Although the phenomenon of the Loch Ness Monster(s) did not begin until 1933, the fact is that there were reports of strange beasts in the lakes of Scotland long before Nessie was on the radar of anyone. Alexander MacDonald made mention of Scottish lake monsters in his 1914 book, Story and song from Loch Ness-side. He said: “The fairy-lover in this story is identified in many parts of the Highlands with the water-kelpie, of which the conception that prevailed generally was one that inspired repulsiveness. There seems no getting away from the fact that, in the far back, obscure corridors of the past, came across the path of man as he slowly but diligently was making his way upward and onward.”
Four years later, Cyril H. Dieckhoff penned Mythological Beings in Gaelic Folklore, which was published by the Gaelic Society of Inverness. He was of the opinion that even though much of what was written about the kelpie was clearly folkloric in nature, he solidly believed that the beasts had a basis in fact. It was his firm belief that the tales were specifically born out of a combination of inherited memory and oral lore of giant, violent creatures of an unknown kind that lived during the earliest years in which the Celts first appeared on the scene. It’s hardly surprising, then, that when the Nessie phenomenon hit the headlines in 1933, Diekhoff became a fervent follower of the mystery and an adherent of the theory that Loch Ness was the home of terrible monsters.
In February 1934, the Scotsman newspaper ran an account of a sighting of one of the Nessies at the turn of the 20th century, possibly between 1902 and 1904, the witness having been admittedly unclear on the precise time. The Scotsman had actually picked up the story from the Canadian press, which had run the story of a man who lived in Inverness thirty years earlier, but who had, by 1934, moved to live in St. Thomas, Ontario. According to the man, and as a young boy, he had been told of a sea serpent that lurked in the waters of Latch Loch. The man told the media that as a child, some thirty years earlier, he went on a fishing trip to Latch Loch with an equally young friend. While there, they heard stories of a local farmer and minister, and two visiting businessmen from Inverness, who had caught sight of an unknown animal’s long neck and serpent-style head, as they stood chatting on the shore, just a few days previously. Not surprisingly, the two boys – although adventurous and excited by the tale – were reluctant to head out to the water and plunder the gull’s nests of their eggs. They were almost certainly in fear of being dragged down to their deaths by the monster.
In 1930, a full three years before the term “Loch Ness Monster” was created and became forever famous, a fascinating account surfaced from a man named Seton Gordon, the author of a book titled A Highland Year. Gordon told his readers of how, just a couple of years before the First World War began (which would have been around 1912 or 1913, since the war began in 1914), a man who lived in the direct vicinity of Loch Ness was enjoying a summer’s day by taking his small boat out on the waters. He ended up wishing he had done nothing of the sort. According to Gordon, the man raced for the safety of the shore. When questioned by his friends what was wrong, the fear-filled man said that while he didn’t expect anyone to believe him, he had encountered a beastly thing loom out of the water. He refused to describe its appearance, beyond stating that he earnestly hoped he would never encounter it again.