..something suddenly emerged from behind a craggy rock. I was so shocked, I just froze, my throat went dry and I couldn’t even call out. Then it moved towards me..
Scotland’s ancient, ruined castles and rugged glens have long since provided an atmospheric backdrop to many an enduring myth and mystery, where all manner of fantastical beasties abound. Just about everyone has heard of The Loch Ness Monster, but according to Scottish folklore, many other strange beings dwell amongst the heather and rolling mists, just out of sight. Like the shape-shifting water spirits known as Kelpies, or, the Brownies, a kind of mischievous hairy hobgoblin, and not to forget, the chimerical race of seal-people they call Selkies. Such things are the stuff of whisky fuelled tales, told around warm peat fires.
Lately, however, the stories creating a buzz and much speculation around the lochs and firths, all revolve around a new crop of reported sightings of, perhaps the most elusive of all the fabled creatures, The Scottish Labour Supporter. Also known as ‘Red Tory’ or, by it’s Gaelic name, Toraidh Dearg
The latest sighting of ‘Deargie‘ as it is sometimes affectionately referred to, emerged this week when retired postman, James Macready, from the sparsely populated, Lorn of Argyll, at the southern tip of the Highlands, contacted his local newspaper to share what he believes is proof of Red Tory’s existence. Mr Macready told a reporter ”Ah wis juist oot traivelin mah wee dug Snowy, whin ah stopped tae tak’ a photie o’ some stags. Suddenly it peeped oot fae behind a boulder and fair startled me. That’s why th’ picture is a bawherr shaky. Th’ thing waved at me wance then disappeared. Ah didnae see it again”.
Cynics and naysayers suggest that what appears to be the top half of a figure, wearing a rosette, and waving, is more likely a trick of the light, or some sort of fault with the camera’s exposure. One local even suggested that what we are seeing is actually a deformed infant stag! Others insist that this latest image is clear verification that Toraidh Dearg does exist.
So is there really something out there? Many agree that the most compelling evidence to date is the photo taken at Loch Lomond, by Dan Schiller, a New Yorker on vacation with his family. ‘’ I was gazing out across the loch, when I noticed some ripples on the surface, and then something rose up out of the water. I called to my wife and the kids to come look. We couldn’t believe it. I managed to capture it on camera, before it quickly disappeared.’’.
Schiller’s picture has divided Deargie-watchers, some of whom dismiss it as a photoshopped prank, whilst others see it as the jewel in the crown of Red Tory evidence. One of those who’s views lie firmly in the ‘clever fake’ camp, is Mairi Stewart, a member of the Skeptic Nationalist Party. – ‘Thare is na scots labour supporter roaming aroond oot thare. Even if yin or mair existed in th’ bygane, thay wid a’maist certainly be extinct by noo.’ she said.
I spoke to Glasgow based journalist, Tam Trask, who is currently writing a book on the subject. ”I do try to keep an open mind, and look into all reported sightings that I hear about, but some are clearly bogus”. I asked Tam about a rumoured cluster of sightings in the Govan district of Glasgow, that I’d heard he’d been involved in following up . ” Oh yes, the Govan thing, well, some local youths were putting it about that they had seen Red Tory, several times, up a close. So I went to investigate, but these kids were all completely ‘aff their heids’ on glue and Special K (Ketamine), so I took it no further. I’m not sure if they were seeing things or just after trying to make some money’.
The closest encounter to date, if it is to be believed, is that which has become known as ‘The Gilchrist Sighting’. Emily Gilchrist, a 19 year old arts student, claims to have come face to face with Deargie whilst sketching the landscape on the hillsides of Glencoe. Emily described the incident to me. ‘’I was on a class field trip, but had walked some distance away from the rest the group, as I prefer solitude when I am drawing. I was lost in concentration when something suddenly emerged from behind a craggy rock in front of me. I was so shocked I just froze, my throat went dry and I couldn’t even call out. But then it smiled at me and appeared quite docile. It was then I realised exactly what it was, as I’d heard all the stories. A kind of numbing calm came over me and I began to draw it’ .
The Gilchrist Sighting
But wasn’t she scared? ”A little, I guess, but not really. I was just concentrating on the drawing, which I’m very pleased with. It looked a bit bent out of shape, and it’s nose was clearly out of joint, and there was a faint smell of desperation coming from it. I could see it’s big, red rosette, that you always hear about. It started to speak to me, and asked who I had voted for. Then it moved towards me..”
That must have been terrifying, no? ”Well, I backed away a few feet, as I didn’t want it to get too close, but all it wanted was to hand me a leaflet. I didn’t take it, which I now regret as it would have been more proof of what happened” How long did this go on for? “It must have been there for about 10 minutes, then it just turned and walked away. I watched, as it wandered into the distance and out of sight.”
How did she feel after the event? ”I felt a bit sorry for it to be honest, because it looked so lost and confused. I don’t think it means anyone any harm and is probably just looking for acceptance and a home. I did feel a bit shaky later, but exhilarated too”. I asked Emily what her fellow students had to say about the sketch. ”Some of them have been quite unkind and accused me of making it all up. One said that I just did it to get more Twitter followers or to get on TV, but it’s not true, I really did meet The Scottish Labour Supporter in the flesh. If people think it’s a hoax, I don’t care. I know what I saw!’’
Angus Craig, Professor of Political-Natural Studies at Edinburgh University, is currently seeking funding for what he calls, Project RTS. The Professor explained, ‘’I am looking into the feasibility of a full on, Red Tory Search. It would cover the whole of Scotland, whilst paying special attention to several ‘hot spots’ where the main sightings have occurred. It will cost a lot of money though, because we’d be using the latest sonar and scanning devices, and it would take several months to complete. It could solve the mystery once and for all, but first we need to raise the funds, of course. So, watch this space!”
So far, none of the photos and anecdotal accounts have provided any conclusive evidence of Scottish Labour Supporter’s existence, but, according to Highlands Tours operator and founder of ‘ToraidhSpotting’ Excursions, Ross Begbie, interest in Deargie has never been keener and is growing. ‘Aye business is braw at th’ moment ‘n’ ah hae na complaints. Ah m maaking a fortuin aff o’ thae soft in th’ heid punters’.
So it seems that Red Tory Fever is gripping many folk north of the border, residents and visitors alike, and the fascination with all things Toraidh Dearg shows no signs of fading any time soon. Indeed, you have to wonder whether a certain freshwater monster, south of Inverness isn’t feeling just a little bit left out..
Have you seen Deargie? If so, we’d like to know. Send us your stories and photographs and we’ll post the best on our DeargWatch website.