1510: The Beast of Garloll

In 1536, Hector Boece published his History and Chronicles of Scotland, collected from a variety of sources. One of those sources was a man named Duncane Campbell, who told Boece the following story:

        In the year 1510, a "terrible beist" rose from the waters of a loch called Garloll in Argyll-shire, Scotland. Campbell described it as being as big as a "grew-hound" (a Scottish dog related to the Irish wolfhound) and with the feet of a gander; the beast could strike down great trees with the tip of its tail. Three hunters with their hounds were slain with three strikes of this monster's tail; all the other hunters climbed up strong oak trees, and thus avoided the beast. After the third man was killed, the beast "speedily fled" back to the loch. Campbell then went on to say that a number of men predicted the appearance of the beast foretold great troubles for Scotland as a whole, as the beast had been seen before and trouble had followed that appearance as well.

        There is, modernly, no lake called 'Garloll' anywhere in Scotland. However, a Gare Loch (or Gareloch) does exist in Argyll-shire, which is the right area according to the story... so it has generally been assumed this is the loch in question. Gareloch connects to the ocean, so anything walking out of it could have come from pretty much anywhere. And one more thing to note: while the size of the beast was compared to a hound, Campbell did not say the beast looked like a hound. Truthfully, all that is known of its appearance is that it had a tail, and feet like a gander.

Not Nessie!

        Many books and articles about the Loch Ness 'Monster' (familiarly called 'Nessie') have included a version of the tale above with the claim that the events happened in Loch Ness sometime in the 16th Century... and as such, this tale is sometimes then presented as the second earliest recorded report of the Loch Ness Monster, right after the legend of St. Columba meeting the beast in 565 CE. All of which is is simply wrong because the event did not occur at Loch Ness. Not even in the same part of Scotland, actually. The earliest I've seen this intriguing mis-identification happen is in a 1963 issue of LIFE Magazine as part of an article on, of course, the Loch Ness Monster:

"The next mention of the monster comes in a 16th Century history of Scotland, which reports that a creature of awesome proportions issued out of the water one midsummer morning and did 'overthrow huge oaks with his tail and therewith killed outright three men.'"

        That quote at the end about overthrowing oaks comes from an 1858 mis-translation of the event, word for word... so clearly whoever created the brief report above had access to the 1858 report. But the 1858 report also mentions that the beast was from Argyll shire, was the size of a hound with gander's feet, needed one stroke each per tree, and the worries about it fortelling trouble... all of which is left out of the brief snippet above because it would interfere with the idea of a "creature of awesome proportions."

        I'm not sure if the LIFE Magazine article is the first occurence of this or not, so I'll be keeping an eye out as I dig for older sources presenting this idea.

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