Monday 17 May 2021

The Lancashire Policeman who saw the Monster


Here is a sighting report that is new to me which recently appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post (link). It dipped into its archives to retrieve this account from 86 years ago and from which the illustration above was taken. I reproduce the text below.

Lancashire police chief spotted the Loch Ness Monster

Officer on holiday when he saw a creature in the Scottish loch

In August 1935, when the holiday season was at its height, one of Preston’s most prominent citizens journeyed to Scotland and returned to town with an astonishing tale. At that time the policing of Preston was carried out by the Preston Borough Police Force, under the guidance of the Chief Constable J P Ker Watson, who had been in charge for 20 years. That summer Watson packed his suitcase and headed for Scotland, in particular the area around Inverness.

During his vacation he drove along the road from Fort Augustus to Inverness and halted at the 13 miles to Inverness sign post, near to a castle on the shore of the famous Loch Ness. What he observed from his vantage point was to make the following headline in the Lancashire Evening Post - ‘The ‘Monster’ Of Loch Ness - Appears before Preston’s Chief Constable’. At that period of time the search for the Loch Ness Monster was a frenzied one with innumerable sightings and the Chief Constable had been told to look out for the creature as he ventured into Loch Ness territory.

He was keen to tell a Post reporter how he had seen a head and humps moving above the water, almost a mile from the shore. He estimated the length of the creature as between 25 and 30 feet with a relatively small head and very large bumps. Keen to record his sighting, he had done a rough sketch which the Post cartoonist Furnival happily reproduced for inclusion in the newspaper. He told the reporter he felt it was not unreasonable that a creature could survive in the deep waters, with vegetation in abundance on the bottom of the lake.

The Chief Constable then relating how many of the locals were convinced the monster did exist and thought it quite conceivable that such a creature could have come up into the loch and stayed there. With hundreds continually flocking to Loch Ness, hoping to catch a sight of the creature, it had boosted tourism in Inverness, but he felt the locals did not have any ulterior motive for publicising their monster’s existence. It seems Preston’s senior policeman was not the only Chief Constable who believed in the existence of ‘Nessie’, because in 1938 the Chief Constable of Inverness penned a letter stating that it was beyond doubt that the monster existed. He was at the time concerned over reports that a hunting party were about to descend on Loch Ness armed with harpoon guns and were determined to catch the creature ‘dead or alive’.

Sporadic sightings continued for some 30 years and in 1963 a film of the creature was taken on the loch – but from some five kilometres distance it was of poor quality. Some of the most infamous photos of the monster were taken by Lancashire man Frank Searle, who moved to Loch Ness in 1969 living in a tent looking for definitive proof of its existence. When his photos were published in 1972 it caused a worldwide sensation, before they were eventually exposed as fakes. Searle moved back to Fleetwood and lived out his years in relative anonymity in the port.

Now I have no idea whether this 13 miles signpost still exists. I would hazard a guess with the use of Google maps that the place he saw the beast was perhaps a mile north of the entrance to Temple Pier, which is on the opposite side of Urquhart Bay from the Castle. The object was a mile away from him and the fact that the improvised map in the illustration suggests it was between the castle and the distant monastery at Fort Augustus means he was more or less looking south down the loch.

Of course, Fort Augustus Abbey is not visible from Urquhart Bay and the map is rather idealized. You would think, looking at the map, that the monastery was on the other side of the loch from the Castle. Now as to the sketch of the monster, there are some issues which point to artistic licence. For example, no one is going to make out those eyes at one mile distance. But then again, for those who may suggest he saw a bird, I don't think birds are very visible at all at that distance.

The statement that there is an abundance of vegetation at the bottom of the loch is a wild guess and false. There is nothing but silt at the dark floor of the loch. Quite why the police officer thought the beast did not rather live off fish is a bit of a puzzle. However, the idea that the beast may have been a visitor who decided to stay in the loch had more merit. The estimate of 25 to 30 feet is a pretty standard monster size, though when such statements are made, one is never quite certain if the eyewitness is trying to include any invisible features such as a tail.

So, another sighting for the record, albeit a bit lacking in detail. The original article can be found on the British Newspaper Archive. If I renew my subscription, I will update this article.

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