Saturday 22 January 2011

Classic Sightings - Marjory Moir

Date: October 12th-15th 1936
Time: afternoon
Location: Three miles north of Foyers
Witnesses: Mrs. Marjory Moir and four others.
Type of sighting: Head, neck and back in water

The first classic sighting I posted here a few months back was the Spicer's controversial land sighting which generated quite a debate on forums which picked up on the posting. Let's hope this one generates less heat!

Marjory Moir and her family were witness to one of the best sightings of the monster having a clear view of it for some minutes. It is a classic sigthing by all accounts. The sighting was first reported in the 17th October edition of the Inverness Courier which stated that the:

Loch Ness Monster seen by a party of ladies near Abriachan last week. Mrs
Marjory Moir, her sister Miss Fraser, & Mrs Grant, Ardlarich, Culduthel Road,
who was driving. Three humps were seen moving at great speed ...

The account was subsquently reported in the national Scotsman paper nine days later.

After the frenzy of the 1930s, her sighting was documented in Constance Whyte's More Than A Legend after she wrote to the author in April 1955. Evidently, Whyte and Moir were on first name terms as local residents because she states that she had related the tale to Mrs. Whyte often.

Five years later as Tim Dinsdale was writing his book, she wrote again (presumably in answer to a letter from Dinsdale) and I reproduce that letter below:

One October afternoon a friend took my sister, mother-in-law, my young daughter and myself for a little trip by car to Foyers. On the return journey, at a place where the road runs very close to the loch, about three miles from Foyers, my sister suddenly shouted, 'Look, there's the Monster'. We all got out of the car and ran to the water's edge. There, before us, at a distance of one third the width of the loch away from us, was this wonderful creature. It was a perfect view, if we had a camera the most convincing picture of the Monster ever taken could have been obtained, but alas! we had neither camera nor binoculars.

The sky was grey, the loch was grey and the silhouette of the creature was a very dark grey against the lighter background. A perfect setting. There were three distinct humps, a long slender neck ending in a small head, and the overall length appeared to me thirty feet approximately. I could see no details of eyes, mouth, etc. but the outline was all beautifully clear — the three humps, head and neck — (I shall enclose a sketch for you). The middle hump was the highest, the one behind the neck the smallest, and the in-between size was at the back, sloping in a graceful line down to, and under, the water. The creature was quite stationary, and often dipped its head into the water, either feeding or amusing itself.

We watched in awe and amazement, for about 5-8 minutes; then suddenly it swung round away from the shore, and shot across the loch at a terrific speed, putting up a wash exactly similar to that I saw in your film. All the time I could see a small dark spot, perhaps the highest hump, perhaps the head. When it eventually came to rest I noticed the humps had disappeared; the back was now more or less straightened out, but the neck and head were as before. The creature was in full view for 14 minutes. I have no idea how much of the body was underneath the water, but what we saw was a huge creature, evidently very powerful, graceful and quite at ease on and in the water. A thrilling experience — I actually saw the Loch Ness Monster, resting, and travelling at speed, I saw the humps, then the straightened out back, my 'Water Horse' in truth at last.

You can now — I hope — understand why your film was of such absorbing interest to me, so much in it was exactly what I saw and remember so vividly. One more thing — the composite picture shown at the end of your film was the same in every detail as the Monster I saw in October, 1936, even to the approximate length.

Quite a sighting by any measure especially with the creature in view for a full 14 minutes - a virtual eternity for the monster. The drawing she sent was reproduced in Dinsdale's book and is shown below.

Comparing the two letters there is not much difference between them. However, the Whyte letter says that after speeding towards Urquhart Castle it returned to the same spot it had first been sighted. One other difference is that the Dinsdale letter implies that the three humps had straightened out as if the back was flexible whereas the Whyte letter merely says the humps were not so much in evidence.

The Courier article however gets it wrong in saying the witnesses were near Abriachan which is on the opposite side of the loch. Sometimes reporters don't transmit everything perfectly ...

The other thing I like about this case is that it involves five women which I think adds to the authenticity of the sighting. In fact, let's face it, every Nessie hoax ever perpetrated was done by men. Women may not be perfect either, but when it comes to the Loch Ness Monster, they are untainted!

In fact, this sighting is not easy to debunk. Waves don't speed across the loch and return to where they begun - even the newly discovered underwater waves called the seiche could not do this to a log which just happened to look like three humps and a long neck. This is stretching things further than Nessie's neck!

Nothing seems to fit unless we fall back on the tired explanations of birds, otters which are somehow were warped into 30 foot monsters. In these days of skepticism, it is easy to lose sight of these classic sightings and the persuasive power of them. We read books which go through some sightings likely to have doubts about them, a somewhat plausible (but not probable) explanation is given and it is then stated generally that all Nessie sightings can be explained like this.

One should not be fooled by this logical fallacy. If one sighting is allegedly explained away, it does not follow that the rest automatically follow. As it happens, none of the books on Nessie which are skeptical of a new, unclassified creature mention the Moir sighting.

Perhaps it was a case too hard to crack for them.

Wednesday 19 January 2011

More Tourism Wars at Loch Ness

The tourist wars hot up again at Loch Ness as the owners of the Loch Ness Centre and Jacobite Cruises clash over the development of visitor facilities only 800m apart on the north part of the shore. Robert Bremner who owns the once named "Official Loch Ness Exhibition Centre" in Drumnadrochit is not long out a legal wrangle with the once named "Original Loch Ness Exhibition" over naming rights and the potential confusion for visitors to this small town.

But having cleared that hurdle he now wishes to extend tourist facilites opposite the Clansman Hotel but tactically he is at a disadvantage as the Jacobite Cruises proposal (see picture below) is ahead of the game and was going to receive council approval first before his plans two months later. Bremner is set to appeal for both plans to be considered at the same time as not surprisingly the two plans are so similar and so close to each other. As I write this it looks like he has got his way as the council defers any decisions subject to further site inspections.

Now tourism is good for the local economy but too much tourism is bad - one only has to take a look at noisy, rubbish strewn Loch Lomond to see that. Loch Ness has been shielded from a similar fate due to it being much further north from the densely populated centre of Greater Glasgow from which you can reach Loch Lomond in less than an hour. Loch Ness is a three to four hour drive and hence prohibitive for a Glasgwegian day out.

Thankfully, Loch Ness is largely devoid of tourist traps, jet skis roaring across the loch and ignorant tourists leaving a trail of debris. On the other side of the loch, the topology and tightness of the roads precludes any large scale development. The two Loch Ness exhibitions just mentioned are well away from the shore line in Drumnadrochit but the two new proposals are "in your face" shore line developments. The commercial win of a shoreline development is clear as no one can see the loch from the Loch Ness Centre and a cup of tea on a Jacobite Cruise ship would be less comfortable than in their proposed visitor centre.

So what do I think of these two proposals? It is ironic in this Nessie-skeptical age that anyone would see fit to commit large sums of money to Loch Ness but clearly the two parties see big cash potential in what they are doing as Loch Ness scenically has a lot to offer. Ideally, I would prefer any development to build upon currently developed ground as we have it at the Clansman Hotel. This would minimise the impact on the shore line and would favour Bremner's plans. However, in the interests of competition and avoiding anyone trying to dominate the Loch Ness tourist scene, I would prefer to see Jacobite Cruises win and introduce some competition in goods and services. However, their proposal involves violating more virgin ground and adding to the tourism skyline.

One thing I would hate to see is both proposals being approved which considering their close proximity would be crazy and I suspect would be detrimental to the bottom line of both companies. For now, I lean slightly towards Jacobite Cruises.

Meanwhile as the big tourist players at Loch Ness vie for the upper hand, a word of congratulations to the Old Manse B&B at Invermoriston which has been voted best B&B on the planet by users of Trip Advisor. See BBC news article here.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Book Review: "Loch Ness, Nessie and Me"

Having looked at the very first book on Nessie in my previous posting, the latest book on the Loch Ness Monster by Tony Harmsworth was published some weeks back and I have recently obtained my own copy to read and review here. Details on the book were previously mentioned here.

As the title suggests, the book covers a history of Loch Ness from geological times thru the times of turbulent Scottish history with a mention of the folklore that was previously attached to the loch. The majority of the book is of course devoted to the time Tony spent there as the brains behind the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre and subsequent ventures as a Loch Ness Bus tour guide and at Fort Augustus Abbey and as a plain old resident overlooking Loch Ness for nigh on thirty years.

As you can imagine, he has a lot to say and for those interested in Loch Ness and its creature, it is a fascinating read as he recalls his times with well known Loch Ness figures such as Rines, Dinsdale, Shine and a host of others. To even the most knowledgeable Nessie-phile there is plenty to read that is new as well as facts that were forgotten and one needs reminding of.

There is also the human side and Tony recounts his highs and lows at the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre, his having to start again after leaving the Centre and later being laid low by a stroke. If any good thing can come out of this malady it was that he managed to finally finish the book he had been planning for years and which we now have the chance to enjoy.

As for Nessie, of course, many a page is devoted to the dark denizen of the Loch and Tony examines the various photos, films and eyewitness reports from a critical point of view. Such a task necessitates a biopic of his own journey of belief in Nessie from standard plesiosaur to something less exciting but nevertheless more probable in his view (he also recounts a sighting of his own which he feels is not so easily explained away by modern explanations).

From a personal point of view, I can sympathise with Tony's triumphs and tragedies and also with the thrill of those early days when there was a huge saurian beast awaiting final discovery in Loch Ness. We both started out plesiosaur believers but have both drifted in different directions. Tony now takes a view that is more skeptical while my own is still in that area where logicians disdain to tread.

Nevertheless, a welcome addition to my Loch Ness Library considering the low grade stuff that tends to permeate the real and virtual book shops and one I would heartily recommend to others.