Scotland: 80th anniversary of first Loch Ness monster sighting – 140413 1545z

One of the worlds greatest mysteries will be celebrated tomorrow when a special boat trip marks the 80th anniversary of the first modern sighting of the Loch Ness Monster.

On April 14 1933, Mrs Aldie Mackay, manageress of the Drumnadrochit Hotel, spoke of seeing a “whale-like fish” in the loch. Alex Campbell, a water bailiff and part-time journalist, recorded the sighting in the Inverness Courier, under the headline: “Strange Spectacle in Loch Ness”.

Exactly eight decades on since Mrs Mackay first saw something strange in the loch, a group of monster buffs will head out on to the water to raise a glass of whisky to the woman whose sighting sparked a phenomenon that continues to captivate the world.

Adrian Shine, leader of the Loch Ness Research Project and designer of the five-star Loch Ness Exhibition in Drumnadrochit, will lead the excursion, which also includes Edinburgh Fortean Society president Gordon Rutter, Loch Ness investigator Dick Raynor and a number of other noted Loch Ness specialists.

A single malt, “Superstition”, has been specially selected to mark the occasion, along with a blend of port and brandy named “Conviction”. Members of the boat party will also enjoy a slice of “Nessie at 80” birthday cake designed and made by Drumnadrochits own Cobbs Bakery.

Although Nessie herself has not yet confirmed her attendance, she will not be left out of the party, receiving her own beer liberation poured in the loch courtesy of local, Loch Ness Brewery.

Loch Ness expert MrShine, one of VisitScotlands Meet the Scots ambassadors, said: “Even without Nessie, Loch Ness is a place of great beauty and remarkable intrigue, but the first modern sighting by Mrs Mackay was a key date in history, not only for Loch Ness, but for Scotland as a whole.”

Malcolm Roughhead, chief executive of VisitScotland said: “It would be difficult to overstate the importance of Mrs Mackays sighting of the Loch Ness Monster to tourism in Scotland. There are few places in the world where people havent heard of the phenomenon and the 80th anniversary is sure to spark renewed interest and encourage even more visitors to come here and see if they can spot Nessie for themselves.”

Graeme Ambrose, executive director at Destination Loch Ness, said: “Clearly Mrs MacKays sighting has had a huge impact on the worldwide perception and tourism potential of Loch Ness. The icing on the cake is that there is even more to this fascinating area beyond the monster, and we know that visitors to Loch Ness are intrigued, inspired and impressed by what they do see.”

Meanwhile, today there will also be a gathering at The Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition in Drumnadrochit. The reception will include local experts and will meet in Mrs Mackays old dining room (now The Loch Ness Exhibition foyer).Mr Shine will welcome everyone and Mrs Mackay will make an appearance by way of her filmed interview from some 20 years.” - Jenna Conti

Other Reports

The BBC asks……

Loch Ness Monster: Is Nessie just a tourist conspiracy?


The Goodies riding Nessie

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It is 80 years since hotel manageress Mrs Aldie Mackay first reported seeing a “whale-like fish” in the waters of Loch Ness.

Now an academic at St Andrew’s University is trawling through 1,000 eye-witness accounts since to see what they can tell us.

He wryly notes more than a few hotel proprietors among typical spotters. So is “Nessie” just a conspiracy to boost tourism?

It was 14 April 1933 and Mrs Mackay, manageress of the Drumnadrochit Hotel, was driving with her husband along the road to Inverness.

As they drove, she glanced out across the still calm waters of Loch Ness towards Aldourie Castle. There, in the water, she saw something.

Mrs Aldie Mackay Mrs Aldie Mackay, manageress of the Drumnadrochit Hotel, said she saw a “beast” in the loch on 14 April, 1933

In a rare interview years later, she described the moment to marine biologist and founder of The Loch Ness Project, Adrian Shine.

“She said it was black, wet, with the water rolling off it,” he says.

“It went in a circle, round and down. She yelled at her husband “Stop! The beast!”

It is an interesting remark, Mr Shine says.

Start Quote

I suppose it is possible that people have an agenda. But I stress that I believe the vast majority of people are reporting the truth

Dr Charles Paxton University of St Andrew’s

Mrs Mackay’s sighting was reported in the Inverness Courier on 2 May 1933 by Alex Campbell, the water bailiff for Loch Ness and a part-time journalist.

It is widely regarded as the first “modern sighting” of a monster in the loch.

“But the fact that she said “the beast”… It’s as though she knew there was something strange in the loch,” Mr Shine says.

Local legend

There was already one account of a monster in the area dating back to the Middle Ages.

According to Adamnan’s account of the life of Saint Columba, believed to have been written in the 7th century, the Irish monk saw a “water beast” in the River Ness.

But Mrs Mackay’s sighting opened the floodgates.

Police inspectors, bank managers, students, town clerks, lorry drivers, clergymen, forestry workers, office workers, water bailiffs and fishermen were all among the people who claimed to have seen the monster.

Adrian Shine Marine biologist Adrian Shine says he has made a living out of being a sceptical Loch Ness investigator

Tourists and ‘Nessie hunters’ flocked to the area. There were traffic jams around the loch.

There were even a few celebrity spotters such as authors Gavin Maxwell and Sir Compton Mackenzie.

Dr Charles Paxton, a research fellow and statistical ecologist at St Andrew’s University, has so far sifted through 800 of the 1,000 recorded sightings.

And, he adds, a sizeable number came from cafe and hotel proprietors, including Mrs Mackay herself.

Certainly there was much to be gained from the legend.

According to Visit Scotland, Nessie tourism brings in more than Ł1m to the area per year.

Loch Ness facts and figures

  • Loch Ness holds by far the greatest volume of water of any loch in Scotland – measured at 263,162 million cubic feet
  • The maximum depth recorded is around 230m – twice the height of St Paul’s Cathedral
  • Loch Ness is the second longest loch in Scotland at 24.24 miles

So was Mrs Mackay motivated by cynical thoughts of her bank balance?

Mr Shine believes not.

“She was far from a self-publicist. It was her husband who told the water bailiff, and she stayed anonymous in the newspaper report.

“She didn’t say anything for two reasons. Firstly, because she thought she would be seen as self-advertising.

“But also because they used to say for people who had seen something in the loch “take more water with it”… suggesting they were drunks.”

But there are plenty of people who have made a living from Nessie, including Mr Shine himself, who now runs the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition out of Mrs Mackay’s old hotel.

Fame and fortune

“I don’t conceal that I first came seeking fame and fortune, that there was a wildlife mystery and I was the one to solve it,” he says.

“I have become more sceptical over the years, but oddly enough I have made a living out of being a fairly sceptical investigator.

“But I do believe the vast majority of witnesses are sincere…and not drunk,” he adds.

Fake photo British surgeon Colonel Robert Wilson claimed he took this photograph on 19 April 1934

What does Dr Paxton – who is using the Loch Ness phenomenon to analyse how science handles anecdotal and low frequency data – think?

He has trawled through old newspaper clippings, reports, books and records from the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau of the 1960s and 1970s, for all recorded sightings that peaked especially after the infamous ‘surgeon’s photograph’ of 1934.

Highly respected British surgeon, Colonel Robert Wilson, claimed he took his photograph on 19 April 1934, while driving along the northern shore of Loch Ness. It was later revealed to be a toy submarine outfitted with a sea-serpent head.

“I suppose it is possible that people have an agenda,” Dr Paxton says.

“But I stress that I believe the vast majority of people are reporting the truth. They believe they have seen something strange.

“Now there might be a lot of people who are mistaken, but I think they are sincere.”

In fact, Dr Paxton says, analysing the eye-witness accounts may tell us more about ourselves than whether or not the Loch Ness monster exists. He is due to publish the results of his study later this year.

Drumnadrochit Hotel The Drumnadrochit Hotel, which is now the Loch Ness Centre

“I am carrying out a statistical analysis of Loch Ness monster accounts since 1933, specifically looking for clusters in terms of what is reported,” he says.

“In some cases there are multiple witnesses, or witnesses giving multiple accounts of the same event, which allow us to test eyewitness consistency.

“These cases are very interesting because they allow us to consider whether certain witnesses have a tendency to see Nessie more than might be expected by chance alone.”

He could have chosen another unexplained phenomenon to analyse – ghost sightings or Big Foot, for example – but as a former aquatic biologist, Nessie appealed to him.

On Sunday, a boat will set sail onto the still calm waters of Loch Ness.

Onboard will be Dr Paxton, Mr Shine, and a number of other ‘monster hunters’, Loch Ness experts, and Visit Scotland representatives.

They may not agree when it comes to Nessie, but there on the loch they will raise a glass of whisky to Mrs Mackay and 80 years of the legend of Loch Ness.

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Related Internet links

The Beast of Loch Ness – PBS (1998)

Published on 16 Mar 2012

Is it just a fairy tale, or could a primeval beast lurk in the deep, dark waters of a Scottish lake?

Since it was first reported more than 60 years ago, hundreds claim to have witnessed the Loch Ness Monster, while one scientist after another has brought the latest technology to the loch to probe the phenomenon.

Twenty-five years after their first, groundbreaking expedition to Loch Ness, NOVA joins two American scientists as they return to Scotland for one last go at Nessie.

During a three-week expedition, they use state-of-the-art sonar and sensitive underwater cameras in an attempt to track down and identify the elusive beast. Biologists study the ecosystem of the loch to determine if it could support a large animal. Geologists study its history, looking for clues about what kind of creature might have colonized it, and when.

NOVA examines the photographic evidence in the case. And eyewitnesses vividly recount their sightings. Could this legendary creature be real, perhaps a relic from the time of dinosaurs? Or is it a shared illusiona product of myth, mirage and wishful thinking?
Original broadcast date: 01/12/99
Topic: animal biology/behavior, unexplained phenomena

(Video credit: documentarynetwork)


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