Monday, 4 December 2017

200 Years of the Inverness Courier and the Loch Ness Monster



 As I was driving to work this morning, BBC Radio Scotland ran a short feature on the 200th anniversary of the Highland newspaper, the Inverness Courier. Not surprisingly, one particular storyline was uppermost and that was their local monster. Nessie.

As a bonus, they ran a short interview with the Courier's Fort Augustus correspondent, Alex Campbell from 1958. He was retelling the story of how he submitted the first story of the monster back in May 1933. However, the association of the Courier with the Loch Ness Monster goes a long way back.

The first mention I find in the Inverness Courier of strange creatures in Loch Ness comes from the 16th October 1833 where the obituary of a well known soothsayer, Willox the Warlock from Tomintoul is covered. Willox (or Gregor MacGregor) was famed for advising clients on magical solutions to their problems via the use of a supernaturally endowed bridle which he alleged a brave ancestor claimed from the Loch Ness Kelpie with a blow of his sword.




The Courier refers again to the dreaded monsters of Loch Ness in the first case of a Loch Ness Monster misidentification from 1st July 1852 when two ponies swimming across the loch raised some superstitious consternation amongst the locals.




A more relevant reference from the 8th October 1868 talks of the first monster hoax when fishermen dumped a dolphin carcass in the loch. Talk of the "huge fish" that was seen to surface occasionally in the loch were prompted by this discovery. I talk more of this curious incident here.




Even up to the start of the Nessie era (1933-present), strange stories would still surface, such as this letter published on the 29th August 1930 which recounts the curious experience of several anglers (later identified by Rupert Gould as Ian Milne and others).




However, the story that started it all was published on the 2nd May 1933 when Aldie Mackay's encounter with a two humped creature was written up. Alex Campbell was later panned by some sceptics for the way he wrote this. As it turned out, it was not him but their histrionics that was a strange spectacle (see here).




And so the Courier moved in lockstep with the monster as its varied appearances made their way into the newspaper for decades to come. As an example, from 13th August 1971 is the unique account of how diver Robert Badger had a close encounter with a creature underwater as he went for a swim.





And so the list goes on and today the monster stories have gone online for millions across the world to engage in the latest stories from the loch. Many have been the hours when I have poured over the pages of the Inverness Courier looking for new information that advances the cause of the Loch Ness Monster; be it in paper, microfilm or online digital form. So, I for one am grateful for their contribution to the mystery and hope for many years more of them reporting on their most famous inhabitant.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com





28 comments:

  1. The press reports from the 1800s are always a great read, but the 2nd and 3rd ones are impossible/very hard to read on my laptop screen though. It is interesting to see that the 1852 account starts as so many sightings to come: "Loch Ness lay in a perfect state of calm, without a ripple on its surface"...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hold down the Ctrl key and click the mouse wheel forward (Windows) the screen size increases in steps.

      Delete
  2. The proof is out there that the monster was not created in 1933 by Alex Campbell and the local newspapers as Dickie Raynor and co always try to make out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Completely agree Gezza. It's cringeworthy to suggest there was no mention of the animals before 1930.

      The point made above about Nessie being seen more often when the surface is calm.... I've always just thought it's because a protruding animal is more easy to spot in such conditions, and on top of that such weather is surely going to bring more people outdoors and onto and around the loch.

      Delete
    2. Dick's just doing his job.

      Delete
  3. The salient reason why, IMO, is the roadwork on the A82 in the 1930's. Coupled with all the low frequency detonations and jack hammers which would cause any aquatic creatures to pop up to see what the heck is going on up on the shoreline, the road itself gave more vehicular access to the Urquhart Bay area where the sightings seem to be much more profuse. So if no one was there to see them do the creatures still exist? Why print it if it's just some local fisherman's wild allegation?

    Also the advent of sonar helps a lot too. And night-time angling or just being on the road after sun down increases the probability of a sighting as these creatures are OBVIOUSLY nocturnal.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nunzio Byznez I agree with all of this, apart from them being entirely nocturnal. Dinsdale's film of a huge animal hump shows that they will hunt during the day. Unless of course that animal was experiencing an abnormal health situation. Which I have suspected to be the case, given the lack of similar recordings since. So you're probably right, in normal circumstances they are nocturnal.

      Delete
  4. Nocturnal creatures do wake up occasionally during the day and go for a wander so this could be the case for limited sightings! Yeah there are obvious reported sightings before the 1930 s and this for me makes the mystery all the more intrestin!

    ReplyDelete
  5. All sightings prior to 1933 are of great importance, we hear little about any reports and Nessie info resources are pretty much bare with early reports before 1933. It is important to reveal these reports and all related material regarding unknown creatures in Loch Ness. One main reason to reveal any early sightings is to prove Nessie was not created by media or local business owners.

    Reported sightings, Highland lore, local myths, water horse and water bull stories all prior to 1933 are almost as elusive as Nessie herself to locate. Thanks Roland for making this rare information attainable!

    Although stories and local lore are far from solid evidence it all contributes to supporting the case for large unidentified ( as yet ) animals living in Loch Ness.



    ReplyDelete
  6. Well, one can huff and puff about the unrelated and occasional Victorian article about swimming ponies and shy water kelpies but I've still to see hard proof of a long held local tradition of an exotic pre 1933 Loch Ness denizen.

    If there was a long tradition of large animals in Loch Ness then why the need for the "What Was It?" question in the both the 1930 letter AND the 1933 Inverness Courier article { surely positive evidence that both pieces were written by Campbell ].

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you seriously saying that two separate articles containing a simple phrase as "What was it?" is proof of both having been written by the same person?
      I'm sighing and rolling my eyes at this. John, you really need to question your own demands on what constitutes "evidence".

      Delete
    2. John, have you read my book on the subject?

      As for Alex Campbell and "what was it?", I would suggest that phrase was added by the same newspaper editor to both the article and letter three years apart. I doubt the author of the letter sent it in to the Courier with the headline "What Was It?".

      Delete
  7. I seem to remember not so long ago when Gordon Holmes took his video all the headlines were ' what was it', so i dont think you have a very strong argument with that one John.

    ReplyDelete
  8. John, the article from 1868 mentions that Loch Ness had a reputation for harboring something strange. So where did the writer of that article get that idea from? The reasonable answer is that it was fairly common knowledge in the Loch Ness area at that time.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Will, you're obviously not a reader of true crime. Such miniscule details are the building blocks of constructing a case that proves culpability.

    I think a forensic examiner of documents would find through syntax, grammar and word choice that the author of the 1930 letter and the 1933 article are one and the same.

    We have all suspected that GB is well known to the Glasgow police, so maybe he can arrange to have these documents appraised by a qualified documents expert.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. John, I could find phrases you use here which match with posts made by other users. The similarity you mention is hardly in the forensic lightbulb category! And more importantly see Glasgow Boy's reply above. You're familiar with newspapers employing editors I assume?

      Delete
  10. This issue of the monster's existence before the modern era is, for me, a tricky subject. From the evidence I've read the pre '33 sightings are hard to judge. So many came retrospectively after the 'official' birth of the legend in '33 that it throws their veracity into question. It simply has to at the very least because: 1) memory plays as factor and 2) Why would you not come forward at the time? However if it has been officially documented at the time in the press then both these issues become mute which clouds my judgement. They are certainly intriguing. My main issue would be that there are so many disparate identifications that it would appear to be a chimera beast. There is one tale that is very intriguing however, the diver who saw something that resembled a massive frog on a ledge that petrified him. Maybe it's just the vivid tale I like but it strikes me as something a serious diver would not lie about. Additionally there's a tale from Loch Morar about a similar creature. I guess I tend to latch onto similar stories because there's an element of corroboration which lends some legitimacy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kyle, an entire book has been written on the old tales of water horses at Loch Ness. I've not been able to afford a copy as yet, but it was authored by Roland Watson who writes this blog. Perhaps it would be wise to read that before dismissing the entire evidence accumulated pre-1930?
      There are differences in reports yes, but that is to be expected. A combination of different angles, lighting, different individual specimens, animals holding their heads in a different aspect, excitable and shocked eyewitnesses. Plenty of reasons for variations in reports.

      Delete
    2. I'm not dismissing the idea out of hand that there's a history of pre '33 legitimate sightings. I just am not entirely convinced by the evidence I've read so far. Personally I just see no correlation between the Kelpie Myth and the Loch Ness Monster other than that they're both Scottish. One is clearly mythical and one may have some scientific basis in reality. Behaviour is completely different but I've not read Roland's book so I can't look at the whole picture and sadly I can't afford it right now. Maybe my missus will buy me it for Xmas?

      Delete
    3. I would suggest that the kelpie tales were based on real life experiences with the animals in centuries past. The more exotic elements, such as presenting themselves as horses to be ridden then galloping with the victim into the water, are probably embellishments which came into being for two factors: (1) Everyone loves to tell others about a scary event and human nature tends to exaggerate scariness of events with re-telling; (2) Additional worrisome details may have been deliberately added to make others view these animals as something to fear. This could be because the witness erroneously regarded the animals as dangerous, or it could have been to protect the animals from human intervention.
      I think there can be no doubt in the mind of any objective and analytical person that the tales of kelpies, water horses and water bulls truly strengthen the case for flesh and blood Nessies.

      Delete
  11. Just as interesting as the paucity of reliable pre 1933 sightings is the sighting peak of 1933-34, a peak that has never been remotely matched.

    Even the most ardent believer would concede that the vast majority of these peak sightings were probably natural loch phenomena sighted by the 1000s of excitable tourists and breathless sightseers that flooded the byways around Loch Ness and that the average annual sightings of later years are a much more accurate reflection of Nessie activity.

    How to get hold of Roland's book ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Water-Horses-Loch-Ness-supernatural/dp/1461178193/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1513095924&sr=8-1&keywords=water+horses+of+loch+ness

      Delete
    2. "Breathless" eh, John? I think the loch was being so carefully watched in 33/34 that many more genuine sightings than usual actually did happen. Though I concede that among the great many real sightings of these wonderful creatures there were probably a small number of mistaken natural phenomena due to over-excitement. I don't think those mistakes would count for more than 1 or 2 percent of the reports though.

      Delete
  12. Was the Duncan MacDonald diver sighting ever mentioned in the Inverness Courier? He pulled hard on his recovery line or air hose attached to his old model divers helmet and came from the waters near Fort Augustus panicked. 1850's but I'm possibly mistaken.
    A sighting like that would travel fast and maybe reach the local papers. Plus I'm sure Roland you would have attached it to this article but I'm just eager to learn more about a pre 1933 strange encounter.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. An article I wrote a while back:

      http://lochnessmystery.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/a-rediscovered-divers-tale.html

      Delete
    2. Thanks Roland for the link, very interesting article!

      Delete
  13. Great tale that Roland, and im sure the description by the diver of a huge odd looking frog will be of interest to our friend Mr Plambeck.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Roland I'm sorry I cannot afford to buy your book just now. Rather incredibly my best friend just this morning sent me a 1st edition 1934 copy of Robert Gould's The Loch Ness Monster for Xmas. She tracked it down in New Zealand apparently. Reading it right now.

    ReplyDelete