The Loch Ness Centre is hiring new staff - what's the story behind its monster attraction?
It’s a monster opportunity for someone, but only true believers need apply. Fresh off the back of a £1.5m upgrade, the Loch Ness Centre in Drumnradrochit, is looking for staff to help tell the world about Scotland’s most famous beastie, including a Nessie expert who can give tourists the lowdown on the history of the Loch-dwelling creature. But how did the myth of the monster come about?
When was the first sighting of Nessie recorded?
Though it’s often thought to have been a modern phenomenon, Nessie’s tale is old. Very old. The first sighting dates back to the 6th century, when St Columba, in the area baptising the Picts, was confronted by the beast during a waterside funeral. The Saint is said to have commanded Nessie to return to the water, and when she obliged, he was hailed as a miracle worker – which presumably gave the credentials of Christianity a boost among his heathen hosts.
However, there’s a slight problem with this tale – as it was said to have occurred in the River Ness, not the Loch, and also fits in with other myths about water beasts which seem especially popular in ancient Scotland. Must be all the Lochs.
A sighting of 'Nessie' that turned out to be seals
Ok, that’s the history, but when did the modern myth begin?
You still have to go back more than a century to get the first modern-day recorded sighting of Nessie. In 1933 a woman named Aldie Mackay and her husband John claimed to have spotted Nessie in the water from the nearby A82. Their description of a ‘whale-like- creature ‘rolling in the water and creating waves has become something of a lodestone for similar sightings of the beast, which often mention similar features.
Aldie’s account, published in the Inverness Courier, sparked a wave of sightings that year – and soon the monster was popping up all over the Loch. One veterinary student even claimed to have seen it crossing the road, with his description of a seal-like creature with a small head on a long neck becoming closely associated with the myth.
The 'Surgeon's photograph'
But is there any evidence of a monster in the Loch?
Over the years there have bene various photographs and even footage of strange disturbances in the Loch – and a few that claim to have captured the beast.
The most famous of these was the ‘Surgeon’s’ photograph, published in 1934, which appears to show a creature in the loch with a long, elongated neck. However, it is generally accepted that the picture is that of a miniature submarine with a prosthetic attached, planted as a hoax against the Daily Mail.
There have been attempts to find the monster with sonar, with many uncovering tantalising evidence of something large in the Loch. But no one has any direct proof as yet.
Aside from Nessie, are there any other monsters in Scotland?
Scotland is rich in folklore, from kelpies to red-capped goblins and bog-dwelling beasties, so the country is fertile ground for monster hunters.
The mountain Ben MacDui is said to be home Am Fear Liath Mòr, a grey giant who stalks hikers. And Glamis castle in Aberdeenshire is also claimed to be the lair of a monstrous heir of the Earl of Strathmore, shut in a secret room because of his hideousness (though he occasionally scampered about the ramparts). And there’s even another monster in a loch – Morag, in Loch Morar.
Perhaps she’s Nessie’s sister?