Saturday, 17 November 2012

Sceptics' Corner

This post is a "folder" for the various articles I have posted on this blog regarding the sceptical position on the Loch Ness Monster. But what exactly is a "scepticism"? In this particular context, it refers to a modern trend in scepticism which questions a belief in a large set of creatures in Loch Ness on the basis of scientific understanding and logical deduction.

When applied to various people, it can be a rather nebulous term since "sceptics" just like "believers" can come in various forms. I say that because, people can take a sceptical stance on subsets of evidence for the Loch Ness Monster but still believe there is a large creature in the loch.

For example, Nessie Hunter Alastair Boyd is well known for exposing the Surgeon's Photograph as a hoax but is firmly in the camp of "believer". So, in this case, there is scepticism focused on a particular item of evidence.

However, there is also a form of scepticism which focuses on theory. This refers to a disbelief in a proposition about the creature. One good example is the opposition to the theory based on eyewitness accounts that the creature has a long head and neck.

So, in some sense, there should be an element of the "sceptic" in every Loch Ness Monster researcher. The problems in being sceptical arise from either applying faulty logical processes or using data that is either incomplete, false or irrelevant to come to incomplete, false or irrelevant conclusions. I think it is safe to say that everyone has at some time has fallen foul of these pitfalls, because after all, we're all fallible humans.

The main articles are listed but a lot of other posts address sceptical arguments for various Loch Ness Monster cases.

1. A general overview of the sceptical position: LINK.

2. The problem of finding evidence that would convince the sceptical position: LINK.

3. Seven things sceptics will focus on to debunk eyewitness testimony: LINK.

4. Case Study: The debunking of the Greta Finlay sighting: LINK, LINK.

5. How sceptical enquiry can be exaggerated by the media: LINK.

6. Does scepticism reduce motivation to collect sighting reports? LINK.

7. And to balance things, when being sceptical proves correct: LINK.

8. Yet for all the naysaying, some might just say "perhaps ...": LINK.

9. Do sceptics bother about what witnesses claim? LINK.

10. The marks of honesty and deceit - LINK

11. Review of sceptical book "Abominable Science" - LINK

12. Should we be seeing more Nessie photos? - LINK

13. Sceptics, Steamships and Nessie - LINK

14. Sceptics and Scottish Independence - LINK



























Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Search Box added to Blog

The blog has now racked up nearly 200 posts since July 2010 and so some means of searching has become more desirable.

The links I put on the right hand side plus the archive further down help to some degree but how many times do I refer to Marmaduke Wetherell in my posts? I don't know either without some further help!

So I have added a "SEARCH THIS BLOG" box on the right just below the Hugh Gray photo for anyone who is interested. Note this facility will also search the comments section.

As to Marmaduke Wetherell, the answer is that he is mentioned in five posts.


Monday, 12 November 2012

The Creature of Loch Ulladale

Beneath a certain mountain on a certain island lies a small loch by the name of Ulladale. With a length of about half a mile and a width of one quarter mile, there is not much to commend this body of water which lies under the gaze of its namesake mountain, Strone Ulladale.
 



Situated in the windswept south of the Isle of Lewis and Harris, there are no trees to offer wayfarers shelter and, indeed, there was something there in days of old which offered the very opposite in the way of hospitality. We talk, of course, of the Each Uisge or Water Horse.

This loch was discussed in The Water Horses of Loch Ness as one of the waters across Scotland's terrain that was reputed to be home to this pernicious and devilish pursuer of men's flesh. By way of a detour from An Niseag, we recount the tale of this island beast and add a new story recently gleaned from the literature.




It was over 200 years ago that the Water Horse of Loch Ulladale was mentioned by James Hogg in his 1807 work, The Mountain Bard. It is one of the older references to water horses, but unlike various tales of water horses that had passed down through the generations, this one was fresh in the minds of the fearful locals. We take up Hogg's tale as he recalls the reticence of a Hebridean guide to go past a certain loch:

“In some places of the Highlands of Scotland, the inhabitants are still in continual terror of an imaginary being, called The Water Horse. When I was travelling over the extensive and dreary isle of Lewis, I had a lad of Stornoway with me as a guide and interpreter.

On leaving the  shores of Loch Rogg, in our way to Harries, we came to an inland lake, called, I think, Loch Alladale; and, though our nearest road lay along the shores of this loch, Malcolm absolutely refused to accompany me by that way for fear of the Water Horse, of  which he told many wonderful stories, swearing to the truth of them;  and, in particular, how his father had lately been very nigh taken by  him, and that he had succeeded in decoying one man to his destruction, a  short time previous to that."

The decoying undoubtedly refers to the Water Horse's universal habit of enticing weary travellers to mount its inviting saddle only to find themselves stuck to it at the moment of terrifying revelation. The victim's fate was invariably sealed as the devilish creature sped to its loch to drown and then consume its prey.

One wonders how the Hebridean's father had evaded captured. Did he possess a piece of the talismanic rowan tree or did he invoke the name of the Christian Trinity by way of divine protection? We will never know, but rather than fading into the mists of folklore, this particular creature refuses to go away. Most water horse traditions stay no more than that, but some, such as the water horses of Morar, Ness and Treig live on and claim the attention of men. So it is with the Loch Ulladale Monster.

As it turned out, and months after the publication of my book, I was perusing some archives and came across a Scottish magazine of tales, songs and traditions called "Tocher". In the issues for 1991 (one of numbers 40 to 43), a Mrs. Peggy Morrison was being interviewed on the history of the Isle of Lewis (though Loch Ulladale is in Harris). The relevant part of the interview was as follows:

McL: And what about the monster in Loch Ulladale?

PM: Oh yes, they thought there was a creature to be seen there right enough. Everybody knows - the Monster of Loch Ulladale, everybody talked about it in the old days. But it isn’t all that long since they were seeing it there. A man who was going out to work on the road, the short-cut that's out there in the glen. he was going out.

And it must have been in winter, the time when there are long nights and daylight is late in coming. It was in the first grey light of dawn he was going out, and he saw this big black beast at the edge of the loch and with the fright - evidently the road was near the loch - he turned back. He didn't dare go past. And, anyway, he turned back for home, and another man met him who was going to the road to work as well, and they united there until it got quite light - they weren't  risking going past.

And, anyway, when the day had got quite light, they went. There was no sign of this thing. but they went back to look at the shore of the loch - there’s sand there, apparently - and the tracks were there. the tracks of whatever it was, there they were, and they just couldn't make out what sort of animal it was.

If I have read the magazine correctly, this interview was conducted in 1977.

One hundred and fifty years since Hogg, the water horse had returned again to strike fear into the hearts of men! A big, black beast beside the waters which left tracks of an unknown nature. What could it have been that caused these two men to wait until the Hour of the Each Uisge was over?

A problem common to many such legends is the size of the lochs these creatures reputedly inhabited. Surely there is not enough food in these lochs to sustain such beasts? This is a charge laid against the vast Loch Ness - how much more these small lochs?

But in the eyes of the Highlanders, there was no such problem. These supernatural creatures ate men, not fish.

In the words of one old seeker of An Niseag, a beautiful story can be destroyed by an ugly fact. Those that deride such stories may suggest the natives merely saw a grey seal pursuing some fish from the River Ulladale that empties into the sea loch of Resort. For after all, is not Loch Ulladale well stocked with tasty salmon and sea trout?

Perhaps it is, but the two mile winding river is tight and hazardous for a seal. And can't the natives of Lewis and Harris recognise a seal when they see one?

Ah, but was not the creature seen by the first grey light of dawn when viewing conditions were not ideal comes the retort!

But then again, should not such river faring seals produce such legends for all the local lochs and not just this one? And so the arguments go on. Ugly facts or just ugly speculations?

I mentioned this loch in a previous post about creatures of the Western Isles. At the time, I did not know about this modern encounter. If I had, perhaps I would have been bolder to forge into that treeless region.

Well, bolder while the Hour of the Water Horse had not yet come upon me!


POSTSCRIPT

Here's a YouTube clip of someone fishing on Loch Ulladale to give you a sense of the place.











McI_: And what about the monster in Loch Ulladales’ PM: Oh yes, they thought there was a creature to be seen there right enough. Everybody hnows-the Monster ([1] Loch Ulladale. everybody talked about tt in the old days. But it isn’t al that long since they were seeing it there. A man who was going out to work on the road, the short-cut that's out there in the glen. he was goin out. And it must have been in winter, the time when there are long Tits and daylight is late in coming. It was in the first grey light oftlawn he was going out. and he saw this big black heast at the edge of the loch and with the fiight-evidently the road was near the loch-he tamed back. He didn't dare go past And. anyway, he turned back for home, and another man met him who was goin to the road to work as well, and they united there until it got quite light-they worm’: risking going past. And. anyway. when the day had got quite light, theywent. Therewas no sign thing. huttheywenttoloohattheshore of the loch-there’s sand there, apparently-and the tracks were there. the tracles of whatever :1 was, there they were, and they just couldn't make out what sort of animal it was. Free Online OCR: http://www.newocr.com/
McI_: And what about the monster in Loch Ulladales’ PM: Oh yes, they thought there was a creature to be seen there right enough. Everybody hnows-the Monster ([1] Loch Ulladale. everybody talked about tt in the old days. But it isn’t al that long since they were seeing it there. A man who was going out to work on the road, the short-cut that's out there in the glen. he was goin out. And it must have been in winter, the time when there are long Tits and daylight is late in coming. It was in the first grey light oftlawn he was going out. and he saw this big black heast at the edge of the loch and with the fiight-evidently the road was near the loch-he tamed back. He didn't dare go past And. anyway, he turned back for home, and another man met him who was goin to the road to work as well, and they united there until it got quite light-they worm’: risking going past. And. anyway. when the day had got quite light, theywent. Therewas no sign thing. huttheywenttoloohattheshore of the loch-there’s sand there, apparently-and the tracks were there. the tracles of whatever :1 was, there they were, and they just couldn't make out what sort of animal it was. Free Online OCR: http://www.newocr.com/
McI_: And what about the monster in Loch Ulladales’ PM: Oh yes, they thought there was a creature to be seen there right enough. Everybody hnows-the Monster ([1] Loch Ulladale. everybody talked about tt in the old days. But it isn’t al that long since they were seeing it there. A man who was going out to work on the road, the short-cut that's out there in the glen. he was goin out. And it must have been in winter, the time when there are long Tits and daylight is late in coming. It was in the first grey light oftlawn he was going out. and he saw this big black heast at the edge of the loch and with the fiight-evidently the road was near the loch-he tamed back. He didn't dare go past And. anyway, he turned back for home, and another man met him who was goin to the road to work as well, and they united there until it got quite light-they worm’: risking going past. And. anyway. when the day had got quite light, theywent. Therewas no sign thing. huttheywenttoloohattheshore of the loch-there’s sand there, apparently-and the tracks were there. the tracles of whatever :1 was, there they were, and they just couldn't make out what sort of animal it was. Free Online OCR: http://www.newocr.com/