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Adrian Shine's letter to the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce 18th June 2013
I have been invited by the chairman of  The Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce (DCoC) to make a personal response to recent events initiated by them.

The DCoC  has sought to canvas a view that the objective interpretation of the Loch Ness mystery at the Loch Ness Centre is damaging to tourism in the area. The Loch Ness Centre has resigned its membership and Debbie MacGregor has resigned from the DCoC committee.

In the DCOC correspondence which I have seen and can be produced, this objectivity is described as ‘negativity’. The DCoC distributed this circular to its members having taken  pains to render it more literate than in its original form. This was thought ‘necessary so as not to reflect badly on the writer or the chamber.

The letter had been written by a local cruise boat operator, George Edwards. The letter names myself (Adrian Shine) and indicates other investigators, characterised as ‘cronies’. The gist of this revised and DCoC circulated letter, is an incitement that a number of reputable investigators and promoters of Loch Ness should be sent to whence they came.

In fact it is not the views which I have attributed to the DCoC to which I take exception, however offensive its expression, but the bland innocence they maintain as to why offence should have been caused and the repeated assertions that the DCoC has remained neutral.

It has been stated that the DCoC cannot express negativity about any member’s business when they have clearly done so and themselves used that very word in relation to the Loch Ness Centre, which was then a member.

One of the investigators indicated, Tony Harmsworth, circulated a reply directly to the members, listing his tourism credentials and drawing attention to the well-known alternative promotional methodology employed by Mr Edwards in the production of fake photographs as exposed in the Scottish Daily Mail of Sat. August 18th 2012,

Televised at:
http://news.stv.tv/highlands-islands/186792-loch-ness-monster-photograph-branded-a-hoax-by-nessie-enthusiast/

Witnessed at:
http://squatchdetective.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/the-george-edwards-loch-ness-photos-debunked-as-a-hoax/

Subsequently, the DCOC ordered Mr Harmsworth to remove editorial references to this from the Drumnadrochit.info website resulting in Mr Harmsworth resigning from the DCOC and from editing the website. Fortunately, prior to its removal, the material was widely and internationally viewed, saved and is available at the end of the last link above. The external impact of this sequence of events may be judged as below.

Analysed together with other claims at:
www.lochnessinvestigation

 http://www.cryptomundo.com/cryptotourism/stop-the-science-its-bad-for-business/

 

Despite the rather stark contrast between these two promotional methodologies, the DCoC correspondence makes clear that it was not thought that ‘George Edwards’ ‘ intention was to declare war’ but that ‘the purpose of the letter was to put forward a debate on whether the negativity of the Loch Ness Exhibition had an effect on tourism in the area’.

It would seem from this that a view had been taken that distribution of such an attack was an acceptable  Chamber activity.  I cannot speculate upon what form this debate was intended to take but it is one from which I do not shrink and at the risk of being too tedious, introduce here:

This is what it says on the Loch Ness Centre ‘tin’.

“This is a 5 star visitor attraction and retail complex. Loch Ness is already the most famous lake in the world but our aim is to make it better understood. This is achieved through a fully audio visually guided 35 minute tour. The presentation is theatrical in style and integrates the real tools and archive footage from four decades of research. As part of our educational remit, under 7s go free. The facts are objectively explained and whilst keeping the mystery centre stage, we place it in the context of the loch’s very unusual properties. Thus we are endorsed by Scottish Natural Heritage as “A portal to the unique natural phenomenon that is Loch Ness”.

That sums up the Centre’s  promotional stance.

The particular ‘drivel’ for which I am criticised by Edwards is stated to consist of ‘Big Fish and Big Waves’. In 1976, I suggested that if any real and large creatures could remain unrecognised within Scottish lochs, they were more likely to be benthic fish than air breathers.

http://www.lochnessproject.org/adrian_shine_archiveroom/papershtml/loch_ness_morar_report_1976.HTM

The very occasional transitory sturgeon was one possibility. The idea gained some media attention in 1993 (Daily Telegraph, Dec. 29th 1993), and in very many documentaries since.

The other drivel was my suggestion in The Scottish Naturalist that some Loch Ness Monster sightings resulted from debris such as tree branches moving in counter intuitive directions such as against the wind, thus giving the impression of swimming animals. The mechanism for this lay in  physical phenomena known as internal seiches.

http://www.lochnessproject.org/adrian_shine_archiveroom/papershtml/loch_ness_scottish_naturalist.HTM 

The idea received some interest in 2000 (Scotland on Sunday, 9th July. Independent, 10th July) and has been mentioned in most documentaries since.

There is nothing new here, these ideas have been interpreted at The Loch Ness Centre since 1989 and draw attention to special and unusual features of Loch Ness. It is things like this which allow Loch Ness to be promoted in a spectrum of TV programmes much wider than Nessie documentaries. The most recent examples are the River Monsters and Weird Weather documentaries.

An interesting feature of my findings and one which I have constantly written and distributed  by the Chamber committee’s circular, which  can only imply that witnesses are liars.

In the Inverness Courier article of June 14th, the best defence that Mr Edwards offers is quoted as “Most of the people I talk to on my boat know that it’s just a bit of fun”. So he himself does not believe in the Loch Ness Monster and believes that his disarmingly phrased “little stories about Nessie” bring people to Loch Ness who don’t believe in it either. Readers might care to look at his Loch Ness Cruises website to see if that is the expectation raised by his advertising.

Despite protestations that I am ruining the tourist industry, the Loch Ness Centre has just had its best year ever, which suggests that there may be some merit in the more honest form of promotion which many visitors are pleasantly surprised by. Interestingly, over 25% of visitors were repeats or referrals.  Sceptical objectivity beats cynical deception every time.

The reason for this, as pointed out by Tony Harmsworth is that cynical deception is precisely what the majority of visitors to the area expect from Nessie themed attractions. That’s why they may prefer to go to Urquhart Castle. It is not the third most visited castle on account of its ruins; it is because it commands a magnificent view of Loch Ness. People are intrigued by the loch but are wary of showing it.

It is demonstrable that my ideas have promoted Loch Ness for longer than Mr Edwards has run his business on Loch Ness. The Exhibition which I redesigned for the millennium won its 5 star score within Visit Scotland’s Quality Assurance Scheme from its opening, well before the rest of the Centre achieved the overall 5 star grade. This exhibition is fully endorsed by Scottish Natural Heritage as “A portal to the unique natural phenomenon which is Loch Ness”.

Perhaps there is another reason for George Edwards’ outburst. His business operates from the “Nessieland Castle Monster Centre”. This Centre has a history of activities that have confused and misled visitors. Some verifiable examples  in the public domain are as follows:-
Seven years after the Loch Ness Centre, (opened by Tony Harmsworth and Ronnie Bremner) had become established, Mr Skinner’s neighbouring attraction, opened (1987),  advertising itself as ‘The famous Loch Ness Monster Exhibition’. Subsequently, it called itself ‘The Original’ exhibition.

Following the Visit Scotland 5 star award to the Loch Ness Centre. The ‘Original Exhibition’ falsely displayed a sign at their premises claiming 5 Tourist Board Stars. Visit Scotland enforced its removal.

In 2009 visitors were confused by road signs directing traffic to ‘Glen Urquhart Castle’ with the word Glen, small as shown, and pointing firmly to Mr Skinner’s attraction.    

So the DCoC has always had its ‘elephants in the room; perhaps ‘rogue elephants’. Antics of the above nature were generally viewed with indulgent amusement within the community and tactful silence within the Chamber of which I was a committee member for fifteen years. Nothing approaching the recent action by the Chamber occurred during all this time.

Ultimately, following a number of other difficulties, the proprietors of The Loch Ness Centre began an action against Mr Skinner’s attraction for ‘passing off’. An out of court settlement was reached, including the provision that the names of the two Centres should be as they are now and therefore distinct. This has significantly reduced, though not completely eliminated the confusion of visitors.

Subsequently, the Loch Ness Centre’s increase in  business has been no secret and clearly did not escape the attention of Mr Edwards’ who has made approaches to transfer his cruise business to the Loch Ness Centre. He was undeterred and presumably attracted by the Loch Ness Centre’s successful promotional strategy, its interpretative presentation and the ideas for which I am known.

His unrequited desire to transfer his business is actually the best endorsement that the Centre  and myself could wish for and provides a complete answer to his charges. The DCoC might also consider this revealing point within the debate which they have sought to promote. The fact that the Centre could hardly provide a home for someone with Edwards’ brand of promotion does not mean that I am blind to the compliment.

Perhaps, the rejection of Edwards’ overtures to The Loch Ness Centre reveals an ‘If you can’t join em … beat em’ strategy leading to his blatantly cynical suggestion for an integrity cleansing campaign incited through the helpful offices of the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce committee.     

Though the present committee of the Chamber have acted as they have, I have sufficient faith in the integrity of the general membership to remain confident that though no laurels may be hung upon me, neither shall I adorn a Drumnadrochit lamp-post just yet.   

Adrian Shine

Loch Ness Project