Saturday 6 July 2013

Classic Sightings: Michael McCullough

Date: November 21st 1972
Time: Noon?
Location: Near Fort Augustus Abbey
Witnesses: Michael McCullough and five others
Type of sighting: multiple humps
Conditions: Not Known

Back in November, a reference to a Nessie report appeared on the cryptozoological website cryptozoo-oscity. It was a brief account from four schoolboys from the local Fort Augustus Abbey school:

A 14-year-old Bo’ness boy claimed that he had come within 15 yards of the Loch Ness Monster. Michael McCullough was walking along the banks of Loch Ness when the giant creature appeared in front of him and his three friends. 

I began to probe around to find more details on this story and eventually bits and pieces came in. The reference to the Linlithgow Gazette was a dead end as local newspapers in Central Scotland are more likely to go through liquidations or mergers than national newspapers. Investigating various candidates at my local library turned up trumps with this clipping from the Livingston Journal and Gazette date 27th November 1972.

Bo'ness boy sights 'Nessie' 

A 14-YEAR-OLD Bo'ness boy claimed on Tuesday that he had been within 15 yards of the Loch Ness monster! Michael McCullough, son of a well-known Bo'ness practioner Dr Michael McCullough of Rosemount, Dean Road, was walking along the shores of Loch Ness with three friends when the legendary "Nessie" appeared. The monster surfaced "not much more than ten yards away" then swam across Borlum Bay before submerging again about three minutes later. Michael and his friends, aged 13, 14 and 15, reported their sighting to their headmaster at Fort Augustus Abbey School. Dr Edward Buchanan. 


The boys later told "Nessie" expert Mr Alex. Campbell of Fort Augustus that the monster cruised away at a speed of between five and ten miles an hour leaving a one-foot high wake behind it, they say it was dark slate in colour and very shiny. There were three separate parts to the creature which moved through the water like a caterpillar. They estimated the monster to be about 20 feet long with several flipper-like appendages which it appeared to use as a method of propulsion.

Ten yards is very close indeed for a monster sighting but the account is pretty short on detail for something so close. However, the description appears to be of three humps with propulsion appendages being in view. The mention of moving through the water like a caterpillar is confusing as caterpillars do not move through water! This appears to be one of those metaphors applied to Nessie when one is not sure how to describe what one is looking at. I assume it refers to the vertical undulations that are often associated with the Loch Ness Monster.

Explanations will be offered as to what actually happened. The boys merely saw our ubiquitous standing wave which seems to explain everything multi-hump, no matter how fantastical the description. Another explanation is the safety net of the hoaxer. A comment placed on the aforementioned cryptozoo-oscity site says:

It was a hoax. I was at the school at the time. They were bored and made it up. 

However, the fact that the comment is anonymous and placed there on April Fool's Day does not really engender confidence in its authenticity. Forty one years after that event I tracked down Michael on Facebook and asked him what he remembered about that day:

RW: Can you tell me about the time you saw Nessie when there (at the school)?

MM: There were four of us; memory quite distant but a big dark grey thing in the water which shot off at a fair speed was NOT imagination... it was seen independently by two other people from a different viewpoint at the same time too. I have no idea what it was, but it was certainly big and alive. Like over 8m long. What more can I say?

Evidently, the passing of years has not encouraged Michael to admit to any school prank. He is still adamant about the story and the details do not appear to have diminished (I had not shown him the clipping above).

A schoolboy prank or the real deal? You, the reader, must decide!


  1. This does sound like a genuine sighting as the details are still pretty clear in his mind after all the years that have passed. I wonder if he can remember the names of his three friends to back up his reported sighting.

    1. Yes I can. John Eustace, Rikki Morgan and Michael Caulfield. You are correct, neither time nor my stroke have changed my memories of what was to me a very significant experience. I later met Dick Raynor, the first guy to capture the thing on movie film and we agreed on almost all aspects of what we had seen at different times and places.
      My contact is
      Luv n peas
      Michael McCullough

    2. Hello Michael,

      I hope you are keeping as well as possible.


  2. madrina91: The witness' comment comparing the motion of the living creature to a caterpillar is grand. All caterpillars move on the vertical. Contrary to snakes, who undulate horizontally. The boy who described this motion almost certainly saw a living creature.

  3. In which plane do surface gravity waves oscillate?

    1. Are you implying our witness mistook some ordinary water waves for an right metre creature?

      Best ask him, he's on Facebook.

  4. Back at the time he was one of a group of Abbey boys who regularly came over to the Great Glen Exhibition office at lunchtimes for a smoke.

    1. I think the point is that these guys could be considered the "Likely Lads" of the Abbey School at that time if I remember correctly. It was not permitted for Abbey schoolboys to smoke nor was it generally permitted for us to leave the school grounds although by that age it was possibly OK to go the shops in the Village but I doubt if that included the GGE office.
      There is still the BBC "Blue Peter" interview sighting which was by another group of schoolboys from the school also from the 1970s.

    2. Charlie Niven - Your excellent characterisation immediately brings to mind an image of Bill filling his pipe, with "Baggy Trousers" playing in the background :-)

    3. Charlie Niven - I have a photo of MM and two others which I would like to share with you. DR

  5. Dr Edward Buchanan was the local GP (medical doctor) not the Headmaster of the Abbey School-journalistic mix up? Maybe they first told him then the headmaster? Anyway I doubt if the headmaster would have been interested unless it gave a positive impression of the school and its occupants.

  6. Hello Charlie,
    I am currently working on a documentary about Loch Ness and trying to track down any archive interviews of the 1970's school boy reports. You mentioned a group appeared on Blue Peter - do you know when this aired? or do you have a copy by any chance?
    Please let me know on
    All the Best,