Thursday, 23 April 2015

A 1934 Picture of Nessie?

My apologies first of all for not blogging this picture sooner. I have been sitting on this for months ever since I photocopied the newspaper article in Glasgow (I don't think the story is available online). Fellow cryptozoologist, Scott Mardis, came across a very cropped version of the picture during his research which prompted me into action.

The picture was taken on the 10th June 1934, but the identity of the photographer is not known. My excuse for delaying was to go to Loch Ness to line up the hill contours to establish the general location, but I will assume it was taken at Loch Ness near Fort Augustus. The account of how the picture was taken was also printed (see below and click to enlarge).

However, the picture is not new to the general Nessie literature. Peter Costello, in his 1974 book, In Search of Lake Monsters, reproduces a drawing of the picture. Based on the shallowness of the hump, he does not assign great evidential value to it.

Roy Mackal also mentions it without reproducing it in his book, The Monsters of Loch Ness, and, like Costello, consigns it to the inconclusive category. Maurice Burton also includes it in his sceptical book, The Elusive Monster, as does Witchell in his The Loch Ness Story, but none show the photograph. Today is your chance to see the original article.

Looking at the picture itself, it is not of great quality and there may even be retouching going on by the picture staff (a practise that was applied across all manner of newspaper photographs in those days). However, the sea serpent researcher, A. C. Oudemans, had reproduced the picture in a 1934 dutch article (below) which improves the quality but is cropped in extremis. Certainly, this picture shows the object to be a dark object consistent with the witness description (as a side note, I have been intending to translate this article for months, bear with me).

If this is a picture of the Loch Ness Monster, then we are looking at it in its double hump aspect. The problem is the relative shallowness of the hump which opens it up to sceptical interpretations of boat wakes. The photograph below taken over forty years ago by the Loch Ness Investigation gives you some idea of the problem.

We have also have the controversy over bow wave pictures in the recent David Elder video and again the shallowness of the phenomena opens it up to such interpretations.

If you believe there is a large creature in Loch Ness, then it is reasonable to expect shallow hump photos. In my own view, the creature is a water breather and so any breaking of the surface is largely accidental and there is no instinctive behaviour behind it. So how does one distinguish a barely breaking hump from a bow wave?

Well, there is one way to quantify this and that is to calculate the height to length ratio of the phenomenon in the given image. Applying this to our various images above we get the following numbers (I have added error estimates since uncertainty is part and parcel of such investigations).

Daily Express 0.05 +/- 0.006
LNI wake        0.034 +/- 0.006
Elder picture   0.031 +/- 0.006

It is to be noted that the 1934 object is 47% greater in its ratio than the next highest. Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, but the question has to be asked, how high can this ratio be for natural bow waves? If the object in question goes above such a limit, do we discard bow waves as an explanation in this case? At this point in time, the best number is 0.034 for the LNI wake.

Another point which tends to argue against a bow wave is the fact that there seems to be no other waves in the picture. You will note that the two example pictures of wakes display this extended nature, but there is not so much indication of this in the Express picture. The caveat to be applied there is that the quality of the picture mitigates against a full analysis.

So what is it? A bow wave or something else? If somebody can find a bow wave picture with a ratio that approaches the Daily Express object, leave a comment below.

POSTSCRIPT: One possible location for the photograph may correspond to the view below which was taken two or three miles out of Fort Augustus on the A82.

The author can be contacted at

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Nessie for Scotland's National Animal

The unicorn is apparently Scotland's national animal; but should it be changed to the Loch Ness Monster? Tourist agency, VisitScotland, think so and have set up a petition calling for the change.

I have already signed the petition, I ask other Nessie fans to do likewise!

A campaign has been sparked to have Nessie usurp the Unicorn as Scotland’s national animal.

Scotland’s National Animal is currently the unicorn – a legacy from William I’s decision to use the mythical creature on his coat of arms.

The campaign, launched today at the VisitScotland expo 2015, led by Inverness cruise company Loch Ness by Jacobite and is calling on the public to support essie’s quest to be formally recognised as a more relevant National Animal of Scotland, or at least as the National Monster.

The first sighting of the Loch’s oldest inhabitant dates back to 565AD, and the age-old question that she may or may not still roam the Highland waters is worth millions to Scottish tourism annually.

Just this week internet giant Google launched its own quest to survey the waters of the great Monster, making the need for a National status even more time critical.

It is now hoped that the public will get behind Scotland’s most famous mythical creature, by signing a petition which will be presented to the Scottish Government in an effort to secure Nessie a rightful place in the country’s legacy.

Freda Newton of Loch Ness by Jacobite said: “We have been running tours of Loch Ness for 40 years now, with many of our visitors coming to search for, or at least catch a glimpse of one of the world’s most famous monster.

“Nessie is an icon and an asset. There is no doubt she attracts hundreds of tourists to Scotland every year and she deserves recognition. If not as our National Animal, then at least she should be awarded the title of Scotland’s National Monster.”

To help raise awareness of Nessie’s plea, a new Twitter account has been set up to give the Loch Ness Monster her own voice, as she outlines her manifesto for change. 

@RealNessie is spearheading the campaign – reaching out to people online to support her cause.

The campaign has already received support from The Monster Raving Loony Party who have vowed to make Nessie Scotland’s National Animal and a protected species.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

A Couple of Items

If you use the Internet, you probably already know about Google putting up a picture for Nessie's 81st "birthday". Well, it's actually the 81st anniversary of the Surgeon's Photo, you can read about my 80th anniversary piece here.

There is also a special link to do their StreetView version of a trip under the waters of Loch Ness. My browser seized up when I tried it, Firefox just gets worse with age. On another browser, you get a cool trip down to the depths, but the distance from light to dark is brief due to the peat stained waters. Enjoy the trip.

When I watched Google's promo video, I was under the impression that the cruise boats at the Loch Ness Centre were used for the job. It turns out that Marcus Atkinson's boats were also (if not exclusively) used to do the 3D camera jobs, photos here.  Good job, lads!

While I am here, the BBC's Secret Britain is running an episode called Hidden Highlands of Scotland tomorrow. They will include an item on Mhorag, the monster of Loch Morar. I am not sure if Nessie features, but it's nice to see her sister get some airtime for a change.

The program runs on Wednesday 22nd April at 2100 on BBC One and you can watch it on iPlayer afterwards.

POSTSCRIPT: The Mhorag documentary can be viewed internationally at this YouTube link.

The author can be contacted at

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

Sunday, 5 April 2015

The Mysterious MacRae Film

In 1939, Winston Churchill described Russia as a “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”. When it comes to the MacRae film of the Loch Ness Monster, this seems an apt term for the riddle of a mysterious film of an enigmatic object.

If you stumbled across this article seeking information on the clan of MacRae or McRae or perhaps sought information on matters pertaining to history, genealogy, tartan and ancestry, you may well get some, but it comes with a tale of monsters, claims and counter claims.


But why should anyone be bothered about a film that has never seen the light of day? Why should it be a forum for debate? The answer lies in what it claims to offer – undisputed proof of the Loch Ness Monster. It was what Loch Ness author, F. W. Holiday, held up as the “most sensational wildlife film of all time”. If that was true, it would be a matter worth pursing and indeed a sizable number have pursued this Holy Grail of Loch Ness Monsterism with the zeal of medieval knights. But like the knights of old, the grail has not come to Camelot and various legends have perhaps grown to fill the void. 

Fifty years on, since this story first came to light, it would seem appropriate to review what has gone before us and what could lie beyond in the unwritten future. The players in this tale are varied, but all with the same intention of arriving at the truth of the matter.

The people that have contributed to what we know include Ted holiday, Mike Dash, Paul Harrison and Alan Wilkins. There will be others, but these are the ones we focus on today. I will add my own observations at the end, so I am more the editor rather than the creator of information for now.

We would not have known anything about the McRae film if it was not for Ted Holiday, maverick Nessie researcher of the 60s and 70s, who revealed the possibility of this game changing film in his 1968 book, “The Great Orm of Loch Ness”. In the chapter entitled, “Expedition '65”, Holiday tells us of his trip to Loch Ness in 1965 and an unexpected end to that particular expedition.

Ted Holiday

The evening before he left, he was informed of a man named Alastair Dallas, who had knowledge of not one but two extraordinary films. Armed with this information, Holiday stopped off on his way back to Wales, in the small Borders town of Kircudbright, where Mr. Dallas lived. Initially, he was not well received by Dallas who was surprised that he was in possession of such information. 

However, once Holiday had convinced him of his pro-monster credentials, he relented somewhat and told the story of the two films which had both been taken in the 1930s by a Doctor MacRae. The physician had retired to the shores of Loch Duich and was now deceased. But before his death he had captured two animals on two separate sequences of film.

The first was taken at Loch Ness, the other further west in Loch Duich. However, the claimed clarity and detail of the long necked animals in the films suggested they went way beyond anything yet achieved in terms of evidence for mysterious aquatic monsters. According to Holiday’s book, the film of the Loch Ness Monster is described thusly ("orm" is Holiday's name for the creature):

Mr. Dallas told me that this film runs for several minutes. Three humps, together with the neck and head, are clearly visible. The neck is held low over the water and seems to be writhing to and fro. During the sequence, a bird flies down and lands on a stone in the foreground, which helps to give scale to the picture.

The Orm's head appears to be bluntly conical in profile - rather like half a rugger ball, to quote Mr Dallas. On the crest of the head are two hornlike sense-organs. Starting between these, and running down the neck, is a bristly mane. Mr Dallas said that this mane reminded him of baleen; it is stiff yet flexible and the texture seemed to him fibrous rather than hairy. Slit-like eyes can be made out on the head but they are not very distinct.

Occasionally, the animal, rolls in the water and one of the forward flippers makes an appearance. It is thick and fleshy in section and seems to be capable of independent movement. The skin looks tough and leathery. Another interesting feature is the fact that the head seems to be in a state of continuous flux or movement, apparently due to the play of muscles under the skin.

The creature in Loch Duich is described in these terms:

The second film, which was also taken by Dr McRae, shows a creature lying in Loch Duich - a sea-loch on the Scottish west coast. The monster is lying against the shore and is writhing its neck over a bed of seaweed. It differs from the Loch Ness specimen in having a longer neck and a mane which looks tufted. A man appears in the picture during this sequence, probably in the background.

With both being shot at a range of about one hundred yards, the attraction of pursuing this matter further was not a difficult decision. However, Alastair Dallas brought the whole thing to a screeching halt with the claim that Doctor MacRae had decided to leave the films in an unnamed bank vault in a safety deposit box and put them under a legal trust until such time as the matter of the monster was taken more seriously.

One of the trustees was Dallas himself, the other was the late Colonel Sir Donald Cameron of Locheil and the third trustee he refused to name (presumably because he or she was still alive). It was only because the terms of the trust did not forbid a description of the film that allowed Dallas to relate the episode to Holiday. Beyond that, Dallas was not prepared to go further.

 Alastair Dallas

After leaving Scotland, Holiday followed up the matter with the present Donald Cameron of Locheil who denied any knowledge of the films. Further letters to Alastair Dallas went unanswered and Ted Holiday concluded he could take the matter no further.


Apart from a reference by Roy Mackal, it was not until the late 1990s that the matter was taken up again in the research of Mike Dash and Paul Harrison. By coincidence, they had both resolved to see if anything extra could be gleaned from this almost mythical tale of monsters. At this point, I defer to a talk given by Mike Dash to the Weird Weekend convention in 2008 where he laid out his findings and conclusions to the audience. You can find the talk here and I thank Mike and Paul for their permission to use material for this article.

The first question to answer was whether Dr. MacRae ever existed. Mike Dash is quite certain the answer to that question is “Yes”. Using Holiday’s statement about the doctor retiring to the shores of Loch Duich and armed with the Medical Register for that period, he was able to whittle down the various medical MacRaes to a Farquhar MacRae who lived in the village of Ratagan by the shore of Loch Duich. Using various sources, Mike pieced together a life of the man who it is claimed filmed the best evidence ever for the Loch Ness Monster.

  • 1855 Born at Lochalsh
  • 1884 Qualified as doctor Aberdeen
  • 1888 Employed as medical officer for mining company, Rio Tinto Zinc, in Spain
  • 1889 Lives on the Isle of Lewis and Harris with brother
  • 1892 Moves to Newgate, London,
  • 1896 Joins BMA
  • 1899 Lives in Belgravia, London
  • 1903 Spends one year at the Golden Square Throat Hospital
  • 1904 Returns to his London private practise
  • 1925 Retires and buys house in Ratagan and names it Selma (after Fingal's palace in Ossian)
  • 1948 Dies in Inverness aged 92

Further research by Mike revealed nothing in the wills of MacRae or Cameron of Locheil. However, he uncovered a photograph of Farquhar MacRae taken from Volume 7 of the Celtic Monthly published in 1899 which is shown below. Interestingly, Mike also found some wax cylinders from 1908 held by the British Sound Archive in which McRae sings some Gaelic folk songs!

Farquhar MacRae

So, it seems certain that the man existed as described by Alastair Dallas. But, he had died childless in 1948. Would it be possible to find any living relatives to ask awkward questions about the Loch Ness Monster? The answer was again “Yes” and this involved the parallel research of Paul Harrison who had placed adverts in papers asking for information on the film.

This led to the great-niece of Farquhar MacRae, but she refused to discuss the matter saying there was nothing to it. However, her daughter, Fiona MacRae was a bit more forthcoming in two letters to Paul in 1998.

Farquhar MacRae was born in Lochalsh, December 1855, he died in 1948 and is buried with his father in Kirkston of Lochalsh. He was unmarried. I have heard a story about photographs, not film, that he had taken of the Loch Ness Monster, but know nothing of their whereabouts.

Farquhar MacRae was a cousin of my husband's grandfather. As far as we remember, the film/photo story came to us from his uncle, who died some 30 years ago. I am sorry I can't tell you more. 

Since this letter is dated 1998, the story coming from a relative before he died some "30 years ago", places that before the publication of Holiday's book. At the same time, Mike Dash had constructed a family tree and contacted another relative, Jack MacRae, who lived nearby in Inverinate. He replied:

A rumour has appeared in the Inverness area that Dr F. made a film of the Loch Ness Monster, and that it was stored in a bank on his death. It's not known where he banked in his later years  - could be a London bank. Dr Mary makes light of the rumour, so I wouldn't worry much about it.

Dr. Mary was the mother of the aforementioned Fiona MacRae. Both are tantalising pieces of information, though one might try and argue that the Jack MacRae rumours were a result of Holiday's book rather than an independent source. These accounts might add some weight to the veracity of the story, but, ultimately, do not really take us much further forward.

However, another player enters the stage when Roy Mackal wrote his 1976 book, "The Monsters of Loch Ness". In discussing the MacRae film, he mentions the work of researcher, Alan Wilkins. This is a name which some readers may recall as he was credited with taking a somewhat grainy film of Nessie back in 1975. In fact, I still recall seeing the pictures as a teenager, having cut it out for my clippings collection.

Mackal informs us that Wilkins was told by Dallas that he disputed the account by Holiday and said there was no trust, only one film taken at Loch Duich and he did not know where this was. As a result of this confusion, Mackal declares the film "unacceptable as evidence".

Mike Dash pursued the matter further in the 1990s and added some detail when he spoke to Wilkins by phone. When Wilkins made contact with Dallas in 1974, unlike Holiday, he was refused an audience. According to Mike Dash, parley was eventually granted, but only through an intermediary whom Dallas knew, by the name of Tom Skinner.

Skinner relayed Dallas’ answers back to Wilkins and they painted a different picture to the one presented in Holiday’s book. According to this interview with Dallas, there was only one film and it had been taken at Loch Duich, and it was not as clear as originally claimed. The purported Loch Ness film was actually a sighting Dallas had himself of Nessie on land in September 1936. Dallas claimed that Holiday had completely twisted his original story.

Dallas provided a basic sketch to Wilkins of the creature he claimed to have seen half out of the water in the 1930s. He then later sent what he said was a contemporary sketch and is shown below. I have covered this report before and it is a rather strange creature with multiple dorsal fins, droopy ear like structures and a mouth apparently sucking on a rock. Mike Dash was quite convinced that this was indeed warped by Holiday and did a point by point comparison of the creature described in the Loch Ness film above with the Dallas drawing. We have no record of Holiday’s reply to this accusation, but like Holiday before him, Wilkins closed the case and moved on.

Alastair Dallas' Monster

Around this time, Mike Dash made contact with Alastair Dallas’ son and put again the questions to him that Holiday and Wilkins had done before. In a now familiar refrain, his son denied any  knowledge of any such film and suggested that his father had made up the whole thing and suggested there was nothing to see here and move on. He told them his father had a penchant for tall tales and this was likely one of those tales.

And there our tale of sensational films of mysterious monsters grinds to a halt. What are we to make of it all? Is it an artist’s fantasy from the Borders, unwittingly aided by an over-zealous monster hunter? 

Indeed, as Mike Dash points out, the idea of a trust with no obvious beneficiary seems ill conceived. Nor is it likely to be a vehicle which could legally carry on in perpetuity. All the supposed trustees must be dead now, so where is the film now? Does it lie languishing in a bank vault, outlasting its protectors? In fact, how could it lie in a vault if no one is paying the annual fees for such a service? Moreover, the presence of a trust presupposes a solicitor, so what was their duty should all the trustees die?


During the course of Mike's research, he stumbled upon a further conundrum. Farquhar MacRae succeeded a Farquhar Matheson as President of the Gael Society of London. So what, you may ask? As it turns out, Matheson had a famous sighting of a sea serpent back in 1893 in the Kyle of Lochalsh near Loch Duich. In fact, the Farquhars were both ENT doctors, both from the same distant parish and both are buried in the same cemetery in nearby Glenelg!

Is it just coincidence that two Farquhars who were sequential Gaelic Society Presidents also had experiences of sea serpents? Mike Dash thinks this synchronicity might mean something, but can't  come to a compelling conclusion. A contemporary drawing of Matheson's sighting is shown below.

Farquhar Matheson's Monster

The conclusion of the researchers is that there is nothing or little of substance to the Loch Ness story, though there is still held out the hope of some kind of film or photograph of something in Loch Duich, though not as sensational as first made out. Indeed, to recall the Grail metaphor in the context of an Indiana Jones film, this Holy Grail may yet turn out to be no more than an unappealing cup.

Then again, it may not.


Gathering everything together, this is a case which has always proved an entertaining diversion for me as I speculated where that McRae film may or may not be. Back in the 1960s, researchers would have been more focused on the various hi-tech experiments at the loch and would have been confident that their work would render a 30 year old film surplus to requirements. With the failures of the 1960s and 70s, researchers took a fresh look at the legendary film.

I did some digging around myself, albeit aware that the aforementioned researchers had already done a lot of the digging for the Nessie community. The first thing is the alleged twisting of the story by Holiday. To recap, Dallas told Wilkins (via Skinner) that Holiday had screwed up and confused his own sighting with a presumed film taken at Loch Ness by MacRae.

Now since we are told by Dallas' own son that he was prone to telling tall tales, one wonders whether Dallas is the one screwing things up? Reading Holiday's account, it is clear that he mentions not only the two films, but also the Dallas sighting. So it seems Holiday did distinguish between the three events without any conflation. Indeed, it is hard to imagine how Holiday could confuse the story that much.

Mike Dash compares the Dallas sighting with the Holiday description of the Loch Ness film and thinks there are parallels which suggest conflation of stories. I am not so convinced by that. Indeed, one could argue that the description of the Loch Duich creature correlates more with Dallas' own sighting. Note how the Duich creature is described as lying on the shore, just like the Dallas land sighting. It could be argued that Holiday was confusing this rather than the other.

But, if Dallas was a tall tale teller, why trust him ahead of Holiday? On the other hand, if Dallas was lying, how did he manage to connect himself with a doctor from a remote hamlet who was forty years his senior? Form your own opinion on who might be the one who is exaggerating.


The other point of interest is that it was not Dallas that told Holiday about the films, but an unnamed individual at Loch Ness. Indeed, Holiday states that this person told him there were not one but two films. This would appear to be independent confirmation of the films, but Holiday does not say who this person was. However, there is a clue in the text which points to Fort Augustus Abbey.

We are told in Holiday's book that he and Dallas discussed a sighting by a Prior of the Abbey who was a friend of MacRae. Why would they focus on this obscure sighting? What was the catalyst for this minor topic?  I suspect it was because someone at the Abbey was involved in the story of the MacRae mystery. I am only aware of one Abbey Prior who claimed a sighting of the monster and that was Sir David Oswald Hunter-Blair who was in charge of the Abbey until 1917 but returned there on other occasions.

Sir Oswald Hunter-Blair

This abbot connection was not lost on Mike Dash, who wondered if such a person was the third, unnamed trustee. But since Hunter-Blair died in 1939, Mike concentrated on later abbots of the monastery.  I myself am more focused on Hunter-Blair who was one of the Monster’s supporters during the 1930s; which is probably no surprise if he claimed to have seen it.

However, Hunter-Blair was long dead before Holiday's tip off in 1965. Who could the informant have been? One could draw up a list of suspects, but my money is on Fr. Aloysius Carruth, a Brother at Fort Augustus Abbey best known for his popular booklet, "Loch Ness and its Monster".

Fr. Aloysius Carruth

Carruth's Booket

One possible link here is an article by Dick Raynor on this film which says of Carruth:

The last I heard of him was that he was engaged in missionary work in southern Africa. Significantly, perhaps, the Dallas family received a letter from a Catholic mission in southern Africa asking if the McRae film could be used to raise funds for their work.

Did Carruth get wind of the MacRae film via some direct or indirect information from Hunter-Blair? The two men could have overlapped as Carruth's booklet first came out in 1939, so a conversation may have happened before Hunter-Blair died. A search of Carruth's booklet reveals nothing about the film and does not even mention Hunter-Blair's sighting. Ultimately, we won't know anything more without some new revelation.


As to the Hunter-Blair's sighting, this is mentioned in Constance Whyte’s “More than a Legend” published in 1957. However, on checking the two sources stated, I don't think the sighting she refers to was actually witnessed by him. That he did see something is clearly stated in his own book "A Last Medley of Memories" published in 1936. We even read that he recounted this sighting to Pope Pius XI during an audience.

But despite consulting his works and even making further enquiries to his great-great-nephew, nothing more could be gleaned concerning this sighting. For a man who was quick to promote the monster, he was fairly cagey about his own sighting - just one sentence in the whole scanned literature. I had speculated whether Hunter-Blair was present at the MacRae filming, but we won't know from his own briefest of accounts.

But is it possible that the MacRae sighting is already on the record? A look at the four hundred sightings between 1933 and 1936 for descriptions of a beast that rolled like the MacRae one proved to be very rare. I found only one candidate which described a hump, long neck and rolling motion. It is a little known sighting from 15th July 1934 witnessed by a Mrs Biddle from a Fort Augustus hotel who saw the creature moving near the Abbey Boathouse. This is the extract from the Scotsman dated 17th July while the corresponding Inverness Courier article places the sighting at 9am near the Abbey boat house.

The only other report which mentions the creature rolling several times is mentioned in the Inverness Courier dated 14th November 1933, but this was at noon and no neck was observed. Two other reports (6th March 1934 and 21st August 1935) mention a single roll and no neck. Comparing the Biddle with the MacRae description from Holiday, the two sightings are similar, though the Biddle one is more lacking in detail. One striking similarity is how Mrs Biddle describes the creature as resembling a huge slug while Dallas (in Holiday's book) said it reminded him of a worm.

Remember also that Holiday quoted Dallas as saying there were two horn like projections on the head, which reminds us of a similar configuration on your typical slug. I don't say this because the Loch Ness Monster is a giant slug, but because the appearance of it reminded the witness of such an animal.

If MacRae did indeed film the Loch Ness Monster, Was it possible that Mrs Biddle was witness to it from another vantage point further away? If MacRae was beside the Abbey boathouse with his friend, Hunter-Blair, he was in a superb position to see and film the monster.


It would be easy to dismiss all this based on the erratic testimony of Alastair Dallas. But Holiday claimed someone else knew about the films and some of MacRae's living relatives seemed to independently confirm this. Something is out there, but what is not entirely clear.

There are other avenues which as yet remain unexplored, those will be left for another time. As you can see, there is a network of people and possibilities, but, alas, none leads anyone to a roll of film. However, there seems to be enough testimony to some kind of image being taken that keeps the MacRae door slightly ajar.

If there is still a film out there, my own guess is that with the death of the last trustee, it is no longer under a trust, but has moved into the ownership of person or persons unknown. Given the connection with Hunter-Blair, that could be a religious organisation, but who knows?

The sticking point is why MacRae would withhold the publishing of such sensational material. One might think the stated reason of waiting until the subject of the monster was taken more seriously is a self-defeating tactic as such a film would surely make people take the subject more seriously. It seems that M'Rae took this matter personally, though, as the mention of "Scottish persons of repute" being treated like mental defectives, may have involved people he held in regard (such as Hunter-Blair).

But the second stated reason was the distasteful expectation that those who scoffed at the monster, would then rush to profit from it, if the film was released. This is an understandable revulsion, but it is one which could permanently keep such a film from examination.

Ultimately, the scientific establishment still requires a live or dead specimen and nothing is going to change that. Indeed, such a film will not persuade as many now as it would back then, especially in this age of CGI accusations. But, if there is a film, let those who stand together with Farquhar MacRae on this subject view it and let them put forward the case for unveiling it.

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Friday, 3 April 2015

An old Soviet article on Nessie

I noticed that eBay is currently selling a copy of the Soviet magazine "Illustrated Russia" which carries an article on the Loch Ness Monster. The date is January 13th 1934 and it was published in Paris.

Now, I know nothing about reading Russian, I only know that CCCP was the same as USSR but if anyone can translate this, that would be great. The magazine is styled as an emigration magazine, and I guess we should not have expected to see any magazines from Moscow about immigration from the USSR. 

If I was a betting man, I would guess the article would be sceptical in tone. That would be backed up by the picture of the deceptive log and the spurious "bones" find further below. Certainly, a contemporary Nazi article was less than supportive of the idea of a monster in Loch Ness. In turn, why should the Soviets countenance the Capitalist Bourgeoisie pigs having a dubious lake monster depriving the impoverished Proletariat of their hard earned cash? Especially when they don't have their own monster!

The picture of the bones is most likely the same find that was mentioned in an article from the Daily Express dated 27th December 1933 and relates to the digging up hundreds of bones allegedly 150 years old. That was covered in a previous blog article but I don't think we should attach much importance to that find as it all went pretty quiet after they were sent to the Natural History Museum for examination.