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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


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