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Civic duty prompted keeper of Loch Ness Monster Register to start log of Nessie sightings

By Val Sweeney

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Gary Campbell keeps the Official Loch Ness Monster Register.
Gary Campbell keeps the Official Loch Ness Monster Register.

From grainy photographic images of unidentified objects to strange movements in the water captured on video, Gary Campbell logs all Nessie "sightings".

He is the keeper of the Official Loch Ness Monster Register which to date has 1144 recorded sightings – but none so far for 2023.

The list starts with a sighting in 565 by Irish monk St Columba who had travelled to Inverness to convert Picts to Christianity and continues up to October 2022 when a mother and daughter visiting from the east of Scotland spotted a black lump in the water which twice surfaced before disappearing.

It also includes the sighting 90 years ago this week by hotel manageress Aldie Mackay which sparked the modern-day Loch Ness Monster phenomenon.

Explained: What sparked mystery of Loch Ness Monster?

Argyll-born Mr Campbell, director of economic development and commercial services at University of the Highlands and Islands Inverness, began the register following his own sighting of something unusual in March 1996.

"I was parked up near Abriachan doing some paperwork and saw something in the water," he said.

"It was nothing big - about 10ft to 12ft – and looked a bit like a mini whale but not like anything I had seen before. It lasted a matter of seconds.

"I wanted to report the sighting as my civic duty but discovered no one kept a list."

He subsequently started the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club and with the help of his wife, Kathy, he has been been logging sightings ever since as well as updating the register with historical encounters including previously unreported ones.

"I suppose with my own sighting, I want to know what I saw," he said.

"I believe wholeheartedly there is something in Loch Ness but we don't know what it is."

Mr Campbell said up until the strange spectacle reported by hotel manageress Aldie Mackay in 1933 when the term "Loch Ness Monster" was coined by the Inverness Courier, such sightings were regarded as just another kelpie – a shape-shifting spirit living in lochs, according to Scottish folklore.

He insisted it had not been part of a conspiracy to boost tourism.

"If it had been, there would have been much better publicity but the article appeared on page five in the Inverness Courier," he said.

"If you look back, there were previously quite a number of reports.

"What made this one different is that whoever was editor thought that if it was that big, it must be a 'monster'. That one word changed everything."

He also pointed out that Loch Ness was not alone in being home to a mysterious creature – sightings of unknown creatures had been noted at 23 other Scottish lochs.

"I believe there is something alive and physical in there but we have not found it yet," Mr Campbell said.

"I am not in the sceptic bracket."

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As well as photographs, the register includes sketches, verbal accounts and images spotted on a webcam by Nessie spotters worldwide.

Mr Campbell stressed that the reported sightings are of something unexplained and there are occasions when something has been reported for which an explanation will subsequently be forthcoming.

He recalled, for example, a case in 2021 when a reported sighting turned out to be two paddle boarders.

"I would defy anyone to come to Loch Ness and not have at least one look in the hope of seeing something," he said.

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