Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Legacy of Past Nessie Researchers

I was in communication with a fellow Loch Ness Monster enthusiast recently about an aspect of Loch Ness research that barely gets a mention in the general discussion and that is the legacy of past researchers.

We can list the honoured people who dedicated years if not decades in the pursuit of this mystery who are no longer with us. I think primarily of Rupert T. Gould, Constance Whyte, Tim Dinsdale and F. W. Holiday and others. But there will be the lesser known people who gathered material on Loch Ness but never went to print with them. We also have the groups such as the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau which has long disbanded.

Yes, we have the books, newspaper articles and magazine features but what about their private collection of material? We can be sure that not everything of interest made it into their books and we can be sure that items continued to be gathered after their last publications and before their death or disbanding.

I have queried various national library catalogues with no indication that any works were deposited with these publicly accessible organisations. Admittedly, some collections will still be held by the family of the deceased. Some will not be considered significant enough to be put in the vaults of these places while some were sadly destroyed or lost when the estate of the deceased was distributed.

I have hopes that the works of Rupert Gould on the Loch Ness Monster will be hidden amongst his other notable horological items. I suspect these may be in the British Library or some other archive in the London area.

I am optimistic that Tim Dinsdale's works are still with his family and well preserved.

Constance Whyte's works are a mystery as they seem to have been bequeathed to someone but have been subsequently lost. This needs clarification.

F. W. Holiday's works are a mystery too. He died unmarried and without children as far as I know. I have a theory as to where they are now but again this needs clarification.

But the biggest question mark is the whereabouts and accessibility of the materials gathered between 1962 and 1972 by the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau. I suspect some material may be held at the Loch Ness Centre in Drumnadrochit but they need to confirm that. A lot of material may have been distributed to individuals on their closure. The point I want to make is that the LNIB materials ought to be made publicly accessible to all researchers.

If the mission statement of such founder members as David James and Constance Whyte was :

"To study Loch Ness to identify the creature known as the Loch Ness Monster or determine the causes of reports of it."

Then who are the successors of the LNIB and on whom does the mantle now fall? Certainly not any one individual but I would suggest anyone with a serious interest in the subject - be they on the "skeptics" or "believers" side.

Meanwhile, access to private individual collections are a matter for the new owners to consider. Do they let these items of potential importance lie in a dark corner of an attic until they decay or are thrown away? Must a new generation of researchers have this information lost forever or have to go through the exertions of re-discovering old knowledge again?

Finally, I am not addressing the matter of how these materials are made accessible. It is unlikely that much of these items are digitised or ready for email and the web. It may be that one has to physically travel to see such material. It may be a matter of someone volunteering of their time to scan and collate documents. The point of this posting is the matter of being granted access in the first place.

The legacy of the Loch Ness mystery should be made available to those who can take it further. If anyone has such a collection, I ask them to contact me about what they have!

UPDATE:

Subject to confirmation, the state of ownership of various archives is:

LNIB: Loch Ness Centre under supervision of Adrian Shine (have asked for confirmation)

Tim Dinsdale: presumed held by family

Rupert T. Gould: presumed held by family

F. W. Holiday: Some or all of his material was held by Alastair Boyd

Constance Whyte: Held at one time by Nicholas Witchell (rumours of this being lost need to be confirmed/denied by Nicholas himself).


17 comments:

  1. My research into other anomalies and Fortean mysteries has shown me that there are riches of information out there in the form of letters, files, news clippings, diaries, and other primary materials. And aside from anomalies, many historians have found the same thing to be true. It's what an American Shakespeare scholar (Stephen Greenblatt) calls the benefit of belonging to a record keeping society. I think of a favorite book of mine, "Traitors, Turncoats, and Spies," about the American war for independence and the spies, both colonial and British, who operated behind the lines, gathering intelligence. The author, John Bakeless, went into his research assuming that there would be very little information or narrative material due to the necessary secrecy of espionage. Instead, he was surprised to find a wealth of material from which he constructed a rich and lively narrative that gives us the best alternative we have to time travel.
    Sources like Cyril Dieckhoff's diaries, F.W. Holiday's audio recording, or Tim Dinsdale's files might yield not only new material and data, but allow for new perspectives on both the historica, social, and phenomenological aspects of the Loch Ness mystery.
    And I feel the need to add something that researchers of "fringe" (for lack of a better word at the moment) subjects know all to well: it is easy for the public or average person to laugh off Loch Ness or other mysteries, especially when they haven't read any of the books or materials that are out there. But spend a little time with the data and the first-hand accounts and one eventually comes to the conclusion that something is, indeed, going on. It always amazes me how people brush things off when they haven't read a single book on the subject. It's what J. Allen Hynek, the American UFO researcher, summarized as an attitude of "It can't be, therefore it isn't."
    Who are we to say what can and can't be?
    But yes -- for those of us who know the richness and beauty of the Loch Ness story and mystery, it is sad and disheartening to think of, say, Constance Whyte or Rupert Gould's Loch Ness material rotting in an attic or being set on the curb for trash pick up day! I know that the guy who wrote the recent bio on Rupert Gould had some good material from Gould's Loch Ness period, but I can't remember where Gould's stuff was held - with his family, I seem to recall. (Thanks, by the way, I think I heard about the Gould bio on this blog!)

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  2. Hear, hear- some very good points, Glasgow Boy.

    Re. the Constance Whyte archives, it was my understanding that most, if not all, of these passed to Nicholas Witchell. Not sure if Nick follows this blog or not, but if so, perhaps he'd like to comment?

    As for Ted Holiday, well, it would certainly be fascinating to have access to some of his stuff, as I believe it was his practice to tape record eyewitness accounts. It would be nice to hear some of these originals, as delivered by the people actually involved, rather than just reading the transcripts.

    Perhaps other readers will be able to shed more light on the points you raise...

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  3. G. Boy - You are spot on! One of the great tragedies of cryptozoology is that material is collected and then lost for all time. Maybe the key role of this blog is to kick-off a Scottish Nessie archive, supported by those who see value in preserving this material. My suggestion is that you contact one of the main Scottish libraries and see if they are interested in setting up a centralised Nessie collection (maybe Inverness Library?). If they are then maybe ask for people who are interested to start collecting or donating stuff for the collection. Clips, books, papers, interview tapes. I love the idea of material being available for future research - and don't be fooled, web based archives may be easily lost as well. I have a Nessie file, tapes and videos, many others do too. And anything interesting gets printed on the blog. Hey - I'd even be happy to be volunteer collector No. !! Cheers Paul

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  4. Have you tried Googling "loch ness archive"? It already exists and has been online for over ten years.

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  5. If you mean the Loch Ness Centre Archive Room, yes, I knew about that. (http://www.lochnessproject.org/adrian_shine_archiveroom/adrian_shine_archiveroom_1.htm).

    I was thinking of the proverbial filing cabinets of stuff that something like the LNIB would have accumulated over 10 years.

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  6. An online archive is great, but many of those simply fold when the authors lose interest or run out cash. I think an online element is great, maybe featuring key items, but the real value is in the unique, preservable material like witness stories, original audio tapes, videos, witness letters, books, magazines, photos. It also need to be connected with a legitimate Scottish archive, like a major library. If they get behind it, you could also milk the publicity, and might even turn up some really interesting new cases or photos.

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  7. Inverness Library recently held an exhibition of books and other material donated by American author Jeff Paul. Donating anything which in not bound like a book or magazine may be beyond their remit as a standard library.

    Being online of course avoids expensive trips to the North of Scotland.

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  8. The best solution is a national archive such as the British Library or somewhere in Scotland such as the National Archive of Scotland which holds millions of personal manuscripts from Scottish related families and individuals.

    That way access is pretty much guaranteed "forever". In due time, items could be digitised and put online but that would be years away even if the items were put on deposit now.

    First you have to find them ... which is currently the main problem.

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  9. I have added an update to the end of the post.

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  10. Good info at the end of the post - thanks for getting right on that one! Even of some of these people are not willing to part with the "original" documents or files, copies can be made for a resource center that I would hope a Scotish or Loch Ness area library would be proud to hold in its collection. What a resource that would be!
    Any more news on Cyril Dieckhoff's diary, letters, and files? I recall you hinted you'd had some luck already locating it. Thanks again for all the great work.

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  11. I have found some of Dieckhoff's works on Nessie. I'll have a clearer picture when I actually see them. I suspect it is not the elusive diary - but may be pleasantly surprised.

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  12. For completeness, I include a comment Henry Bauer made on another of my blogs a while back:

    "Thanks, nice nostalgics for me. I can't recall what year I was there, visiting David James (1975??) and being disappointed that he had given all the Loch Ness Investigation material to Adrian Shine. The LNI in newsletters had mentioned getting several short bits of possibly pertinent film: a hump or cone shaped object in the water; a dark body on a beach at long range. Shine and Harmsworth had talked of making the archive available to serious students, but I was unable to get access. Shine brushed the request off (probably in 1985) by saying those film bits don't show anything useful. I'd have liked to form my own opinion from the originals."

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  13. Is Constance Whyte still alive?

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    1. I think she died in the early 1980s which was a time when a lot of the old traditionalists passed away - Whyte, Holiday, Dinsdale.

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  14. Hi,

    I have come across a pamphlet by Constance Whyte on the Loch Ness Monster. I presume it was written about 1950 but do not know much about it.
    I am selling the item on ebay if any of you would like to have a look at it-I have uploaded quite a few pictures. There is a piece of paper that has been glued to the inside of the front cover by who I assume id Constance stating that since publication she has investigated the report of a "sea serpent" and it is entirely fictious. It is initialed C. E. W. and dated October 1950. The book is listed on ebay under the title "rare 1950's pamphlet on the Loch Ness monster by C. E, Whyte" it is item number 120938557814. message me on ebay if you have any questions - my user name is aevans1988-uk.

    Maybe it is of interest to you!

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    1. Yes, this is on my Loch Ness Bibliography link. I have a photocopy of it, may be tempted by this original copy.

      Hmmm, £41 and counting, you should do nicely out of this item!

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  15. Yes and it is in fairly good condition as you can see by the pictures which I think helps!

    Thanks, and good luck if you do bid!

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