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Monday, 26 February 2018

BEASTLY BLAGGERS AND FISHERMANS TALES


THE MACRAE FILM
"Honestly Guvnor! its mouth was this big!!!"
Photo by Nily Ron

The existence of this film is legendary, a kind of grail-like quest, passed on by word of mouth or in dusty, moth-eaten books about cryptozoology and occupying the bookshelves of the cooler granddads out there. Now sadly, unread for years and languishing in this internet age, in between a sort of mythical half-truth and hopeful allegory.

The story began when renowned Loch Ness researcher and author, Ted Holiday told of a meeting he had with a man named Alistair Dallas, from Kirkcudbright who claimed to have seen 2 extraordinary and conclusive pieces of Loch Ness Monster footage; or to be more accurate, 1 film of the Loch Ness Monster and another film of a similar Nessie-like creature, in Loch Duich. 

The films in question had been recorded in the 1930's by a Dr MacRae, a physician who had retired to a house along the shores of Loch Duich. In his 1968 book, 'The Great Orm of Loch Ness', Ted Holiday recounts Mr Dallas' description of the films, starting with the animal filmed in Loch Ness:

'Mr. Dallas told me that this film runs for several minutes. Three humps, together with the neck and head, are clearly visible. The neck is held low over the water and seems to be writhing to and for. During the sequence, a bird flies down and lands on a stone in the foreground, which helps to give scale to the picture. The Orm's head appears to be bluntly conical in profile - rather like half a rugger ball, to quote Mr Dallas. On the crest of the head are two horn-like sense-organs. Starting between these, and running down the neck, is a bristly mane. Mr Dallas said that this mane reminded him of baleen; it is stiff yet flexible and the texture seemed to him fibrous rather than hairy. Slit-like eyes can be made out on the head but they are not very distinct. Occasionally, the animal, rolls in the water and one of the forward flippers makes an appearance; it is thick and fleshy and seems to be capable of independent movement. The skin looks tough and leathery. Another interesting feature is the fact that the head seems to be in a state of continuous flux or movement, apparently due to the play of muscles under the skin.

He then goes on to describe the animal in Loch Duich:

'The second film, which was also taken by Doctor MacRae, shows a creature lying in Loch Duich - a sea-loch on the Scottish west coast. The monster is lying against the shore and is writhing its neck over a bed of seaweed. It differs from the Loch Ness specimen in having a longer neck and a mane which looks tufted. A man appears in the picture during this sequence, probably in the background.'

At first glance, this story seems to be the map to El Dorado (for cryptozoologists anyway!.) A reliable, descriptive film taken by a reputable retired doctor, would seemingly hold a lot of weight. But, this all comes crashing down with Ted's news that Mr Dallas claimed that Dr MacRae had decided to leave the film evidence in an unnamed bank vault in a safety deposit box, under the trusteeship of Mr Dallas himself, a then deceased colonel - Sir Donald Cameron and a 3rd
unnamed person, until such a time as the academic study of the monster, was taken more seriously. Furthermore, Mr Dallas claimed that he was allowed to speak about the film but not allowed to reveal it, as talking about it did not break the terms of his trusteeship.

This style of fisherman's tale, the one that got away, so to speak; constitutes the greatest threat to the credibility of the study of unknown animals and maligns the reputation of serious cryptozoologists
everywhere. The 'Carrot and Stick' method here tends to keep one trying to attain the unattainable, regardless of how many times you take a beating from that stick and in this instance, I can only conclude that Ted Holiday's sincere desire to find evidence of the creatures of Loch Ness and other bodies of water, dimmed his sensitivity to this obvious rouse. I would happily conclude in this case, that the MacRae film never existed and was a total fabrication, either by Alastair Dallas, or by Ted Holiday (which is more doubtful), to imbibe his long study and research at the loch with the possibility of success or at the very least, a hope of uncovering definitive evidence. That is, of course, if only the mysterious persons involved would be willing to reveal it.

I do not doubt that there is hidden and withheld footage out there somewhere of the monster of Loch Ness and others as well; kept hidden for reasons of reputation, financial leverage or most commonly in my unmitigated opinion, because of the philosophical implications of finding a living 'dinosaur'. And yet, the MacRae films are not one of those examples.

This highland folktale is replete with marvellous circumstance and unlikely players, not to mention the only other named witnesses being deceased at the time the tale was told. Holiday was also said to have followed up the matter with the present Donald Cameron of Loch Eil, who denied any knowledge of the films and as his letters to Alastair Dallas went unanswered, he concluded he could take the matter no further.

Again, these details unravel a dead end story with no corroborative witnesses and few compelling facts. It is in itself, a true representation of a typical legend of Loch Ness. Constituting and continuing an unfortunate and enduring foray into folklore and fantasy.


Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

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Sunday, 4 February 2018

WHAT'S WITH THE HABITUDE?

The Fight in the Forest
by Hans Burgkmair,
Bigfoot is big business these days! The 'merch' merchants are out in force, selling you everything from t-shirts to tortillas and kaftan's to coffee! There are Bigfoot tours, seminars, conferences, television documentaries and also some very serious research and scientific study! This astonishing multi-faith mix of manifold disciplinarians, collaborating (loosely) in the name of our elusive hairy hominid friend, whose popularity, it could be easily contended, proclaimed, or even professed, has eclipsed Nessie, now making 'it' the world's number one cryptid, is both exciting and treacherous to the uninitiated!

It is in this climate of self-made bigfooters, with their gofundme...ish campaigns, that we find, in small doses at least, some modern day sightings seeping out from some of the globe's lesser known, or at least lesser publicised Bigfoot locales.

The primacy of North America's Sasquatch in the promontory of the public minds eye, goes a little way to justifying the seemingly youthful appearance of other Bigfoot phenomena, making their way slowly to the front of the queue, appearing as brand new customers to the cryptid cashier, whose vision of the smaller 'squatch' has been understandably obscured by the giants she's been serving, over these past few decades!

This brings me neatly, of course, to our very own cryptid and cousin of North America's Sasquatch -  the British Bigfoot; or, as it has been referred to throughout its history - The Wodewose.  This beast, that has been depicted throughout European history upon the heraldry of many noble families as a tall, hair covered man, was once arguably ethno-known, among our ancient population as 'the wild man of the woods', a forest spirit, or guardian. (A description that is not too far removed from those of the first nations people of North America, the Sherpa peoples of Nepal and the Aboriginal peoples of Australia; as well as countless other archaic and original inhabitants of other lands.)

One of the external issues that affects the credibility of those researching these creatures in other 'smaller' or less 'squatchy' parts of the world, is that of Bigfoot's perceived habitat requirements and the alleged unavailability of untenanted or unpopulated land within which, it could reside unseen.
Putting these assumed base requirements aside, the British Bigfoot has actually been sighted hundreds of times in recent decades, with regular sightings being reported up to this very day, from diverse locations, throughout the length and breadth of the country - from the tops of our mistiest mountains, right down to the bottom of some of our most narrow and stagnant Glens.

The evidence for the existence of these animals is primarily anecdotal at present (eyewitness reports mainly), with some unsubstantiated blurry photos, footprints and stick signs thrown in for good measure, amidst other interesting evidence, such as researcher, Bigfoot Tony's 'tree pusher', accidentally captured on film somewhere in South Wales. And researcher, Neil Young's 'Infrasound' recording, captured at Harwood Forest, Northumberland!

Amidst this accumulating body of evidence, we find the 'regulation rebuttal' given by sceptics and Sasquatch fans alike, which is that, 'Britain lacks the available habitat and food sources to sustain a population of large hominids and keep them well fed and (mostly), well hidden from man.'

This misnomer, this Mandela effect of poor habitat, or perhaps to be more accurate, no habitat; has had a strong hold on the urban population of Britain (and the world) for many years. And yet, it is a surprisingly easy myth to dispel with freely available statistics and facts. The illusion of urban Britain, most probably engendered in the inception and franchising of the industrial revolution from our tiny island out unto the ends of the known world, is one that I hope to put to bed in this blog. Leaving in the aftermath of its sleepy collapse, into what I hope to be a permanent slumber, the clear light of a green field, on a sunny urbanless day!

There was, in 2012, one of the most complete studies of urbanisation in the UK, which was undertaken by the UK National Ecosystem Assessment. They were surprised to discover that only 6.8% of the UK's land area could be classified as urban" (a figure inclusive of rural development and roads). The figures when broken down amongst the 4 primary nations that make up the UK portrayed a picture far different from that which is enshrined in the mind of the average British city dweller, convinced of the lack of available green space in our allegedly tightly packed, tiny island!

Instead, this exhaustive study of our land found that the urban landscape only accounts for 10.6% of England, 1.9% of Scotland, 3.6% of Northern Ireland and 4.1% of Wales. This means that a whopping 93% of the UK is not urban. This tired illusion of urbanisation is further diminished by the studies finding that 54% of the land in our towns and cities is also green space (parks, allotments, football fields etc.) Our gardens further use up another 18% of urban land, and our waterways and reservoirs a further 6.6%.  In England alone, 78.6% of urban areas are natural! This leaves a miserly 2.27% of England's landscape that is actually built upon, meaning that England (the most populated country in the UK) is nearly 98% natural! And they dare to say, "there is no habitat!?"

Of course, in the light of these figures demonstrating the general isolation the average city Brit has from the wild places he is ironically surrounded by, it is not unexpected that the next objection that the unwilling would venture, is that of the lack of food in our unproductive garden. As to what there is for a Bigfoot to eat in the British Countryside, again, a few simple statistics will easily illustrate the bountiful disposition of our green and pleasant land.

In the U.K., there are currently somewhere in the region of 1.5 million deer running wild. Rabbit numbers are somewhere around the 37.5 million mark. we have 33.337 million sheep, most of which graze on our hills and in our fields. There are 4000 wild boar, 62,000 breeding pairs of Canada Geese with a further 192,000 birds wintering here. We've myriads of game birds, wildfowl, small mammals, and healthy salmon and trout stocks, amongst many other fish species in great numbers in our rivers and lakes. There is also widespread crop growing and other available foodstuffs like wild berries and roots that grow year round. More than enough for an omnivorous, opportunistic and intelligent animal to exploit to its benefit!

There is another default argument that the majority of rural UK is intensively farmed and the actual remote areas are very small and encroached upon by our farming and high population density, but again in reality this exclusion is based upon an assumption and does not stand up to scrutiny. What we in fact see is, that although 70% of the total land is classified as agricultural, only 25% of the total land area is croppable (two thirds of production is devoted to livestock, one third to arable crops.) Most of the rest of the agricultural land is grassland, rough grazing, or woodland. So in actuality, the word  'farmland' is misleading. To use the most populous UK nation as an example again: We find that the rural population of England is estimated at 9.3 million people and that within this number, only 0.5 million people live in sparse settings. Further illustrating the available 'space' in England, is the fact that the percentage of urbanisation presented here in my article, is also inclusive of rural settlements and roads.

So, what we have here is an environment that is not entirely understood by its native population, that is spacious, underpopulated and healthy enough in provision for this cryptid creature to thrive in almost undetected. Something that the British Bigfoot or Wodewose, would seem to have mastered, over the many millennia it has spent living among us!


Written by Andrew McGrath

'Beasts of Britain' is now available in Paperback and Kindle 

Follow 'Beasts of Britain' on Facebook & Twitter