Sunday, 17 March 2019

Hugh Gray, his Brother and Jaws




To start with, I recently limbered up for a chat with fellow cryptozoologist, Andy McGrath, by watching the classic but not so cryptozoological monster film "Jaws". It was then that a bit of synchronicity turned up while I considered the content of this latest article. First up was a scene with a labrador dog swimming with a stick in its mouth, which I immediately snapped with my mobile phone and show above. To tell you the truth, it looks nothing like the supposed dog in the Hugh Gray photo.



But then again, someone else has decided it is no longer a dog, but a swan whilst another has recently gone for a rowing boat. The clarity and consensus is less than impressive. On the very same subject of this picture, I recently reviewed an old article from the Aberdeen Press and Journal dated the 7th December 1933, which I show in the large below. Hugh Gray's photo was the centre of attention and controversy as experts of all shades chipped in with their opinions. The lesser rorqual whale came in for some discussion as the general morphology of this strange creature was compared and contrasted against the whale.



But it was a particular excerpt that caught my attention and which I zoom into below. The text talks about what appears to be a strange, whale-like mouth which is clearly visible.There is no doubt in my mind that they are talking about the fish like head that is visible to the right and which I reproduce further below.



Now when you mention this image to critics of this picture, their confirmation bias just refuses to acknowledge it. They can quite happily tell you how they can see a dog, swan, otter, boat or other in the picture, but this one is forbidden territory because it challenges them. It is much better to ignore it and hope it goes away. But it won't and those who had access to better photographic prints back in 1933 bear witness against their obstinacy.

A final word on this photograph concerns the Wikipedia entry for it which I quote below.

Hugh Gray's photograph taken near Foyers on 12 November 1933 was the first photograph alleged to depict the monster. It was slightly blurred, and it has been noted that if one looks closely the head of a dog can be seen. Gray had taken his Labrador for a walk that day, and it is suspected that the photograph depicts his dog fetching a stick from the loch. Others have suggested the photograph depicts an otter or a swan. The original negative was lost. However, in 1963 Maurice Burton came into "possession of two lantern slides, contact positives from th[e] original negative" and when projected on screen it revealed an "otter rolling at the surface in characteristic fashion."


As you can see, there is a bit of emphasis on the dog explanation, but whoever composed this text has decided to add an untruth. Namely, that Hugh Gray took his labrador for a walk that day. There is no record anywhere of Hugh Gray owning a labrador dog, let alone walking it that day. I stand to be corrected if anyone cares to provide the original source for this, but until then, it is a fabrication. 

Sadly, Wikipedia is a hotbed for this wrong type of scepticism. In fact, the page seems to have undergone a re-edit and a certain sceptic's number of mentions comes out on top ahead of all others. At the same time, somebody had removed a mention of the fish like head in the picture. Shameful but unsurprising.


HUGH GRAY'S BROTHER

It was some years back that I was in conversation with a local Foyers man as I made enquiries about Hugh Gray. I was told that he had a brother called Sandy who had drowned in the loch. I noted that in the back of my mind and moved onto other things. But that little fact came back to me when I reread an old piece from the Inverness Courier dated 30th May 1933 shown below.




Here we read of an A. Gray of Foyers who attempted to lure the monster with a floating hook and bait setup. It was not successful, though it had merit and the bait technique was repeated in various forms in the years to come. Since Sandy is a nickname for Alexander, we can be pretty sure this A. Gray was Alexander Gray, brother of Hugh. Quite unaware of this fraternal connection, sceptic Ronald Binns in his book, "The Loch Ness Mystery Solved", tries to make out that this A. Gray was in fact H. Gray.

Binns then makes out that this bait and hook experiment was not a serious endeavour but a staged joke. The "logic" is clear enough. You try to implicate Hugh Gray in a joke and therefore anything else he does as regards monsters is also a joke. Nice try, but no cigar. It was also interesting that the aforementioned "Jaws" used the very same scene when two men try to capture the shark with a hook and meat joint attached to a floating tyre (below). It seems to be a tried and true method for capturing big fish. In their case, half the pier went from under them as the fish took the bait.




But it seems that like his brother Hugh, Sandy also had multiple sightings of the monster. The first reference is in the early weeks and months of the Nessie phenomenon in 1933. It comes from the Australian Sunday Times dated 3rd December 1933, though I suspect it occurred closer to June 1933.



When I find the primary Scottish newspaper source for this story, I will add it, but I suspect this is the same bus driver mentioned by a William McCulloch in Nicholas Witchell's "The Loch Ness Story":

The Spicers continued on their way and met a cyclist. This man's name was William McCulloch, a native of Foyers who when he heard their story was, according to Mr. Spicer, "astounded - not frightened, just incredulous. He added that he was glad we had seen it because people were laughing at a bus driver friend of his in the village who had reported seeing it."

However, his best sighting appears to have been in 1935 as this report from The Scotsman dated 21st June 1935 details.
 



LOCH NESS MONSTER

Angler has a Close-up View

LURCHING MOVEMENT

It was learned in Inverness yesterday that Mr A. J. Gray, chauffeur, Foyers, while out fishing on Loch Ness at Foyers on Wednesday night, had an excellent view of the monster. Mr Gray, in an interview, said he saw the monster moving about the loch for more than 25 minutes. Other three people whom he summoned also had a view for a good part of that time. These were Mrs Cameron, Post Office, Foyers; Mr J. Batchen, gardener, Boleskine, and a friend. "I was about 20 yards out in the loch." said Mr Gray, "when I suddenly saw a big black object rise in the water, about 100 yards farther out, In the deeper part of the loch.

It was the back of the monster. Shortly after the head and neck appeared, rising from eighteen inches to two feet out of the water. Behind I saw quite plainly a series of what appeared to be small ridges, seven in number, apparently belonging to the tail of the creature, which now and again caused much commotion in the water. The head was like a horse's, but not as large as that of a horse. It was rather small in relation to the huge body, which was of a slatey black colour. From the way the creature moved in the water I have not the slightest doubt that it was extremely heavy. In moving it gave a sort of lurch forward, which seemed to carry it about four yards at a time.

THREE OTHER SPECTATORS

"As I watched it the monster started to go across the loch. I got out of the water with all the haste I could in heavy waders, and then walked along to the Post Office, about 900 yards distant and informed Mrs Cameron. who, along with the gardener and a friend hurried to the lochside. We all saw the monster further out in the loch, but its head and tail were no longer visible. The monster, which had gone out to near the middle of the loch, then turned and came towards the shore again. It came within two hundred yards of where we were standing before it set off in the direction of Invermoriston, where it passed out of sight." Mr Gray added that he had seen the monster on four previous occasions. He had never obtained such a clear view of the monster as on this occasion. 

This has the hallmarks of a triple A Nessie sighting. It involves a close up sighting at 100 yards, it lasted 25 minutes in the view of an experienced witness along with other multiple witnesses. What's not to like (apart from no one having a camera)? If you're a dyed in the wool pseudo-sceptic, you'll be looking around trying to conjure up the mythical seal which infallibly turns up on these occasions. That sounds like a great explanation apart from the minor problem that this looks nothing like a seal.

Or just press the emergency "imperfect witness" button and all is well again as we are told these people couldn't possibly have described what they saw properly. After all, there is no Loch Ness Monster, right? What blows that already dying theory out of the water is the fact that Alexander Gray is a top class witness. As I looked around for references to Mr. Gray, I found out that he was quite an avid Loch Ness angler as you will note from the various stories posted here. Like other angling witnesses such as John McLean, Roland O'Brien, Tim Richardson, Ala MacGruer, J. Harper Smith and, of course, monster author, Ted Holiday, these people should not be so easily dismissed by critics, they are the best class of witnesses around and it is arrogance to discard them without serious enquiry.

As this regular Scotsman angling column from the 15th February 1938 shows, Alexander Gray was an angler who would sometimes make it into their column with a notable catch of fish from the loch. The clipping below tells us of his catching of a 19lb salmon from what appears to be his favourite angling spot off Foyers.  As an aside, eagled eyed readers may note the mention of a Mr. J. MacLean who landed a 12 pounder. There is little doubt in my mind that this is the aforementioned John McLean who would four months later go onto have one of the clearest views of the monster - another experienced angler whose experience of loch conditions and wildlife should not be so easily dismissed.


A further newspaper item from the Scotsman 29th December 1933 reveals some information about two curious events at Loch Ness prior to the 1933 "reveal" of Nessie. 



The 1914 account refers to a classic single hump which forms the most common type of sighting. Does the Loch Ness Monster weigh 15 tons as he estimated from six feet of back showing on the surface? I myself would think this is an over estimate going for something below 4 tonnes, though it does depend on what overall length one assumes from six feet of back. The final account from 1893 involves no sight of any creature but is indicative of something powerful. If we speculate that a seal was in the loch (unlikely from a statistical point of view), could it have forced a salmon net from the grasp of at least three men? Probably not, but without a visual confirmation of the object, we can only speculate on this one.

But time catches up with all of us and Alex Gray passed away on the 23rd February 1949 as related below by the Dundee Courier the following day. His untimely death appears to have been caused by his boat capsizing in a storm and I am surprised he was caught out by these conditions after decades of fishing experience. Since I would expect a body to sink into the deep upon death, I would surmise his boat capsized in shallower waters as he tried to row back to shore.



For those of a sleuth like nature, a reporter from one of these clippings has made an error that does not harmonise with another clipping. But I will leave it as an exercise for others to find his mistake. It doesn't change the fact that Sandy Gray claimed several sightings of the Loch Ness Monster and as an angler with experience of the loch, its waves, its wildlife, its weather and its occasionally deceptive features, you have two choices. He is either lying or he is telling the truth. You decide.


The author can be contacted at lochnesskelpie@gmail.com




36 comments:

  1. Nice research as usual.

    Interesting the whale mouth is mentioned in one of the early newspaper accounts of the Gray photograph.

    I wonder, then as now, the drinking culture in the highlands, if alcohol was a factor in Sandy's demise.

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    1. Given he was a bus driver and a chauffeur, I assume he was a sensible drinker, if at all.

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    2. I'm shocked at how good a witness Sandy was.As he was a sober bus driver on those twisty ,narrow loch roads!

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  2. Really great work, GB. So am I right in thinking that Sandy was fishing with his floating bait arrangement 6 months before Hugh took his famous photo? Amazing if true!

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    1. Yes, something like that. What Hugh Gray made of it, I have no idea!

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  3. I still cant work out which is the most ridiculous suggestion, the swan or the dog with a stick in its mouth :-)

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    1. Amazing how the photo looks like planbecks giant salamander. ( Water bull)
      Not to be confused,of course,with the pleasiasaur or Tucker's elasmosaurus.

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    2. Its not a matter of ridiculousness, any half-arsed explanation will do so long as it gets rid of that pesky monster!

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    3. I'd go with the swan. There are many versions of this photo out there, of varying quality. In some of the poor, over exposed versions the face - just the face - of a dog can be devined from the anomalous image. If your first exposure to Hugh's photo is one of these versions, you will see that dog. Such nonsense (dogs with sticks) disappears when you look at the clear image made from the glass slide negative. The swan? Ravings of a bitter lunatic, who sees that do not exist everywhere he looks...

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    4. I'd rather go with Steve planbecks,2 giant salamanders copulating (!!),and if that's in that photo,it stands to reason that the loch also contains pleasiosaur-yes( more than 1).Of course the prominent esteemed Professor Tucker,having witnessed Nessie up close,called her an Elasmosaurus!!

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    5. You're having a laugh, john.

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    6. Actually I'm not.in planbecks analysis of the grey photo,it seemed to show 2 entwined animals..what better explanation is there?
      Also,imo,the loch contains more than 1 species of large animal in it.I feel the old Scottish tales should be given more credence than they get.Finally,Tucker's observation shouldn't be taken too lightly.As to wickepedia,I gave up on that long ago due to the trained paid thought police.

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  4. It shows the sort of sceptic we are dealing with here at loch ness if they claim this is a swan or a dog with a stick. Anybody with half ounce of common sense can see neither would fit in with the size of the object at the water.It just shows we really cant take some of these sceptics seriously.

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    1. The size indicates a 30 foot giant salamander.even the locals used to speak of "the giant salamander!"

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    2. Let's see what are the magic words for today?
      Swan and dog-with-a-stick"?

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  5. Everywhere one looks they still no see a giant swan.

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  6. Truly superb investigative work, Roland - I salute you once again!

    The Hugh Gray object is clearly large, just look at the texture of the water around it. Pseudo-sceptics calling it a labrador or a dead swan are frankly making fools of themselves. We understand they don't think Nessie exists, but do they really need to come up with absurd explanations for photos which flummox them?

    I'm growing increasingly weary over that brand of aggressive, blinkered scepticism. I do not wish to indulge in ad hominem attacks, but when people find themselves ejected from Facebook groups, or they feel the need to edit wikipedia entries to skew the facts, they need to take a good look at themselves.

    In the meantime please continue your excellent work, Roland. Many of us are highly supportive of what you do.

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    1. Thank you. Now who is going to edit that wikipedia page?

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    2. I wouldn't know how to, nor do I feel sufficiently encyclopedic in my knowledge on this subject. Roland, are you in a position to edit it? Do pseudo-sceptics just edit out all of the balanced commentary as soon as someone adds it back in?

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    3. These pages are patrolled by pseudo-sceptical vigilantes ready to pounce on anything smelling of cryptozoology. It's the most visited page on the Loch Ness Monster, that's why they guard it jealously as if they owned it.

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    4. Editing notwithstanding, I wouldn't expect a non – cryptozoological, fact based website to encourage crypto anything. As an “open source” editable website Wikipedia is vulnerable to editors prejudices. As such, how factual is Wikipedia?

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  7. I dare say an expert angler and outdoorsman can be expected to recognise a water fowl , swimming deer or a shoal of fish better than a city dweller .

    But we've been here before, the idea that professional people like barristers, policeman, politicians, surgeons ? make worthier witnesses because of their status is delightfully victorian.

    I feel the same applies to outdoorsmen, anglers and hunters, we shouldn't really give their sightings, and them any more creedence, like the rest of us, they are subject to ego, flattery and the chance of a bit of fleeting fame.

    If a Ness fisherman in 1933 said after 40 years of angling in the loch he'd seen nothing remotely monstrous, that's not going to get him noticed or get him in the Inverness Courier.

    Frankly Id have been surprised if A. Gray hadn't had a few ready made nessie anecdotes from his past, anecdotes that no-one had remembered him ever recount before probably.

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    1. So you're going for the liar option I posit at the end of my article?

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    2. You sound like you're contradicting yourself. First you say anglers should be more reliable witnesses on water but then you discard them by lumping them in with eywitnessses with less water experience. The truth is barristers, policemen and surgeons can also be anglers. Each case should be assessed on its own merits rather than this "professional" whitewash.

      You also omit the fact that other witnesses were named in the 1935 account. Are you going down the multi-person conspiracy path now?

      If there was sibling rivalry beyween the Grays, why wait two years since his brother's photo to gain an advantage? Why not steal a march by producing a better picture? Whether they are siblings or not is a statistical irrelevance - its down to eyeball time on the loch and if the two of them were frequent observers in the right location. I would also point out that some of Hugh Gray's claimed sightings were low grade wakes which could be honest mistakes.

      In other words, John, you're overindulging in what is basically not empirical fact, nor deduction but pure vanilla speculation!

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  8. Probably, I find it wholly unlikely the chances of siblings having multiple sightings, bit of rivalry I would wager.

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  9. It certainly looks like an animal, a deep sea type fish with small eyes. It's also clearly quite large as can be seen from the pattern on the water. The head must have been relatively still whilst the body moved in the characteristic fish 'side to side' motion, since the head is quite in focus, as opposed to the motion blur of what appears to be spray. This is not unusual since higher speed cameras, if they did exist back then, certainly would not have been available to the public. If I had to guess, it looks like a very large eel type creature. It would be interesting if someone was able to estimate a size based on the pattern of ripples on the water.

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  10. How do you reconcile the “Big Head” with the thousands of small head and neck sightings? It may as well be a giant salamander or zeuglodon, or a huge eel for that matter. The whole big head is just a gross bluring/smearing effect. Whatever that animal is, it is frolicking or thrashing about. IMHO. Too bad there is no wider shot showing foreground and background scenery to give scale and context. And supposing it was a whale, in the other scenario, how would one get into the loch given the locks along the way and weir on the Caledonian.

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    1. I know I sound like a nutcase here John, but there are irreconcilable differences in several sightings from decent witnesses at Ness and Morar also. By irreconcilable I mean that they don't fit the classic long neck aquatic reptile form, being very different from this. But they still present as unknown animals. Maybe there's more than one type, or maybe occasionally we can see into another world where nature took a few left turns from our own. It sounds like sci go, but it's the only way I've stopped myself going crazy over this mystery. Maybe it's a series of mysteries. And in that case, it would be so far removed from our own reality that it's no surprise that very few people want to know about it.

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    2. That should read 'sci fi' of course. For some reason the auto correct on this phone has had one too many.

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    3. Water horse
      Water bull
      Kelpie
      Horse eel

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  11. Dont know how anyone sees dogs..swans..boats or anything in this photo!! Ive looked at it hundreds of times and cant make out anything..its just a blur!! It cud be anything and cud be anywhere! Im not bin cynical but if i took a photo which i believed was a huge creature in loch ness i wud of took a few more snaps after moving the camera about to proove i was in loch ness! The only good thing about this photo is that its supposed to be the first photo of nessie so it will always be an iconic photo on the mystery! ..cheers Roy

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    1. I get your point Roy, but I think cameras of this era were notoriously slow and not terribly user friendly. To catch a moving object was probably a near miracle.

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    2. Yes i agree camera's all them years ago wudnt be the best but surely ud take a couple more snaps to show loch ness..it wud only be a question of moving the camera up or sideways a bit to show loch ness! Im not convinced with this photo myself!! Cud be anything or anywhere..but i do have a chuckle at some people seeing dogs swans or amphibians i must admit!!! Maybe i need new glasses lol..iconic photo though and part of the nessie story!...cheers!

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  12. If we could match the head and mouth on the right with a class of creature that has a tail [ or is it ? ] roughly as depicted on the left we might have a chance of a contender.
    The creature seems to have heft and mass on the surface, i.e. it's not a swan or a dog.

    I find it fascinating, like a mobius loop, where does it start, where does it end ?

    What part is creature, what part is shadow and light ?

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