Sunday 18 December 2022

Loch Ness Mystery


Back in 2012 when I first started compiling a list of books about the Loch Ness Monster, there was one book which continued to prove elusive and that was "Loch Ness Mystery" authored by Captain Donald Munro in 1938 and the fifth book published on the monster chronologically. You can find the book list at this link and a profile of Donald Munro at this link.

This is a follow up to the Donald Munro article which mentioned that he had published this booklet on the Loch Ness Monster, explaining his views on the creature and more importantly, proposing plans and costs for up to three camera stations placed at strategic points around the loch in the attempt to obtain conclusive photographs or cine film footage of these mysteries of the loch. The aforementioned book list had a blank image for Munro's booklet with the explanation: 

Why no image? I can't find a copy of this book for love nor money! Not even the mighty National Library of Scotland or British Library have it.

As you can see by the image at the top of the article, I have found that booklet after looking for it on and off for ten years. I would say it did not require any love or money to find it. Anyway, it is a humble affair, consisting of a mere six pages of text, not including the above cover. You can read the pages yourself below where I reproduce them and make some further remarks.

First is the confession that Donald Munro was brought up in the Fort Augustus area of Loch Ness fifty years before. He says that reports of a strange creature in the loch began about that time in the 1880s. I wish he had said more about this statement as he admits that as a kid back then, he didn't know about it. He was born in 1865, so would have been aged between fifteen and twenty five during the 1880s. 

A Times newspaper article from 14th June 1938 says he joined the navy in 1880, so it looks like he missed all the fun, nevertheless he sounds a bit sceptical of Nessie putting in an appearance back then as he insists that John Murray's bathymetric survey of the loch would have surely seen the creature. I don't agree with that assessment myself, having the benefit of hindsight of another eighty four years,  the monster is more elusive than that.

Munro speculates on various aspects of the possible identity and behaviour of the creature and perhaps wisely stands back from nominating a direct candidate having observed various reported features in a diversity of animals that Munro had had close contact with himself on his various naval journeys. For instance, the sensitivity of the creature to noise was something Munro noted in large marine creatures across the oceans.

Another debate concerning whether the creature could lay close to the surface of the loch, largely unobserved unless one is in close proximity to it, was also something Donald notes in his observations of other aquatic creatures. Food supply is then discussed and then the manner in which the best observational conditions could be achieved and what needs to be primarily observed.

At this point, Munro's experience as a maritime man who knew observation was an important skill when all around you was water, brings in his suggestion of observation posts around the loch. The concept itself is pretty simple and had already been done to varying degrees from individual observers up to the twenty men of the Edward Mountain expedition of July 1934. It is noted that the Mountain group was also organised on the ground by another military man, Captain James Fraser.

Munro attempted to define carefully a working setup, down to equipment and men required and how they would be employed plus the final costs. Those costs were to be raised from a shares subscription under a limited liability company of a cost of one shilling per share with an initial total capital of £1500 to be raised - or a total of 30,000 shares (20 shillings to the pound in old pre-decimal money).

It seems that the endeavour only managed to raise a mere £90, despite the prestigious London Times publicising it and other respectable newspapers. In today's money, the target £1,500 would be about £80,000 and if 1938 was 2022, he would have been more likely to seek crowd funding for such a venture. But events were against Donald Munro's project.

The country was still recovering from a major economic depression and so money was short plus the dark clouds of war were already diverting the attention of the public to more serious matters. Three months before, Nazi Germany had occupied Austria and would occupy the Sudetenland four months later. Europe would be plunged into war 15 months after Munro published his proposals and that was the end of any venture that was regarded as not necessary to the war effort.

As it happened, even if the funds were raised, Loch Ness would become an area under military restrictions and you needed a good reason to be there. Back in 2010, this blog began and acquired the web address lochnessmystery, It wasn't a direct tribute to Donald Munro, the address had already been taken (and looks long abandoned by its owner). However, I cannot recall why I choose that name. Perhaps there was a subconscious recall of Captain Donald Munro's long forgotten booklet?

So have a look at the writings of a man whose ideas preceded those of the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau by a quarter of a century. I use the google chrome browser and to enlarge each booklet page, I click on an image below, right click and select "Open image in new tab" and then click on that to zoom in.

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