Thursday 13 November 2014

A Story From Loch Morar

One great advantage of running this monster blog, is that people come forward with their stories of the weird and mysterious. But this time, it is Mhorag, the resident of Loch Morar that hogs the limelight today. 

Tricia sent me details of her experience on Loch Morar about 45 years ago whilst out on the loch with her family. She had seen our article on the Simpson account and was prompted to contact me some days ago. 

Tricia reckons her encounter happened in the last week of August 1969 between 1730 and 1830. It is a slightly disconcerting tale and I would not have liked to have been in their position. But what makes it particularly interesting is its relationship to another more famous encounter with Mhorag.

I will now let Tricia take up her tale. 

My family spent a lot of our school summer holidays at Morar Silver Sands, we would travel from West Calder in West Lothian to Morar, I remember in those days this seemed to take forever. We travelled in a Volkswagon caravanette and a Ford Zephyr. Back in those days we rented a cottage on the beach from the the MacKechnie family. I have great memories of these holidays and am the oldest of six children. 

My Dad was a great fisherman and golfer, he was self employed which enabled us to spend six weeks in Morar. Dad would go off golfing in Arisaig with my brothers in the morning and most afternoons we would go off fishing. Indeed, on one memorable occasion at the river which flowed into the Loch he spent one hour landing a very large salmon whilst being cheered on by a crowd of around fifteen folks. We ate well that night! 

Old Sandy MacKechnie hired himself out with his boat on Loch Morar to tourist fishermen. My Dad also hired his boat (without Sandy) to fish on the Loch. It was on one of these days we spotted Morag, I can tell you we had no knowledge of Morag before this particular day. In those days there was no world wide web and as we were young if my Mum and Dad had any knowledge of the monster they would never share such scary information with us and knowing my Mum she would not have allowed my Dad to take us out on the Loch!

Anyway, on this particular day myself (age 14), my sister (age 13), my brothers (ages 11 and 9) and my Dad set off to fish, whilst my Mum with my younger siblings and David and Colin from Nazareth house set off for Mallaig for the day.

We travelled for what seemed like hours to us on this small boat with an outboard motor and two oars on the Loch. My memories of this journey are very clear, I was intrigued with the scenery and how we were in such a remote, mystical area. I wondered how people got to the few houses I saw at both sides of the Loch. I do remember one very large house sitting in the trees to my right on our way down the Loch and wondering what type of folks lived there.

After what seemed like a long time we decided to stop at a shingle cove on the left as we travelled down the Loch. We had lunch and Dad and my brothers fished from the side of the Loch, I can tell you that my Dad on these fishing expeditions lost all sense of time and indeed would walk away from us and forget we even existed.

On this particular occasion, my mischievous brother untied the empty boat and I quickly retrieved it (tearing my toe nail off on a rock for my good deed). One of the oars fell from the boat and floated off before I could retrieve it. Eventually my Dad returned, I reckon this was around 5 pm. I remember while we were on the shingle beach, a fishing boat went past us and we waved to the folks on board, after a while the same boat passed us on their way back and we waved again. We packed up and started off back up the Loch to return home, my Dad was a very calm and placid man but on this occasion he was upset with my brother regarding the one lost oar.

Ten minutes or so into the journey, at which point we were in the middle of the Loch, and to my recollection both shores were equidistant, the outboard motor packed in. We as kids were not particularly concerned with this because we were used to this type of event.  My Dad regularly took us on fishing expeditions to many other lochs, sea and rivers where outboard motors would pack in and be fixed by him.

As we sat patiently while he worked on this motor I looked to my right and spotted two or three protrusions from the water, about two feet high. I thought these were rocks at first, but I remember having a feeling of unexplained fear. I turned to my sister who was sitting next to me and said "Look over there, what is that?" at which point my Dad said "Shut up, Patricia!" with gritted teeth.

This was upsetting to me as my Dad was very rarely angry at us kids and we were taught all our lives never to say "Shut up!" to anybody. This was a golden rule in our house. My Dad had, of course, spotted the same protrusions and kept this to himself,  I and my sister stared at this sight in the water in confused wonderment.

My brothers at this point were oblivious down to their age and preoccupation with trying to untangle the fishing tackle which my dad had tasked them with. I said again "Dad, what is that in the water?" to which he replied again "Shut up!" in an angry voice. This prompted my brothers to look over and join in the debate.

The feeling of fear was now with us all. Some time later, my Dad explained to us his mind was not only on trying to fix the motor but also trying to figure out how he could get us to shore safely away from this unexplained "thing" in the water. I am smiling as I write this but also empathising with his thoughts. He must have been frantic, he did however on the outside remain calm for our sake! 

The upshot is, he finally got the motor going. As we started to travel, the mysterious protrusions (which had stayed with us for the duration of time it had taken Dad to fix the motor in the same position),  disappeared below the water leaving a slight swell, which we felt in the boat.

We trundled along again for which felt like hours till we reached the jetty where we had started out from.  On landing, there was a flurry of activity and our Mum was crying and very agitated. She, of course, was witness to two fishermen relaying to a crowd of folks, including reporters, their experience on the Loch that same day, some hours before.

From my recollection, they also had an up close and personal experience with (I presume) the same "thing" we had witnessed. They however, said this "thing" had hit their boat and they hit back with an oar and a gun shot.

 As we landed, there was a boat with folks on board ready to launch to come and look for us. My Dad apologised profusely to these folks. He told us kids not to say word about our sighting as he explained later he did not want it to be seen we were jumping on the two fishermen's bandwagon, but also he did not want people thinking we were nuts.

We are an ordinary family with nothing to gain from me telling our story. Between us we are business folks, professional managers and a social worker. My mum is retired from the police force and my Dad was a hardworking, self employed electrician.

As I mentioned in your blog, watching a television programme the other night (Nessie revisited) prompted me to google for the Loch Morar Monster and your blog caught my attention. Having read the content of the blog I felt I had to join in and relay to the contributors our Morag experience. As I said previously, nothing will convince myself and my siblings that Morag DOES NOT exist.

I hope I have explained the event and also hope I have given you a good insight to our "fishing day out".

So ends our story.  Seasoned Monster Watchers will recognise that the two fishermen who said they bumped into Mhorag were Duncan McDonnel and William Simpson. According to Wikipedia's entry on the Loch Morar Monster:

The best known encounter, in 1969, involved two men, Duncan McDonnel and William Simpson, and their speedboat, with which they claimed to have accidentally struck the creature, prompting it to hit back. McDonnel retaliated with an oar, and Simpson opened fire with his rifle, whereupon it sank slowly out of sight. They described it as being brown, 25–30 feet long, and with rough skin. It had three humps rising 18 inches (460 mm) above the loch's surface, and a head a foot wide, held 18 inches (460 mm) out of the water.

As far as I can ascertain, this famous story happened at 9pm on the 16th August 1969. Sceptics have dismissed it as a cover story to hide some embarrassing or illegal activity, but does this new story add credence to its original claims? Tricia's encounter seems to have occurred about 21 hours later. She adds that the object was about 20 to 30 yards away from the boat.

All in all, an intriguing tale which doubtless is backed up by others in the boat that day. I cannot prove that Tricia did or did not see a monster that day. She is convinced, and I leave it to the judgement of our seasoned readers to form their own opinions.

Monday 10 November 2014

New Loch Ness Monster TV Documentary

Tune your televisions to Channel 5 on November 24th at 8pm in the UK. As part of a currently running series entitled "Missing Evidence", the Monster of Loch Ness will feature in one episode. To quote one website:

This week the show looks at one of Scotland's most enduring mysteries - that of the Loch Ness monster. Tales of the monster that has haunted the river go back nearly 1,500 years, but in the last century the story has really taken off. Over 1,000 eye witnesses since the 1930's believe they have photographed a monster in the water. The evidence has never been that definitive though, so Dr Charles Paxton of St Andrews University has decided to compile each piece of evidence on the supposed beast to finally explain the truth behind the myth of the monster. The show looks at well-known photos and video evidence in a more scientific light, as well as meeting fabled Nessie hunter Adrian Shine. Albert Jack, a historian also features as he believes the first sightings were in fact a bunch of elephants. Another expert, Chris French believes that the real source of the animal comes from a mixture between media reports of hoaxes, natural phenomena, everyday animals and out own monstrous imaginations.
It seems we will learn new things, like Loch Ness is a "river" and not, as I was led to understand, a lake.

I also take note of the phrase "fabled Nessie hunter Adrian Shine" as if Adrian's existence was as in much dispute as Nessie herself. I am sure the program will present ample video evidence for Adrian's existence, to which I can add my own sightings of him on several occasions. But of what use is eyewitness testimony? I may have mistaken a deer for him. Therefore, each video clip of him needs to be assessed on its own merits as the use of Photoshop can never be discounted. This particular debate could rage on for decades ...

Anyway, Charles Paxton is featured and I, again, point readers to his talk on the Statistics of Loch Ness Monster Sightings at the Edinburgh Fortean Society tomorrow (11th). Gordon Holmes should also feature, which is just as well, because everyone else mentioned does not seem to believe in the Loch Ness Monster. That would make for a pretty boring program. But who this Chris French is, I cannot say. Another fabled Nessie hunter?

I look forward to seeing this documentary when it transmits and will review it shortly after.

Sunday 9 November 2014

New Nessie Video

Monster fever mounts that little bit more as a new video purporting to be of Nessie appears in the Scottish Daily Record. It was taken by Richard Collis on Thursday, 6th November as he was motoring about a mile north of Fort Augustus. He caught sight of an unusual object 150-200 metres out in the loch and got out to take the mobile phone footage which you can see on the Record website. I post an image from that clip above.

I have not had much time to look at it at all, but it has the classic head-neck pose beloved of monster researchers. The object appears to rise and fall in the water. How much of that is due to increased wave action or the object itself, I am not sure, but it looks to me like part of it is due to the object moving and not the water. Whether the object itself is moving across the loch is hard to tell, but there is a branch in the foreground which can help further analysis. Certainly, at that distance out, the depth is easily 200 feet, so we would expect the object to be at the mercy of the rough waves - unless it had it own form of propulsion.

But what is it? Branch, bird, debris or monster. You decide!

POSTSCRIPT: I got an email from Jonathan Bright who was on site that week who took the image below while he was there.

He adds the following:

I have seen this during my investigation of the Loch the previous week -on 6th afteroon to be exact, as I was coming back from a cruise from Fort Augustus- and as I have also said to the editor of the article, I can assure you that it's not the Loch Ness 'monster'. It looks like a tree log or branch, most possibly put there deliberately (it's just across the road from a lodge), either as a reference to the Surgeon photo, or, just a prank. (it would be interesting if it was not 'man caused' though)

We stopped and filmed this for sometime as an example of potential misidentifications...

It seems really strange that the photographer did not realize this, since the object was clearly fixed at this position and was not getting carried away by the waves and current but only moving up and down...

Steve Feltham also sent me this photo of the stick from the other side. It was taken by Marcus Atkinson from one of his cruise boats which comes out of Fort Augustus. You can see it to the right.

I would also note, against the backdrop of recent discussions about mobile phone evidence, how poor the quality of the image is. In fact, too poor to make informed judgements. The photographs are better but a video with the crispness of such pictures is always better.

From the Daily Record:

TREE planter Richard Collis captured this amazing video on his iPhone after he spotted something unusual while driving alongside the loch last week.

AN Astonishing new video claiming to show the Loch Ness Monster has surfaced.
Tree planter Richard Collis captured this amazing video on his iPhone after he spotted something unusual while driving alongside the loch last week.

He said: " I was travelling along the side of Loch Ness, saw something out the corner of my eye, pulled over and went down to the Loch and took some photographs.            
“As I was watching, I was thinking what the hell is that!    
“The loch was quite rough and I wanted to get as best a picture that I could possibly get because I knew it wasn’t going to last forever.

“It was about roughly 150-200 metres out in the water on a stretch about a mile from Fort Augustus heading towards Invermoriston.          
“It’s quite difficult to know how long it lasted but it felt like a couple of minutes.”
The footage Richard shot was filmed last Thursday and appears to show a creature swimming through the choppy water.

The photographs taken last week look eerily similar to the famous Surgeons photograph of Nessie which was later exposed as a hoax in 1993.

Richard, 58, was so shocked by what he saw he immediately called his wife Vibeke.

He said: "She thought I was having a joke and I said ‘No no, I’ve got mobile phone footage of it’ then when she saw it she said that’s strange.

“It’s similar to the Surgeons photo, that’s what I thought was weird. To me it looks like a long neck and a small head. Like a serpent - the old highland name of it was sea serpent or water horse.            
“What do I make of it? I just think it’s an anomaly that I can’t really explain. I’m a bit of a doubter of a lot of things until I see it myself and I wouldn’t have believed what I saw if someone else was telling me.            

“I’ve fished the loch man and boy and I haven’t ever seen anything like that. As I say I don’t really believe in anything like that until I see it but what I saw was obviously what the Loch Ness Monster is - I’m not saying it was a fire breathing dragon and I never saw teeth or anything like that, but I must have thought there was something there if I stopped to take pictures.

“It’s like seeing a UFO or something like that. I’ve seen what potentially could be the Loch Ness Monster. I’m excited about seeing it and I’d like to see it again.”       
Richard’s wife Vibeke, 60, added: “I’ve been here 37 years and my husband has been here his whole life, so we are completely aware of how unique this is.    

“I couldn’t believe it and laughed when he showed me because I knew he could never set that up. He’s not very technical or not very computer wise either.           

“I couldn’t believe it because when you live here everyone wants a shot, even if it’s a log, but the thing is it does not look like a log.            

“It’s definitely not a seal because it’s got a really long neck and it’s too round and smooth to be a log and why would it bob the way it does and then just go away.”      
She added: “I can’t believe that my husband managed to get this. It is amazing.”