Have I mentioned that I
spend many of my weekends at Airshows, selling meteorites and pieces of
spacecraft? If you would care to investigate this somewhat outre aspect
of my life, click here!
At a recent event, I passed the all-too extended intervals between sales
in conversation with a delightful middle-aged Scotsman by the name of
Having divined my interest in cryptozoology, Brian recounted his own singular
experience, which had occurred in the early 1950's at Irvine, on the Ayrshire
coast of Scotland.....
At the time our hero was
around eighteen years of age. Following a severe storm, Brian was walking
on the beach when he came across a truly bizarre creature: this, at first
glance, resembled a twenty-foot (six metre) long conger eel. Even a cursory
examination proved that the beast was of less prosaic origin, for it had
an eighteen inch 'frill' around its neck below the large-eyed reptilian
Brian examined the strange creature more closely: the smooth skin, lack
of opercula (gill slits!) and fins all indicated a large unknown
reptile or amphibian, rather than any species of fish. Furthermore, there
were few signs of damage or decay, merely occasional puncture marks left
by marauding gulls.
Sadly there is no 'satisfactory' ending to Brian's tale! Glasgow University
was alerted, and the creature was watched over by a police officer until
(predictably!) that night's high tide washed the carcase back out to sea
just a few hours before the experts arrived. And as Brian dolefully added:
in those days, cameras were by no means as common as they are today.
Strange just how many similar and obviously truthful accounts end in this
one time I had pretensions of authorship: then (as now!) I wrote articles
for magazines and newspapers, but set my sights on having something less
ephemeral appear in print.
A friend of mine shared my interests in the paranormal: he eventually
took the cloth to become Father Lionel Fanthorpe, the wrestling vicar
and presenter of 'Fortean TV'. Lionel encouraged me to pursue my ambitions
with a study of Loch Ness: he himself was engaged in writing a book about
the mystery of Rennes Le Chateau and was confident he could find us both
To cut the proverbially long story short, I hired a caravan at the lochside
village of Abriachan, taking along for company a somewhat dour 'Brummy'
called Phil who had spent some time as a volunteer with the Loch Ness
Every morning Phil and I would rise at dawn and drive to a vantage point
above the loch near Urquhart Bay. We would sit and watch the huge expanse
of water until dusk before adjourning to the nearby Drumnadrochit Hotel
for an evening's chat with the locals.
I should at this juncture reveal that both Phil and I are scientists:
he a chemist, I a biologist. While both profoundly interested in the mythology
of the Loch, neither of us had any great expectations of seeing anything,
other than the ubiquitous otters and water-birds that constitute a large
percentage of claimed sightings!
One afternoon we had arranged to spend a couple of hours in the company
of now-famous news presenter Nick Witchell in his caravan overlooking
Urquhart Bay. We were driving towards our rendezvous along the northern
shore when, as we passed the village of Achnahannet, I happened to glance
towards the water. To my amazement a large, living creature was sculling
lazily past the John Cobb marker post on Johnnie's Point. It resembled
nothing more nor less than the grey back of an elephant: I skidded
my Escort Mexico into a layby and Phil and I tumbled down the scree slope
to the lochside. At 50 metres range, it was obvious to us both that we
were watching the back of a living creature that was predating the
shoals of migratory fish concentrated by the jutting peninsula of the
The beast moved
round the point before heading out to mid-loch, where it submerged with
barely a ripple. After a few seconds I turned to Phil, his face a mask
of incredulity. At this point I reflected upon the two cine cameras
with 500 mm lenses on the back seat of the car! What an opportunity we
Since that day in 1972, I have had several similar encounters with the
supernatural and mythical: strange to relate, whenever I have had camera
equipment to hand, I have either failed to use it or (more mysteriously!)
it has failed to function!
The book? Well it was written, but at the eleventh hour, the publisher
decided to use Witchell's manuscript instead of mine!