“As we were sailing down the loch in my boat we were suddenly disturbed and frightened by a thing that surfaced behind us. We watched it catch us up then bump into the side of the boat, the impact sent a kettle of water I was heating onto the floor. I ran into the cabin to turn the gas off as the water had put the flame out. Then I came out of the cabin to see my mate trying to fend the beast off with an oar, to me he was wasting his time. Then when I seen the oar break I grabbed my rifle and quickly putting a bullet in it fired in the direction of the beast.. Then I watched it slowly sink away from the boat and that was the last I seed of it.”
This startling account of an encounter with a strange creature was written in 1969 by William Simpson
You may be forgiven for assuming that this was one of the many tales written about ‘Nessie’, the Loch Ness Monster, but you would be mistaken, what many people don’t know is that Nessie is not alone, she in fact has a sister called Morag. Now having a sister called Morag isn’t unusual, I’ve got one but mine doesn’t live in a loch and attack small boats!
Morag (the monster) lives in Loch Morar an inland loch around 70 miles to the southwest of Loch Ness. Separated from the sea by only a quarter of a mile it is much smaller than Loch Ness at only 11 Miles long by around a mile and a half wide. Nevertheless its a large enough body of water to hold a secret. Several accounts exist of strange disappearances on the loch, the cold water can swallow a body never to be given up. Recently large bones were pulled up from a spot near the centre of the loch. At first they were thought to be the bones on Morag (or another of her relatives) but investigation found them to be from a deer. Intriguing how a deer could find itself washed into the centre of the loch, maybe it had come down to the loch side for a drink only to be snatched from the bank by Morag!
Sightings of Morag are rare and photographs rarer still, partly this is due to the situation of the loch, far more remote than Loch Ness with only a small single track road for access at one side, also the tourist industry has not capitalised on Morag they way it has with Nessie so less numbers at the loch lead to less sightings.
Although there had long been a tradition that something resided in the loch, recorded sightings only began in the 1800s and have numbered around 30-40, however many of these sightings had multiple witnesses and were far more dramatic as the account above can testify.
From the sightings so far the creature does appear very similar to Nessie, having a small head, long neck and large body similar to a plesiosaur but with the ability to raise its head out of the water. Another sighting in 1968 by John MacVarish, barman at the Morar Hotel confirms this:
“I saw this thing coming. I thought it was a man standing in a boat but as it got nearer I saw it was something coming out of the water. I tried to get up close to it with the outboard out of the water and what I saw was a long neck five or six feet out of the water with a small head on it, dark in colour, coming quite slowly down the loch. When I got to about 300 yards of it, it turned off into the deep and just settled down slowly into the loch out of sight. The neck was about one and a half feet in diameter and tapered up to between ten inches and a foot. I never saw any features, no eyes or anything like that. It was a snake like head, very small compared to the size of the neck-flattish, a flat type of head. It seemed to have very smooth skin but at 300 yards it’s difficult to tell. It was very dark, nearly black. It was 10am, dead calm, no wind, brilliant sunshine. I saw it for about ten minuets travelling very slowly: it didn’t alter its angle to the water. It looked as if it was paddling itself along. There was very little movement from the water, just a small streak from the neck. I couldn’t really see what was propelling it but I think it was something at the sides rather than behind it.”
The number of encounters was such that the Loch Ness Investigation Bureau expanded its search to include Loch Morar in February of 1970. Several studies have been undertaken, however she is a far more elusive creature than her sister and very little evidence has been recorded by the teams, nevertheless the eyewitness accounts exist; from small boys on holiday from Yorkshire up to Sir John Hope (Lord Glendevon) a privy councillor and undersecretary of state for Scotland.
So how did Morag come to find her way into the loch? Well as many theories exist as there are sightings. If her ancestors came into the loch from the sea this would have been possible as sea levels were high enough at times for the loch to have been easily reached from the sea, there is also a theory that some mysterious underground tunnel exists between Loch Ness and Loch Morar both of which lie on the same geological fault line known as the Great Glen. It could be that Morag and Nessie are one and the same or at least they pop up and down to visit for tea and a chat now and again. Maybe swapping stories about how many fishermen they’ve had ‘keech their breeks’ that week!
Other Scottish Lochs are also said to harbour strange creatures: Among these are Loch Lochy, Loch Arkaig, Loch Oich, Loch Linnhe, Loch Quoich, and Loch Shiel. Although Nessie is by far and away our most famous ‘beastie’ Morag deserves recognition too. Just remember the next time you are planning a wee paddle while on holiday in the highlands in the crystal clear Loch you have just discovered, that might not just be a few wee fishes nibbling your toes!
Photos we took of Loch Morar