Friday 17 April 2015

Denys Tucker, Nessie and the Powers That Be

Scott Mardis had posted on the Natural History Museum's treatment of Dr. Denys Tucker and his belief in the Loch Ness Monster. You can see his post here.

By coincidence, the Independent newspaper has now published a story on his dismissal based on records released under the Freedom of Information Act. You can read that here. Was he fired because he believed in the Loch Ness Monster or for more mundane reasons? Despite being a qualified zoologist, will sceptics still dismiss his claimed sighting of a large creature in Loch Ness? Of course, they will.

The Daily Mail is also running the story here as are the Mirror.

It to be added that Dr. Tucker had a march on the other scientists for he claimed a sighting of the Loch Ness Monster. That account is reproduced below in his letter to the New Scientist dated 27th October 1960. Click on the images and then right click for "View Image" (depending on your browser). Or you can view the original letter and replies from Maurice Burton, Constance Whyte and others at this link.

So you see, when the monster hoves into your view, things change. You are still a scientist, but you are now a scientist who has seen something inexplicable. Perhaps some of the highly trained sceptics who view this article can tell us what this professional marine zoologist saw in Loch Ness that day in 1959. To quote: 

"I, a professional marine zoologist of respectable experience, did see a large hump travelling across flat calm water between Inchnacardoch and Glendoe on 22nd March 1959, and do quite unashamedly assert it belonged to an unknown animal."

Dr Denys Tucker is not a name familiar to us today, but 56 years ago he was an eminent zoologist at the Natural History Museum whose star was very much in the ascendancy. Their youngest researcher by a decade, he was an expert in fish who was praised by his colleagues - until he claimed to have seen the Loch Ness monster, leading to him being sacked. Now new papers released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal details of his seven-year legal battle to be reinstated, including attempts to sue the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

Dr Tucker began his academic career after serving in the Second World War as a pilot, joining the Natural History Museum in 1949 as a scientific officer in department of zoology. He rose quickly to the rank of senior in 1951, and then principal scientific officer by 1957. A favourite of senior academics, his bosses once said: 'Most people who know him would agree that in intelligence he is to be classed with a few of our most brilliant colleagues.'

However, all that changed in 1959 when, after a trip to Scotland, he claimed to have seen an 'unnamed animal' breach the surface of Loch Ness. He wrote a letter to New Scientist magazine saying that the creature could only have been an Elasmosaurus, a subspecies of long-necked dinosaurs that roamed the earth 80 million years ago. Announcing his findings to the public, he concluded: 'I am quite satisfied that we have in Loch Ness one of the most exciting and important findings of British zoology today.'

While his announcement certainly fired the public imagination, and sparked three decades of academic research into the loch, his superiors at the museum were less than impressed. According to documents seen by The Independent, Dr Tucker was asked whether his new interest in Nessie was a 'suitable topic' for a lead researcher to be involved with. Questions began to be asked about his previous work and his shadowy disciplinary record, which allegedly included speculating about the sex lives of colleagues, and waving a pistol at a superior.

The final straw came in 1960 as Dr. Morrison-Scott was appointed the new director of the Natural History Museum, and decided that Dr Tucker had to go. The sudden dismissal so shocked Dr Tucker that he decided to launch a legal campaign to be reinstated which included suing the trustees of the museum in person.
While today that would mean dragging a bunch of academics into court, back in 1960 it meant launching cases against Archbishop Lord Fisher, then head of the Church of England, Harry Hylton-Foster, then Speaker of the House of Commons, two viscounts, and a marquess. This caused deep consternation in the corridors of power, with officials keen to shut the case down, worrying that if he won they would be stopped from firing a civil servant ever again.

Despite determined efforts by the government to keep senior figures out of the witness box, the case made it all the way to the Court of Appeal, before finally being tossed out. Dr Tucker never held an academic post again, and remained convinced that the establishment were involved in an attempt to cover up his findings at Loch Ness. Following the collapse of his court case he settled in Wimbledon, writing reviews and papers, before moving to France, where he died in 2009.

The author can be contacted at

Monday 13 April 2015

The James Currie Film

This post is probably more by way of a postscript to the previous article on the MacRae film. The James Currie film is another alleged movie of the Loch Ness Monster which has never been verified to exist. The source of the story is an article in the Aberdeen Evening Express dated the 18th September 1973 in which the reporter (Charles Fraser) tells readers of the attempts by a "leading monster hunter" (Roland Brown) to get this film released for analysis. The article is reproduced above with thanks to Mike Dash for the scan.

The article takes us back to 1938, when retired bank manager James Currie of London arrived at Loch Ness with his movie camera and a six inch telephoto lens, determined to capture the Loch Ness Monster on film. Setting up his camera at a point on the shore opposite Urquhart Castle, he kept vigil for eleven days until his luck was in as the monster put in the desired appearance.

The account tells us that a wake appeared at 300 yards which soon led to the creature surfacing with long neck, three humps and a triangular shaped head as it progressed along the loch. We are told Mr. Currie exposed up to three minutes of film of this greyish brown creature splashing about.

However, having gone to these lengths to obtain this vital piece of footage, James Currie decided to place the film in a bank vault in Great Portland Street, London, "until such time as the public takes such matters seriously". At the time of writing, the article states that Mr. Currie had been dead for over twenty years.

If this all sounds familiar, you would be right. The whole saga sounds like the McRae story, but using a different person. But could this be another separate, sensational film hiding from view? The idea of not one but two detailed films of the Loch Ness Monster being under lock and key strains even the credulity of the most sycophant Nessie fan.

Unlike the McRae film, we have no information on Currie's family or genealogy that could lead us to a death certificate or any other information. We now have a clear picture of who Dr. MacRae was, but Mr. Currie was a bank manager and that is it. My own perusal of the British Library news archives turned up no such person, though admittedly, a newspaper mention is no guarantee, even for a bank manager.

Unfortunately, the newspaper article raises more questions than it answers. The reporter states that all this was reported in "contemporary reports". However, a search of 1938 press clippings shows up nothing about this incident. The closest I could find was a sighting of three humps, long neck and tail by a party of tourists on the 11th July near Invermoriston Bay, miles away from the stated location of James Currie.

By 1975, the article had entered the consciousness of the monster hunting fraternity. In a MacRae film exchange between Alastair Dallas and Alan Wilkins, Dallas had been asked about this Currie film. He said he had no knowledge of Currie or his film.

Fraser also recounts the tale of the MacRae film, but his retelling of that tale is full of errors. The article claims MacRae came across the creature floating, as if asleep. He claims a scaly tail was visible. Furthermore, he states a boat is visible in the film, scaling the creature to 30 feet. Finally, he asserts that all the trustees of the film were now dead.

None of these so called facts are in the account Holiday relates in his book, "The Great Orm of Loch Ness". We can only assume Fraser embellished the story and hence his telling of the Currie story is under suspicion of exaggeration too.

However, the similarities between the Currie and MacRae films suggests there is more than mere coincidence at work. Consider these parallels in the two cases.

Both men filmed a long necked monster with three humps.
Both films run for several minutes.
Both describe the head as being conical in nature.
Both men decided to keep the film in a bank vault until the matter was taken more seriously.
Both men had died over twenty years ago (25 years ago in MacRae's case).

Paul Harrison, who was involved in the hunt for the MacRae film also made enquiries to the Aberdeen Evening Express regarding the article author, Charles Fraser. No one from that time had heard of him, which suggests he was a freelance writer not permanently employed at their offices.

Enquiries to seasoned Nessie researchers also turned up a blank as to the identity of the so called leading monster hunter, Roland Brown. I also did a search for the variant "Ronald Brown" which proved negative as well.

One could argue that the name "Roland Brown" was a false name to allow the real monster hunter to get on with his detective work anonymously. The same could be applied to the Currie story being a cover for the actual MacRae film, but again deflecting so that the likes of Alastair Dallas would be left alone. However, this strained interpretation still leaves us wondering why the real investigator did not eventually step forward with whatever he had found?

All in all, the indicators point towards this 1973 article being a fabrication. Why it was done is not clear, but if Mr. Charles Fraser is reading, perhaps he could tell us!

The author can be contacted at