish and aphrodisiacs in trying to bait Nessie.

More items from the Daily Express in the days ahead.

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