Make mention of Scottish lake monsters to most people and doing so will inevitably conjure up imagery of the world’s most famous, unknown water beast, the Loch Ness Monster. It’s a little known fact, however, that there are more than a few Scottish lakes with legends of diabolical creatures attached to them. While many of those stories are decidedly fragmentary in nature, one of them is not. Welcome to the world of Morag, the resident beasty (or, far more likely, beasties) of Loch Morar.
At just over eleven and a half miles in length, the loch has the distinction of being the deepest body of freshwater in the British Isles, with a depth of just over 1,000 feet. Unlike Loch Ness, Loch Morar can boast of having practically clear water. It takes its name from the village of Morar, which is situated close by and specifically at the western side of the loch. It was the site of the Battle of Morar – a violent, death-filled confrontation between the Mackenzie and MacDonell clans, which occurred in 1602. As for the monster, Morag, the tales are many.
What makes the Morag cases so different to the ones coming out of Loch Ness, however, is not so much the descriptions of the creatures, but that such reports are often hard to uncover. Unlike Loch Ness, Loch Morar is an isolated, seldom visited loch. It is bereft of much in the way of a large population. The result: tourists to Scotland very rarely visit it. For that reason, just like Las Vegas, what happens at Loch Morar very often stays there. Nevertheless, there are enough classic cases on record to strongly suggest strange things lurk in Loch Morar.
One of the earliest reports came from a man named James McDonald, who claimed a sighting of a humped creature snaking through the waters, late one cold, dark night, in January 1887. An astonishing sighting occurred in 1948, when a man named Alexander MacDonnell sighted a huge animal on the bank of one particular stretch of shore. In a few moments it headed into the water and vanished.
Without doubt the most amazing - and, for the witnesses, nerve-wracking – encounters occurred on the night of August 16, 1969. That was when William Simpson and Duncan McDonnell were traveling on the waters, near the west end of the loch. Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a large animal – possibly thirty feet in length – loomed into view and actually slammed into their boat. When Simpson tried to blast the creature with his shotgun, it sank beneath the waves – as a result of the ear-splitting sound of the gun, both men concluded, rather than as a result of Simpson having actually shot the monster.
As for what the Morags might really be, Richard Freeman, zoological director of the Center for Fortean Zoology says: “As with the Nessie I think the best bet are giant sterile eels. The common eels swim out to the Sargasso Sea to breed then die. The baby eels follow scent trails back to their ancestral fresh waters homes and the cycle begins again. Sometimes, however a mutation occurs and the eel is sterile. These stay in fresh water and keep on growing. Known as eunuch eels no one knows how old they get or how big.
“One theory suggests that these rare, naturally occurring, mutations may now be on the increase due to pollution. PCBs and Beta Blocker chemicals have long been implicated in causing sterility in fish. Could they be causing more eunuch eels in the deep lakes of Scotland? For now, we just don’t know.”
But, just perhaps, one day we will know.