Monster hunters come and monster hunters go. Some you know about and outlast the years they spent at the loch, others may spend as much time at the loch but go out as quietly as they came in, known only to a few. Of course, we know about Tim Dinsdale, Nicholas Witchell, Ted Holiday, David James, Rupert Gould and so on and so on. Today there are people continuing the work such as Steve Feltham, Gordon Holmes, Alan McKenna, myself and so on again.
A name came up by chance in recent correspondence with Paul Cropper, a cryptid researcher from Australia, who had sent me some material gathered by Tony Healey, a mutual acquaintance. Amongst some creature reports was one by a Jeoff Watson from 1978 in which he had taken some photos of a V-wake formation at Loch Ness. The pictures were inconclusive when analyzed by the Loch Ness and Morar Project. What is also inconclusive is what happened to Jeoff Watson.
He shared the same surname as me, but he was no family relative. The relation came through the monster fraternity for he was a dedicated cryptid hunter from the moment he took those pictures. I knew of him only through his trip updates to Rip Hepple who regularly informed Nessie hunters of each other's activities through his Nessletter newsletter.
Jeoff was a sociology student from London, aged about 21 years when he took those pictures - according to newspaper clippings included in the material sent by Paul Cropper. Jeoff was a man determined to solve the mystery of not only the Loch Ness Monster, but other aquatic cryptids across the United Kingdom. His trip reports tell of repeat expeditions to Loch Ness, Loch Morar, Loch Shiel, Bala Lake in Wales, Falmouth Bay in Cornwall and Barmouth Bay on the west coast of Wales. In 1980 alone, he had planned nine separate trips to all these locations.
Regular articles in local newspapers, contributions to the popular Fortean Times and the formation of his own Association of Loch Ness Explorers suggested that this was a man who would continue the work done at Loch Ness and beyond. Now the fact that I had completely forgotten about Jeoff until that recent email made me ask what had happened to this guy?
I went through the various editions of Rip's nessletters to follow Jeoff's activities. These began in October 1978 as I traced the timeline. He visited Rip in 1979 and Rip tells us he was a person very keen, earnest and anxious to get something done at Loch Ness such as a group surface watch. Rip further mentions Jeoff visited him at his caravan while on holiday at the loch in July 1982. I was also stated as visiting him there during that stay. So I may have missed the only opportunity of meeting Jeoff at the loch!
Rip writes of another visit by Jeoff to his Durham home in December 1983 and adds that Jeoff was seriously considering moving to Loch Ness. However, he ends that report on a worrying note:
Jeoff is a very intense young man, very keen on the whole water monster scene. But I am concerned about him, during his short stay it was obvious that he is living with a great deal of nervous strain. This I feel, could lead to problems with his health, both physical and mental.
After that, there were no more trip reports from Jeoff in the Nessletters. He simply disappeared as if he had never existed. So whatever happened to Jeoff Watson? A cursory google search does not reveal anything of note, though I must admit it was not an intensive search. His is not a name I have seen since I started this blog in 2010. Rip also mentioned that Jeoff was looking to start up a music project to give him income to spend more time monster hunting. That project only allowed him one monster trip in 1982.
So what happened to this fellow who promised much in terms of monster hunting? Did the rock music project completely take over his waking hours, as aquatic cryptids had done? Did Rip's concerns about mental and physical health bear undesirable fruit? Perhaps he read Ronald Binns' 1983 hatchet job book on Nessie and "deconverted"? People do just drift away from the monster scene, though this looks more like a cliff edge drop than a drifting away. Perhaps someone could enlighten me as to his current status?
Whatever the end story may have been, are there lessons to be learnt here for us? I guess the first lesson is to cut your cloth according to the material you have. Did Jeoff throw himself at the subject so much that it became apparent to Rip Hepple that he was over extending? Perhaps it had become an obsession which interfered with his sociology studies. Obsession and the Monster can become strange bedfellows, especially if you have had a sighting of the beast. I have always wondered what would happen if I did have a good sight of the creature. Would it trigger a psychological response that one could even term an obsessive compulsion disorder?
Jeoff had his V-wake sighting as well as perhaps something seen in Falmouth Bay. Such things can drive you on in a good way or a bad way. It really depends on the personality of the individual. I have always been a bit of a lazy sod, so I suspect the monster rearing up in front of me would not stop me doing the other things I like to do ... maybe. When I graduated around the same time as Jeoff disappeared, I also did my own disappearing act as I focused on my career and did not visit the loch for over ten years and even let my Nessletter subscription lapse. However, the old monster hunting verve revived again in 2010 and I am up there several times a year.
With all that in mind, I wish perseverance, persistence and preservation to all today's monster hunters. May we last the course and collectively have a story to tell that outlasts the years.
UPDATE: Sadly the answer has come to me from Adrian Shine. Jeoff Watson died in 1984 amidst tragic circumstances. What these were I do not really care to know and we are left wondering what this young man could have achieved. Well, it is a belated RIP to Jeoff from a fellow monster hunter.
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