The Obsessive Life and Mysterious Death of the Fisherman Who Discovered The Loch Ness Monster

A humble Scotsman saw something strange in the water—and daringly set out to catch it—only to have lecherous out-of-towners steal his fame and upend his quest.

The Obsessive Life and Mysterious Death of the Fisherman Who Discovered The Loch Ness Monster

andy Gray was fishing in the peat-black waters of Loch Ness when he discovered an unusual animal. It was a sleety Saturday in March 1932, and the animal was a large, elaborately colored bird with a glossy green head, a fan of coppery-red plumes, and a dark-metallic breast. Sandy spent much of his free time on the loch (the Scottish word for “lake”) and knew that this creature was a rare discovery. The bird was badly injured; it appeared to have been shot or trapped. Sandy, a bus driver from the tiny loch-side village of Foyers, attempted to save it. He took it home but could only keep it alive for a few days. After it died, Sandy took it to the nearby town of Inverness to have it identified.The bird, according to the Inverness librarian, was a mandarin duck. It was native to Asia and entirely alien to Loch Ness, which carves a glaciated furrow through the rugged splendor of the Scottish Highlands. It seemed that the duck had escaped or otherwise been released from captivity into an unfamiliar habitat. Sandy’s remarkable find was reported in newspapers across Scotland. “Beautiful Visitor to Loch Ness,” read one headline.

It was not the last time Sandy Gray would be in the papers for an unusual encounter at Loch Ness.

Alexander “Sandy” Gray was born within sight of the loch on March 28, 1900. He grew up in Foyers, midway along the southeastern shore, in a secluded home known as the Bungalow. His father, Hugh, was a foreman at the British Aluminium Works smelting plant, which was hydroelectric-powered by the dramatic 140-foot cascade of the Falls of Foyers. The stone gable–fronted plant employed several hundred workers, and since opening in 1896 it had transformed Foyers from a tiny sheep-farming community, where many residents spoke the Scots Gaelic language, into an expanding industrial village.

The Bungalow was a large green-painted wood and corrugated-tin structure surrounded by well-kept lawns, rose beds and vegetable patches. Set in trees behind the plant, it had separate dwellings for family and for lodgers, and it became a hostel for plant workers. It also had a large room known as the Bungalow Hall, where Sandy’s mother, Janet, hosted tea parties for the local community and his father hosted temperance meetings. The Bungalow Hall also served as Foyers’ church and schoolhouse before the villagers built dedicated buildings.

Sandy and his younger brother, Hugh Jr., or Hughie, sang in the church choir and attended Sunday school together. Foyers was an idyllic place to grow up, where the local children enjoyed adventures in the forests, by the shore, and on the water. The boys had three young sisters, Bessie, Anne and Mary, though Anne, the middle sister, died in infancy in 1905. There were other tragedies in Foyers. Aluminum smelting was a new and dangerous process, and an explosion killed one young man and seriously injured several others at the works. And inside the rubble-stone plant, amid the volcanic heat of the smelting furnaces, the then-underestimated threat of toxic aluminum dust lingered in the air.

The village’s favorable location provided direct access to the loch, and salmon and trout were bountiful in the murky freshwater. Many of the villagers were keen shore and boat fishermen.

When he was a very young boy, Sandy heard a peculiar story from his uncle. Donald Gray was a fishing tackle maker who ran a bait and tackle store in Inverness and often fished in Loch Ness. According to his story, Donald and several other men were drawing in a salmon net when it suddenly resisted and their hauling ropes were wrenched five or six feet back into the water. The startled men held onto the ropes for a few silent moments. Then a huge force ripped the ropes from their hands and dragged the net off into the loch and under the surface, never to be seen again. Other locals had similar tales, although insularity and superstition meant that they were rarely told outside of their communities. Like many kids from the banks of Loch Ness, Sandy grew up with an ingrained belief that there was something strange in the water.

Sandy fished on the loch from an early age. It was while he was fishing in 1914, as a teenager, that he first saw what he believed to be an extraordinary creature in the loch. He was in a small fishing boat off of Dores, a little way north of Foyers. He recalled seeing a large black object, around six feet wide, protruding above the water. When it sank, it left a swirling vortex on the surface of the loch. Sandy said he was impressed by the object’s apparent bulk, and he estimated its weight to be around 15 tons — more than twice the heft of an average African elephant.

There were porpoises in the loch in 1914. They had entered from the Moray Firth along the River Ness and were a rare spectacle that might have confused those who saw them. But even with hindsight, Sandy was very clear about what he had seen.

In subsequent years, Sandy spent much of his time on the water fishing for salmon that ran from the rivers into the loch. He became an accomplished fisherman, with his notable catches reported in the angling columns of Scottish national newspapers. One paper called him “an expert fisher and boatman.” He knew the loch and its inhabitants as well as anyone.

Sandy’s father died in 1921 following a cerebral hemorrhage, which can be caused by exposure to aluminum dust. Sandy decided not to follow his father into the aluminum plant, and instead became a bus driver, carrying passengers from Fort Augustus, at the southern end of the loch, along the shoreside road to the villages of Inverfarigaig and Dores and up past Lochend to Inverness. As the eldest child, Sandy was now responsible for looking after his mother and siblings by bringing home a wage and catching enough fish on the loch to feed the family.

It was while fishing on the loch, probably in 1930, that Sandy had another inexplicable encounter. He was with two other fishermen when they saw a large salmon leaping through the air toward their boat. It was unusual behavior that the experienced men had not seen in the loch before, and they agreed that the fish must have been being pursued by a large predator. As it approached the boat, the salmon disappeared below the surface. Another fisherman described a “terrible noise” and “a great commotion with spray flying everywhere.” Whatever was beneath the water created a wave about two and a half feet high and caused the boat to violently rock. The predator remained unseen, but the men were convinced it was the loch’s mysterious inhabitant.

Inverness newspaper The Northern Chronicle published a brief report of what seems to be this incident — although Sandy is not named — on August 27, 1930, under the headline “What Was It? A Strange Experience on Loch Ness.” This is the earliest-known newspaper report of an encounter with the mysterious creature in the loch. There was a brief flurry of local interest but the story did not make it outside of the Highlands, and the creature remained a local legend.

In October 1932, Sandy married Catherine Kennedy, the daughter of another Foyers aluminum worker. He moved out of the Bungalow into a recently built stone cottage with a prime view of the loch and its majestic backdrop of Highland fells, near Catherine’s family at a row of houses named Glenlia. Sandy and Catherine settled into a quiet life in their peaceful surroundings. Sandy continued to drive his bus around the loch and fish from his boat on its waters. Then, six months after his wedding, Sandy reported seeing the strange creature in the loch again. This sighting would turn his quiet life upside down and help change Foyers and the loch forever.

It was late May 1933, and Loch Ness was experiencing an early glimmer of summer, with lilac heather blooming across the craggy hillsides, the fresh scent of Scots pine hanging crisp in the air, and the warm sun casting a shimmering glow on the loch. Sandy was driving his bus along the shore road when he saw a large dark shape moving across the water’s surface. He tried to gauge its considerable speed as he jammed on the accelerator to match the object’s course along the loch, but he said he was “unable to overtake it.”

Sandy’s sighting was the first to be reported in newspapers beyond Inverness. The Aberdeen Press and Journal, in its headline on May 23, christened the mysterious creature the “Loch Ness ‘Monster’” — which would become its enduring name. And the newspaper’s report, along with others in the Scottish press, noted something else. Sandy Gray had not only seen the Loch Ness Monster: He was going to attempt to catch it.

The Aberdeen Press reports on Sandy Gray’s sighting of the mysterious creature in the loch, May 23, 1933.

Part 2: The Monster Hunt

Loch Ness is more than 10,000 years old. It was formed by glacial erosion along the Great Glen Fault toward the end of the last Ice Age. Today, it is the largest lake by volume in the United Kingdom, containing more than twice as much water as all of the lakes in England and Wales combined. It is 23 miles long and, at its broadest point, 1.7 miles wide. Its freshwater is inky black and opaque, due to the leaching of tannins from the peat-rich surroundings. In the 1930s, there was no accurate measure of its depth. Modern sonar equipment has since measured the deepest point of the loch at 889 feet, although that measurement is disputed. Even today, it is impossible to know all of its secrets.

A view of Loch Ness published by the Scotsman newspaper, 1933. (Image by Johnston Press plc., courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive.)

The loch’s wild and mysterious grandeur attracted tourists even before anyone outside of the Highlands had heard of the monster. In 1933, it was possible to take a sleeper train from London to Inverness for a weekend at the loch, or to book a four-day motor coach tour from Edinburgh at a cost of £7 (£500 or $620 in 2020). Fishing, boating and swimming were popular at the loch long before monster hunting. Tourists were yet to outnumber locals, but that was soon to change.

Increasing tourist traffic required better infrastructure, and a new highway, the A82, was under construction along the loch’s northwestern shore. Described as “a great boon to holiday-makers from the south,” the road’s construction required the felling of large swathes of trees and the dynamiting of deep walls of rock. Some locals said that they feared the blasting might have awoken something from the depths, something they believed had inhabited the loch for centuries.

The first recorded sighting of a strange creature in the loch appeared in the sixth-century A.D. document Life of St. Columba. The ancient text recalls how Christian missionary Columba saved a man from the jaws of a “water monster” in the “Lake of the River Ness.” In the centuries that followed, superstitions about mythical creatures such as water kelpies and water horses haunted the loch. Regular sightings of something strange in the water convinced many that the superstitions were based on fact. In 1933, after Sandy’s reported sighting, The Scotsman newspaper said that the legend of a monster in Loch Ness was “known to most or all of the inhabitants of the district.”

Sandy made his attempt to catch the monster during the last weekend of May 1933, fueled by his three decades of strange tales and experiences. His usual catch was Atlantic salmon, a species with an average weight of around 10 pounds. Sandy once made The Scotsman’s angling column after landing a salmon weighing 19 pounds. By his own reckoning, the Loch Ness Monster weighed more than 30,000 pounds. “Realizing that such a fish would require something stronger than the conventional fishing outfit, Mr. Gray has had special tackle made,” noted The Aberdeen Press and Journal.

This special tackle, rigged for him in Inverness — likely by his Uncle Donald, whose story had first implanted the legend in his mind as a small boy — consisted of a sealed barrel attached via 50 or so yards of strong wire to heavy-duty treble hooks, which were baited with dogfish and skate. Sandy aimed to “play” the monster “very much as an expert angler plays a salmon.” He hoped that, if the monster took the bait, the barrel would sink to a certain depth, then return to the surface, indicating the presence of its huge catch.

Sandy placed his rig into the water off of Foyers and followed the barrel as it drifted southwest toward Fort Augustus. It was a cloudy and cool day, and the loch was calm and still. After several miles, the barrel changed direction and began to move back up toward Foyers. Sandy’s experience on the loch meant that he was familiar with its changing currents, which moved in opposite directions, often in defiance of the prevailing winds. Eventually, the barrel came ashore. Sandy hauled in the wire and examined the hooks. The bait was untouched.

His attempt to catch the monster had failed, although Sandy said he planned to try again. He doesn’t seem to have done so, perhaps because, a Foyers villager recalled, he was laughed at by some skeptical locals when they read the reports of his initial effort. But the coverage generated considerable interest. News of this strange creature lurking in a mysterious loch spread nationally across Scotland. The Loch Ness Monster, as the newspapers now regularly called it, was no longer a local curiosity. Sandy had lifted the lid off of a legend, and a flurry of new sightings began to spill out.

Curious men scan Loch Ness looking for the monster, 1933.

Inverfarigaig resident Alexander Shaw, who had previously been a nonbeliever, watched a fast-moving dark hump for 10 minutes through a telescope. A group of workmen blasting on a hillside for the new road spotted a “massive creature” that appeared to be following a trawler up the loch. Two young women, Miss Keyes and Miss Smith, saw what they described as a monster with flippers or huge legs “careering round in great circles.” Passengers on a shore road bus — perhaps driven by Sandy — saw an unusual creature with a “big head” frolicking in the water. It was also sighted from Fort Augustus, at the southern end of the loch, and then a little further north, from Inchnacardoch, where Robert Meiklem saw through powerful binoculars a creature “as big as a horse” with a peak-shaped back dotted with “knobbly lumps.”

Then on August 4, 1933, The Inverness Courier published a letter from George Spicer, a director of the prestigious London tailoring firm Todhouse, Reynard & Co. Spicer had been vacationing at Loch Ness when, on July 22, he had an unusual encounter while driving between Foyers and Dores. According to Spicer, he saw a “dragon or prehistoric animal” cross the road some 50 yards in front of him and disappear into the loch. The creature had a long neck, a large body and a high back. It was “very ugly,” and Spicer suggested it should be destroyed. He admitted that he could not give a better description, as it had moved so swiftly. But, he concluded, “There is no doubt that it exists.”

Spicer’s story percolated slowly through the Scottish press and down through England, gaining traction perhaps because Spicer was a well-regarded Savile Row businessman rather than a Highlands bus driver. It would eventually become the most famous early encounter with the Loch Ness Monster, eclipsing Sandy’s sighting and his attempt to catch it, and more or less erasing Sandy from subsequent retellings of the monster story. But Sandy’s involvement with the Loch Ness Monster was not over. He would be dragged back into the hunt for the creature following an extraordinary announcement from his brother: Hughie said that he had also seen the monster — and had a photograph to prove it.

Hughie Gray was a year younger than Sandy. He had been employed at the aluminum works as a fitter since the age of 15, and he now lived at a residence known as the New Hut, right next to the Bungalow, along with several other workers. Every Sunday after church, Hughie took a walk by the loch with his camera. On this particular Sunday, November 12, 1933, he sat on a ridge about 30 feet above the water. “The loch was still as a millpond, and the sun was shining brightly,” he recalled. Suddenly, a large object rose out of the loch, around 200 yards from shore. Hughie only got a brief look and couldn’t identify what it was, but, he said, “I got my camera into position and ‘snapped’ it.”

Hughie took five pictures, but he had such a fleeting view of the object that he doubted the long-exposure box camera could have captured it. And if it had caught something, he feared being mocked — just as his brother had been. “I was afraid of the chaff which the workmen and others would shower upon me if I said I had a photo of the monster,” he said. So the spool of film sat in a drawer at their mother’s house, the Bungalow, for three weeks. Then Hughie told Sandy, and Sandy took the film to a pharmacy in Inverness to be developed.

Four of the five shots were blank exposures. The fifth was not. It appeared to show something — an indistinct, blurry gray object — thrashing about in the water. Both Sandy and Hughie were convinced it was the monster. They gave the photograph to the Daily Record, a Scottish national newspaper based in Glasgow. The negative was examined at the newspaper’s offices by a group of photographic experts, including two representatives of Kodak, who confirmed that there was no trace of tampering.

Hughie provided a sworn statement, detailing how he had taken the photo, in the presence of a Record reporter, a representative of the aluminum works, and a local bailie (or magistrate) named Hugh Mackenzie. “Mr. Gray is highly respected by his employers, his fellow workmen, and the people in the district,” said Mackenzie. “I was very much impressed by the straightforward way in which Mr. Gray told his story.”

The Daily Record and its English sister paper the Daily Sketch both published the photograph on December 6, with a guarantee that it had not been retouched, under the headline “Is This the Loch Ness Monster?” Other newspapers published a retouched version that emphasized shapes resembling a tail, flippers and a mouth. This, some observers claimed, was the first solid evidence of a large unidentified creature in Loch Ness.

The Loch Ness monster photo captured by Hughie Gray, December 6, 1933.

The photograph created a sensation. Hughie, labeled by The Aberdeen Press and Journal as “The Man Who Snapped the Monster,” gave a radio interview that was broadcast across Scotland. Newspapers in England splashed the photograph across the front pages. They also reported on a debate in the British House of Commons during which Member of Parliament William Anstruther-Gray called for an investigation, “in the interests of science,” into the existence of a monster in Loch Ness. The Secretary for Scotland, Sir Godfrey Collins, was asked to call in the Royal Air Force to monitor the loch — although he said he preferred to await more evidence. Across the Atlantic, The New York Times reported that police in the “Whisky Region” of Scotland had issued orders not to shoot or trap the monster.

Meanwhile, The Times of London sent retired Royal Navy officer Lieutenant-Commander Rupert T. Gould to Loch Ness to conduct an inquiry. Gould, a skeptic, collected 51 witness accounts and became convinced that there was a large “sea-serpent” in the loch. He wrote a lengthy report for the newspaper, and in the following year he published a book titled The Loch Ness Monster and Others. Gould described Hughie’s photo as “vague” and “indefinite,” but he accepted it as a genuine photo of the creature. Gould also reported George Spicer’s land-based sighting, but later dismissed it, suggesting that the London tailor had seen a huddle of deer crossing the road.

Sandy recounted his experiences to a reporter who had been sent to Foyers by The Scotsman. The newspaper published a theory that the monster may be a plesiosaurus, a large Jurassic-era marine reptile that was thought to have been extinct for 66 million years. Other newspapers preferred more mundane explanations. “Sturgeon, eel, or upturned boat?” asked the Dundee Courier. The Sphere suggested that the monster could be nothing more than a tree trunk, and it published a photograph showing two Foyers villagers, with their trousers rolled up past their knees, retrieving a large trunk with a protruding necklike branch from the loch.

There was little suggestion in 1933 that the monster could be a hoax, which would inevitably have implicated the Gray brothers. They had perhaps received some payment for Hughie’s photo from the Daily Record, although they had turned down “offers involving large sums of money” from other newspapers, and they had also been laughed at and feared being mocked by their neighbors and workmates. Both men claimed to have had previous encounters on the loch that they had not reported or sought publicity for. Whatever Hughie’s photo showed, it did not appear to be a tree trunk. “Liars and leg-pullers exist singly in this world in plentiful numbers,” noted The Scotsman, “but to suggest that scores of them have banded themselves together round Loch Ness would be absurd.”

A cage being prepared to hold and ship the Loch Ness monster in the case that it was caught, December 1933. (Image from the book “The Loch Ness Story” by Nicholas Witchell, 1975.)

Large crowds of sightseers descended on Loch Ness, “in the hope of getting a photograph or glimpse of the monster.” Many of them traveled to Foyers, perhaps in Sandy’s bus, to see the spot where Hughie took his photo. Suddenly, the little village was a tourist attraction, and those tourists who did not manage to photograph or spot the monster might instead have snapped the magnificent falls or gazed across from the shallow banks of the loch toward the heather-strewn hills. For many, the loch itself was a previously unseen wonder, but others remained determined to see — or capture — the monster.

Bertram Wagstaff Mills, “Britain’s Circus King,” offered a reward of £20,000 (almost $2 million today) to anyone who could capture the creature and deliver it, alive, to the Olympia exhibition center in London. A large steel cage was constructed for the purpose. But the cash would only be awarded if the creature proved to be at least 20 feet in length and more than 1,000 pounds and was confirmed by a body of scientific experts to be a “prehistoric monster” that was “hitherto believed to be extinct.” Mills took out an insurance policy with Lloyds of London to cover his costs in the event that the reward was claimed.

Mills’ plan to capture and exhibit the creature echoed the plot of the movie King Kong, which was released in 1933 and shown at Inverness’s La Scala theater in early November — around the time that Hughie took his photo. The movie features stop-motion scenes of a long-necked dinosaur rising out of a lake, and it was blamed for planting the image of a plesiosaurus-type creature into the minds of Loch Ness witnesses. But neither Sandy’s description nor Hughie’s photograph bore any resemblance to the King Kong dinosaur, and it seems unlikely that the Gray brothers were influenced by the movie. However, Mills almost certainly was. The movie had been a huge hit in London for months, and he perhaps saw a little of himself in its protagonist, the exotic wildlife filmmaker Carl Denham.

Filmmaker Marmaduke Wetherell (left), looking for the monster with his cameraman, December 1933. (Image from the book “The Loch Ness Story” by Nicholas Witchell, 1975.)

Denham had a closer real-life contemporary in big-game hunter and filmmaker Marmaduke Wetherell, who oversaw a two-week search at the loch involving boats and two airplanes. “Duke” lived in a motor launch on Loch Ness, and he engaged local volunteers to stand watch at numerous points around the loch. Each had a flare, which they were instructed to light as soon as they spotted the creature. Wetherell did not catch the monster, but he did produce a plaster cast of what he claimed to be a nine-inch-wide footprint, found on the shore near Foyers. He said he could confidently state that there was an “unusually timorous” creature in Loch Ness, but he was unable to provide photographic evidence. “I cannot conceive a more difficult task than trying to photograph the ‘monster,’” he said.

For several months, the Gray brothers’ photo was unique. Then, in April 1934, the Daily Mail published a photograph taken by a gynecological surgeon from London named Robert Kenneth Wilson, showing what appeared to be a dark, swan-like neck protruding from the water. Sixty years later, in 1994, an elderly artist named Christian Spurling confessed that the object in the “surgeon’s photo” was a toy submarine fitted with a putty monster head. Spurling had sculpted the model at the request of his father-in-law, Duke Wetherell, who — embarrassed by his failure to find the real thing — had announced, “We’ll give them their monster.” The fake photo was passed to surgeon Wilson, a friend and keen practical joker, who acted as a respectable front man for the hoax.

Nevertheless, long before it was exposed as a hoax, the “surgeon’s photo” became the definitive image of the Loch Ness Monster. And following its publication, the Gray brothers’ photo was largely forgotten. But Sandy Gray was not finished with the monster, nor was the monster finished with him.

The Daily Mirror debunks Wilson’s photo, March 1994. (Image by Reach PLC. Digitized by Findmypast Newspaper Archive Limited, courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive)

Sandy’s final reported sighting of the Loch Ness Monster was his best, and it remains one of the most dramatic and convincing sightings on record. It occurred on Wednesday, June 19, 1935. Sandy was fishing at Foyers, despite forecasts of rain. He was a little way out on the loch when he saw a “big black object” rise out of the water about a hundred yards away. “It was the back of the monster,” he told The Scotsman.

“Shortly after, the head and neck appeared, rising from eighteen inches to two feet out of the water. Behind, I saw quite plainly a series of what appeared to be small ridges, seven in number, apparently belonging to the tail of the creature, which now and again caused much commotion in the water. The head was like a horse’s, but not as large as that of a horse. It was rather small in relation to the huge body, which was of a slatey black color. From the way the creature moved in the water, I have not the slightest doubt that it was extremely heavy. In moving, it gave a sort of lurch forward, which seemed to carry it about four yards at a time. As I watched it, the monster started to go across the loch.”

Sandy got out of the water as quickly as he could in his heavy waders and hurried along to the post office, where he called for the postmistress Mrs. Cameron, a gardener named Mr. Batchen, and another friend to come with him to the shore. “We all saw the monster further out in the loch, but its head and tail were no longer visible,” he said. “The monster, which had gone out to near the middle of the loch, then turned and came towards the shore again. It came within two hundred yards of where we were standing before it set off in the direction of Invermoriston, where it passed out of sight.”

This was the fifth time Sandy had seen the monster, he said, but he had never had such a clear and prolonged view. He watched it moving about the loch for more than 25 minutes. Two days later, 16 people reported seeing a creature with a black body, dark neck and small head moving through the loch between Foyers and Invermoriston, just as Sandy had described.

But Sandy’s sighting was barely reported. By 1935, the monster-spotters had left and the media had moved on. “The Nessie craze of 1933 and ’34 was over,” says Loch Ness Monster researcher and author Roland Watson. According to Watson, it wasn’t until 1957 and the publication of Constance Whyte’s influential book More Than a Legend: The Story of the Loch Ness Monster that the modern obsession with the legend began. “By then, Sandy’s experience had been buried by later sightings and enough new stuff had come in to muscle it out of that book, although I personally think it is a good sighting,” Watson says.

As for Hughie’s photo, Watson considers it to be a genuine piece of evidence, but he understands why the blurry and overexposed picture has been overlooked in favor of the much clearer “surgeon’s photo.” According to Watson: “The clean-lined surgeon’s photo was always going to be a winner compared to the Gray picture with its motion blur, overexposed portions and splashing. People didn’t know what to make of it — wreckage, otter or whale? At least one publication printed it upside down. By the time the surgeon’s photo was exposed [as a hoax], both were ancient history.”

Sandy set off on his last fishing trip on Loch Ness on February 22, 1949. He was now 48 years old and worked as a taxi driver and chauffeur rather than a bus driver. He had moved to Inverness with Catherine, but he regularly returned to Foyers, where his mother and brother still lived, to fish from his one-man outboard motor boat. It was a fresh and showery Tuesday morning. By the afternoon, a storm had settled over the loch, and the winds had reached gale force, which would have whipped the dark, placid surface into an angry churn of white-capped peaks and troughs. When he failed to return from the loch in the evening, his friends began to fear for his safety. Foyers villagers formed search parties to scour the shores, but when darkness fell, they had to put the search on hold until first light.

The Aberdeen Press reports on the death of Sandy Gray, February 1949.

In the morning, just after 9 a.m., searchers found Sandy’s boat, upturned and badly damaged, on the beach near his mother’s house. A little later, they found his body on rocks at Foyers. It was thought that Sandy had drowned, although his cause of death was uncertified. The most likely explanation was that his boat had capsized in the stormy weather, although it seemed surprising that such an experienced fisherman and boatman would be caught by the conditions in such a manner. The fact that his body was found on rocks suggested that his boat had overturned in shallow water, perhaps as he was heading back to shore. The exact circumstances of his death remain unknown.

In 1955, when Constance Whyte was researching her book on the Loch Ness Monster, she went to Foyers and visited Hughie Gray. He was still working as a fitter at the aluminum works and living in his hut next to the Bungalow. Hughie told Whyte that he still had “very vivid memories” of the circumstances surrounding his photograph, taken more than two decades earlier. The negative was lost, but Hughie and Whyte examined a copy of the photo together, and Hughie said that it contained as much detail as he could remember seeing at the time. “This is one of the very few photographs of the monster in existence,” remarked Whyte, “and examined in conjunction with … eye-witness accounts, it is revealing and suggestive.”

Sandy is not mentioned in Whyte’s book. Today he is mostly forgotten outside of the Gray family, who have moved away from Foyers. The Bungalow is no longer there. Sandy and Hughie’s great-nephew, Alexander Hugh Gray — also known as Sandy — visited the Bungalow as a child and remembers Hughie living next door, although his photo was never discussed. Alexander also recalls his grandparents and father speaking about his late great-uncle, a keen fisherman whom they called “San.” After Hughie died in 1967, he was buried with Sandy and their sister and parents at Drumtemple Cemetery. On a later visit, Alexander found that the family headstone had fallen over. He had it restored and reset.

Nessie spotters are still drawn to Foyers due to its connection with the monster. Like many Loch Ness communities, the village has become a tourist destination, with hotels and cafes, and shops selling Nessie plush toys. The villagers have learned to embrace the legend of the Loch Ness Monster. Some locals are aware of Hughie’s photograph, but few remember his brother. Roland Watson tells me that there is an elderly fisherman named Ala MacGruer who knew Hughie Gray. If you can find Ala in Foyers, he will tell you about his own strange sighting on the loch, and about how, before he goes fishing, he pours a dram of whisky into the water for good luck. He will also tell you that Hughie had a brother called Sandy who once tried to catch the Loch Ness Monster, and later died in mysterious circumstances. He’ll tell you how Sandy went out on the loch and never came back, and became an almost-forgotten part of the legend he’d helped to create.

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