Steve Feltham may be the man to ask here. He has all the hallmarks. In 1991, 24 years ago, he set up shop on the shores of Loch Ness, and has spent the time since looking for the monster. Needless to say his then girlfriend took a dim view of his decision to live in a £1500 caravan in what is a pretty chilly part of the Highlands (I know it’s chilly, I’ve been there) and she and he parted company.
Did he spot the beastie, first reported by St Columba back in the 6th century? Well, no. He has seen what he thinks may be Wels catfish, which are dressed to impress at 13 feet long and up to 860 odd pounds. These were introduced in the loch by the Victorians for sport fishing. Quite a sport to land one of those suckers. The barmy Mr Feltham thinks the introduction may explain the explosion in sightings later on.
He’s now come to the sad conclusion that Nessie doesn’t exist. Big surprise, since the most famous image of Nessie, the 1934 surgeon’s photo, as it’s known, was shown to be a hoax involving a toy from Woolworth’s. I’m not sure why the Woolworth’s connection pleases me so much, but it does.
Not surprisingly locals have taken his conclusion very badly, since the 1,000,000 annual visitors to Ness bring in quite a lot of dosh. They point out that some very reputable local people (including a solicitor, which is stretching the term reputable to its elastic limit) have seen the monster. I don’t think it matters too much, since the loch itself is very scenic indeed, Castle Urquhart is very mysterious, the village of Drumnadrochit is well worth a visit, and you’re only a cockstride from Inverness, which also has its charms.
Incidentally, at university a I knew a girl whose uncle was Tim Dinsdale, at the time the world’s leading expert on this fraudulent piece of nonsense. He made over 50 expeditions to the loch, and wrote five books on the topic. That’s tricky to do with no hard evidence except for some grainy film footage of what looks suspiciously like the wake of a boat.
Oh yes. Just in case you had any doubt about Mr Feltham’s mental stability, he says he has no regrets about the last 24 years. I’m not too surprised his girlfriend dumped him. I wonder what happened to her?