Nessie origins

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Although a campaign to replace the unicorn in Scottish heraldry with Nessie may seem daft, we need to consider the facts.

The unicorn is also, of course, a fictional beast. Contrary to its public perception as a pretty, white horse with a horn, it was, in fact, seen as a dangerous beast and its horn was sold at high prices in the medieval marketplace.

Of course, the horn was actually often that of a narwhal, but it looked convincing.

Now, there is a plan to replace the poor old unicorn with another fictional beast, namely Nessie. I suspect that that may constitute a rather tough challenge, not least from the heraldic authorities.

However, it does raise the fascinating question of what Nessie (were it to exist) actually looks like and I think there is an answer.

It may lie in what was called Pictland, or Pictavia, the country in the north-east.

The Picts left many enigmatic, carved stones behind, the messages of which are the subject of much academic debate. One of the symbols which appears in a number of them, alongside perfectly recognisable things like mirrors, human figures, fish etc, is something that is called a “Beastie” by medieval historians.

What it is, no one knows. It looks a little like a porpoise, but, could it just be the mysterious Loch Ness Monster? Perhaps the Picts knew more than we do.

Andrew HN Gray

Craiglea Drive

Edinburgh