Nessie is dead, long live Morag, Lizzie, etc, etc

Plesiosaurus: Not in Loch Ness, it turns out
Plesiosauri: Not in Loch Ness, it turns out

In a recent interview, Nessie-expert Gary Campbell gave voice to the unthinkable – that the world-famous sea-beastie may well be dead.

The shockwaves are still rippling across the loch. For not only have we never had conclusive proof that she ever lived, but now we can only look forward to no conclusive proof that she ever died. It’s all a great disappointment, not least to the Highlands of Scotland Tourist Board.

But it’s premature to burn the Nessie paraphernalia right away. Even if she’s gone, there are potentially plenty more fish, or monsters, in the sea. Scotland’s lochs team with these swimming cryptos. Just change the badge on the green wooly toy to Morag and the lucrative line in fluffy green toys can continue under another name.

The earliest reported sighting of a monster was, of course, at Loch Ness when Saint Columba was said to have grappled with a “water beast”. OK, so “grappling” suggests a big, bad fight (and is probably how it would be portrayed in a Hollywood movie) but the saint actually just made the sign of the cross and commanded the beastie to “go back at once”.

Now, some cynics might think that Adomnán – one of Columba’s followers – just made this story up in what would constitute a very early, and largely successful, piece of spin. Whatever the origins, the myth was born.

And why have one monster when you can have many. To date there are beasties sploshing around everywhere from Loch Arkaig to Loch Suaniaval. Some have names – like Lizzie – while most remain unchristened.

The most famous not-Nessie-monster is probably Morag, named after her watery residence in Loch Morar, north of Fort William. Reported sightings of her have been reasonably frequent and descriptions are very similar to her Loch Ness cousin.

The most famous sighting of Morag was in 1969 when Duncan McDonell and William Simpson were fishing the loch. As in all good sea-monster stories, a long, scary creature rushed the boat at speed. In fear and panic they began to shoot at the creature, who swiftly dived beneath the surface. They were both adamant that they had been attacked by a 20-30 feet long monster with humps.

With so many contenders for the crown of the new Nessie it behoves us to question what these things could be. As you’d expect there have been a number of theories, but the most commons ones hold that:

  • That the animals are zeuglodons, giant prehistoric snake creatures that palaeontologists believe became extinct over 20 million years ago.
  • That they are plesiosaurs – marine dinosaurs.
  • These are just logs bouncing on the waves.
  • Or the humble sturgeon.

Whatever they are we’d all better hike to the Lochs with binoculars and keep our eyes peeled. 2009 was a duff year for beastie-spotting, so let’s all make sure that 2010 becomes the Year of the Beast.

If you do spot anything, especially in Loch Ness, then let the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club know. They’d be delighted to hear from you.

  • Nessie is a lucrative towrist attraction, cheaper than the Jelly Bean, who does not exist in Republican Scotland.

  • A myth a concoction of the Northern Picts in an attempt to scare off the 6th century march of Christianity into their lands.

  • Anither Rab

    Gin Nessie bides in Loch Ness, hou in the name o the wee man can it be descrived as a “world-famous SEA-beastie”?

  • TOWrist attraction? Is this some strange cult of folk who delight in having their Morris Minors propelled by a large man on a bicycle with a rope… Or perhaps a type of Monk? A bit like a Trappist only easier to get away from?

    Nessie is of course alive, well and gorging on Jelly Beans at a PR agency somewhere in the West End of Glasgow where she’s been having an extended Christmas break. Taking only the occasional dip in Hogganfield Loch of a Sunday morning…

    Expect to see her making a personal appearance soon at a wee twee Highland gift shoppe near you…

  • Lianachan

    The first reported sighting of “Nessie” was in the RIVER Ness, not the loch. It was reported over a century after it was claimed to have happened, and by somebody who wasn’t there. Adomnan credits Columba with fighting off several beasties all over the Highlands, and the purpose behind those stories were very clear – look how your native gods and spirits do what my God tells them. After that, there is no mention whatsoever of any monsters around Loch Ness until the 1930’s….. and that’s in a culture that’s famous for its myths and legends, and the preservation of both in song. Or, in summary: it’s all a pile of nonsense!

    • Cluny

      The old, “My imaginary friend is better than your imaginary friend!” argument, always a favourite.

  • Westhighlander

    Well it does seem odd, doesn’t it, that the numbers of sightings are very far down in recent years compared to those of the 50s 60s and 70s. I speak as one who is the of third generation of one family to have seen the LNM. I also know very well indeed the two men, and the (then) children who accompanied them when perhaps the most publicised story of Morag, of Loch Morar, broke, and I would take their word on the event even before my own.

    As for the mention of the 30s in the previous post, there were sightings from both Foyers on the south side of the loch, and from Fort Augustus at the western end, over many years, also from Drumnadrochit, about 14 miles west of Inverness on the north side. Apart from the aforementioned being the only settlements of those times which afforded any kind of view of the loch (apart from the village of Dores) the new road (A82) along the south side of the loch was only opened in, I think, 1932, and after that, sightings became more frequent.

    It is even more interesting to note that the decreased frequency in sightings has coincided with a huge increase in leisure traffic on the loch, particularly since about the mid-70s. I think the increase in traffic WITHIN the confines of the Caledonian Canal, since about 1975 when Caledonian Cruisers and other companies began to be taken seriously and expanded rapidly, must be of the order of several hundred percent. THROUGH traffic in the canal, in both directions, has also increased substantially since around the same time, but nowhere near as much.

    Now, if you were a monster, would you really want your head above the water with all those boats about?

    I know from local knowledge that the number of boats going to the head of Loch Morar has decreased substantially over the same period as above. It was never a big number anyway, and they weren’t boats with big noisy diesels either. Of the 6 or 7 times I myself have been to the head of the loch over the past ten years I’ve never seen another boat there with me. Less quiet and unobtrusive boats, less sightings – and in the case of Loch Ness, more noisy boats, less sightings. So while Morag may still be basking on the surface through the day and will rarely be disturbed, Nessie probably keeps her head well down, and only comes up when she feels the vibrations of snoring holidaymakers, fast asleep in their plastic cruisers!

  • Fudgefase

    Why not blame global warming/climate change? It seems to be responsible for everything else…..