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Morag or Mòrag (Scottish Gaelic) is a loch monster reported to live in Loch Morar, Scotland. After Nessie, it is among the best known of Scotland's legendary monsters. The name "Morag" is a pun on the name of the Loch, and of the Scottish female name, "Morag". Sightings date back to 1887, and include some 34 incidents as of 1981. Sixteen of these involved multiple witnesses. Morar lies in a glacially deepened valley on Inverness-shire’s west coast. Twelve thousand years ago, as the ice retreated, sea water is believed to have invaded the lake, bringing with it an abundance of marine life. Even after the sea water retreated, for a few thousand years the sea animals now in the loch may have had fairly ready access to their oceanic home, because the loch level and the low-tide level were only one-third then what they are today. The sea level at high tide would have been within a few feet of loch level.

James Macdonald told the story of his encounter with a creature called Mhorag in January 1887, but it appeared to be more like a Mermaid or Kelpie rather than a Nessie-like animal. Folklorist R. Macdonald Robertson collected this story, describing an undated event from early in the century, from Alexander Macdonnell: Some years ago, we were proceeding one morning down the loch in the estate motor launch from Meoble to Morar pier with some schoolchildren and other persons on board. As we were passing Bracarina Point, on the north side, some of the children excited shouted out: “Oh look! What is that big thing on the bank over there?” The beast would be about the size of a full-grown Indian elephant, and it plunged off the rocks into the water with a terrific splash.

Robertson noted that “Loch Morar’s monster is said to have been seen by a number of persons of unquestionable veracity.” A typical sighting is expressed in the words of one witness: “a huge, shapeless, dark mass rising out of the water like a small island.” Some who saw the shape thought it was, as they told travel writer Seton Gordon in the 1930s, a “boat without sails towing one or two smaller boats after it.” These were ghost ships, they assumed.Modern witnesses at Morar, Ness, and elsewhere often say the creature’s back looks like an “upturned boat.”

In an unpublished memoir written in the early 1940s, Lady Brinckman, who had lived on an estate near the loch five decades earlier, recalled this incident from the summer of 1895: One evening, it was getting towards dinner time and I was sitting looking back, when suddenly, I saw a great shape rise up out of the loch, a good way off. I called the attention of Theodore and McLaren to it and asked if it was the launch and that it did not seem to be coming the right way.McLaren pointed a long way to the left as being where the launch would come from, and then, while we were watching, it disappeared. McLaren said, “It’ll just be the monster,” and he said it was a well known thing that one was seen from time to time.

In September 1931 young Sir John Hope, who as Lord Glendevon would go on to become a privy councillor and undersecretary of state for Scotland, had a curious experience that,while it involved no direct sighting, clearly suggested the presence of some huge unknown animal in the loch.

He, his brother, a friend, and a local guide had gone out on a boat to fish in a deep part of Morar.Hope,who was holding a long trout rod, felt something grab his line, dragging it “directly downwards at such a pace that it would have been madness to try and stop it with my fingers. In a very few seconds the whole line including the backing had gone and the end of the rod broke.” Whatever had taken the bait, it was “something . . . heavier than I have experienced before or since.” It could not have been a salmon that, even if there were one that size in the loch, would have traveled parallel to the surface rather than making a steep vertical descent. Such descents, however, are described in any number of lake monster reports. The only other conceivable candidate is a seal, but no seals are known to exist at Loch Morar. Glendevon says that when they asked their guide what the animal could have been, “he mumbled something and said he thought we had better go home.” Glendevon suspected that he knew more than he was telling.

The most dramatic Morag encounter to date took place on August 16, 1969. It is also the only sighting ever to be reported in newspapers all over the world shortly after its occurrence. It happened as two local men,Duncan McDonell and William Simpson, were on their way back from a fishing trip at the north end of the loch. It was just after 9 p.m. The sun had gone down, but there was still plenty of light. Hearing a splash behind them,McDonell,who was at the wheel, turned to determine its cause. To his astonishment, it turned out to be a creature coming directly toward them, at a speed later estimated to be between twenty and thirty miles per hour. Within seconds it struck the side of the boat, then stopped or slowed down. Though McDonell had the impression that the collision had been accidental, that did not allay his fear that the creature, simply by virtue of its bulk, could cause the boat to capsize.He grabbed an oar and tried to push it away. Meanwhile Simpson had rushed into the cabin to turn off the gas. He returned with a rifle and fired a single shot at the beast, to no apparent effect. It slowly moved away and sank out of sight. These events took five minutes to run their course.

On April 3, 1971, Ewen Gillies, a lifelong resident of a house overlooking Loch Morar and a member of a family with centuries-old roots in the region, saw the creature for the first time. Alerted by his twelve-year-old son John,who noticed it a few minutes earlier while walking down a road near the shore, Gillies stepped outside and looked out on the water. It was a clear, sunny morning, around eleven o’clock.Not quite half a mile away a huge animal lay in the water, its three- or fourfoot neck pointed straight up and curving slightly at the top.

The head was barely distinguishable from the neck itself. Two or three humps, moving up and down slightly, ran along its back. The skin was black and shiny. The creature was approximately thirty feet long. Gillies went into the house to retrieve a Brownie camera. He took two pictures from an upstairs window just before the creature lowered its head, straightened its body, and sank below the water. The pictures did not turn out, but no one accused Gillies, a respected member of the community, of making up the story. He and his son had seen Morag.

The name comes from the Gaelic Mhorag, traditionally believed to be the spirit of the loch and conceived of as a shapechanging mermaid whose appearance was an omen of death if glimpsed by a member of the Gillies clan.With the passage of time and the thinning of population in this wild, remote region, the older folklore faded from memory, and Mhorag (actually pronounced “Vorack”) became Morag, a strange but not supernatural beast seen by some but seldom spoken of. Perhaps because Morag the animal is lost to view or seen only in distorted form through the folkloric fog that hangs over the loch’s history, researchers have had a hard time tracing reports beyond the late nineteenth century.

In the early 1970s investigator Elizabeth Montgomery Campbell interviewed elderly residents who recalled sightings in their youth. Campbell also learned of a “persistent tradition of hideous hairy eel-like creatures that were pulled up by fishermen long ago and thrown back into the loch because they were so repulsive.”

On March 3, 1981, Sydney Wignall, Bryan Woodward, and John Evans were in an inflatable boat west of Brinacory Island when they saw two black humps traveling at the same speed as their boat. They were visible for about 20 seconds.

There is no doubt that Loch Morar possesses an adequate food supply — fish, plankton, and detritus — to support a population of large animals. It is also one of nine Highland lakes with “monster” traditions and reports. (Besides Ness and Morar, the others are Oich, Canisp, Assynt, Arkaig, Shiel, Lochy, and Quoich.) Most sightings at Morar and elsewhere describe creatures bearing an undeniable resemblance to the supposedly long-extinct plesiosaur. If such animals survive, however (and there is no confirmation of this in the fossil record), they would have had to adapt to far colder water temperatures than their ancestors could handle. Roy P. Mackal, a biologist with a keen interest in lake monsters, argues that Morag, Nessie, and their relatives are zeuglodons, primitive, snakelike whales generally believed to have ceased their existence over twenty million years ago.

Sources :
Mysterious Creatures : A Guide to Cryptozoology by George M. Eberhart;
Unexplained! Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurences & Puzzling Physical Phenomena by Jerome Clark;

Pic Source :
Unexplained! Strange Sightings, Incredible Occurences & Puzzling Physical Phenomena by Jerome Clark page 317

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