Email address: Tony @ Harmsworth.net
Age: 65 years old
Wife for 41 years: Wendy
This is a link to an Inverness Courier Profile on Tony
Although semi-retired, Tony still runs InvernessTours.com and the Harmsworth Tourism & Web Consultancy. He also chaired the Drumnadrochit Chamber of Commerce and Tourist Association for three years before retiring in June 2012. He was also a director of Destination Loch Ness, the region's destination management organisation, until retiring in May 2012.
Tony is one of the foremost authorities on the mystery at Loch Ness. He conceived designed, created and co-founded the Official Loch Ness Monster Exhibition Centre; was administrative coordinator of Operation Deepscan during 1986/7; was Bursar of Fort Augustus Abbey on Loch Ness where he designed and wrote the highly acclaimed Fort Augustus Abbey Heritage Centre and also the Loch Ness Story Diorama; invented the award-winning board game, Nessie Hunt; scripted the Polygram video Loch Ness Monster Story; wrote Mysterious Monsters of Loch Ness and Loch Ness, The Monster, the latter being reprinted on eight occasions.
After some 25 years' writing, he has just completed Loch Ness, Nessie & Me which is also available as Loch Ness Understood. It is a 360 page book on Loch Ness with more than 200 illustrations and photographs.
Although born and brought up in England, his mother was from Scotland and lived in Drumnadrochit for many years. Both his parents had a love of the Highlands and he has now lived overlooking Loch Ness for more than half his life. Interestingly he has recently discovered that he is descended from King Robert The Bruce through his father's line via the king's second daughter Margaret.
His mixed heritage has resulted in him being a rather strange combination of Tottenham Hotspur and Scotland supporter. Neither team seem to ever win anything! Although, perhaps, this year? As the last statement demonstrates, he is also a great optimist!
In the mid eighties, while still Managing Director at the Loch Ness Centre which had grown into the most visited private tourist attraction in the Highlands, he produced his Loch Ness game, Nessie Hunt which had been in the planning since 1975.
In 1990, after yet another disagreement with the owner of the Loch Ness Centre who had been making his life unbearable, he left to concentrate on a manufacturing company for which he had been consulting.
Genesis Creations Ltd of Fife was a great success initially, growing to nearly fifty employees making fantasy figurines, but the recession in the early nineties caused many of its customers to go bankrupt. The resulting uncollectible debts caused Genesis to fold and almost cost the loss of his home. Personal bankruptcy was avoided by a whisker.
Returning to his knowledge of Loch Ness, he had to quickly establish a new business with positive cashflow. He chose to obtain a Public Service Vehicle driving and operating licence and ran very specialised half-day Loch Ness tours for small groups. Although extremely successful he still had a desire to return to visitor centre design and management.
In 1993 the opportunity arose with a contract to come up with a theme for the Perthshire Visitor Centre just north of Perth. With Dunkeld and Birnam being nearby he chose to take the much maligned Scottish king, Macbeth, and produce a presentation which contrasted the Shakespearean character with the real person who was, in fact, one of Scotland's better monarchs. See his Scotland's Bloody History book.
Also in 1993 he was commissioned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (Government Development Agency), to come up with a rescue package for Fort Augustus Abbey whose boarding school had recently closed owing to falling numbers. He was then appointed by the monks to manage the creation of the visitor centre he had designed and the doors opened in May 1994.
The Benedictine monks were so pleased with the results that they offered him the role of Bursar (a sort of monastic financial director), which was the first time this position had been held by a lay person in any Scottish monastery. The business grew extremely rapidly but the demands of the Victorian buildings meant that the profits were all swallowed in escalating repairs and maintenance.
When Abbot Mark Dilworth retired, a monk called Francis Davidson, who had always taken a hostile stance towards the venture, was appointed to take control of the Abbey and, within five months of his appointment in March 1998, he shut the entire place. He refused to allow any attempts to keep it open and disbursed all of the monks to other monasteries. The abbey has now being converted into luxury apartments. For a decade it was in a shocking state of repair, but finally appears to have been rescued, but not open to the public.
The demise of the abbey, as well as a personal blow, was also a serious financial blow to Tony who had had to give up all of his business interests when he took on the Bursar role. Starting from scratch in 1998 he developed an Internet and Marketing Consultancy business.
Early in 2002 his wife, Wendy, joined him in this venture after retiring from a career in local government. In addition he set up an on line shop which went on to amalgamate with Chanonry Point Ltd. where Tony joined forces with Keith and Carola Martin-Smith in an Internet shopping project which was ahead of its time.
The bus tour he created in 2003 became the first in Scotland to be awarded five stars by the Scottish Tourist Board. Many have five stars today, but traveller beware ... the increase in the number of five star tours operating from Edinburgh has nothing to do with improving standards in the industry and everything to do with the tourist board being less discerning. His tour was also voted "Best Tourist Attraction 2004" beating multi-million pound attractions such as Urquhart Castle.
At the end of 2006 he sold the coach tour business to Jacobite Cruises Ltd and concentrated on exclusive small-party tours or guiding educational groups.
In 2007, at the age of only 59, he suffered a stroke which prevented him from guide/driving for a year. Fully recovered, he now continues to run his Inverness Tours company and he now has three excellent guides and keeps his own guiding services at a premium. He is a great believer in delivering world class quality in any enterprise he undertakes.
Owing to the enforced leisure time in 2008, he decided to put more time and effort into developing the consultancy business and is working on his Nessie Hunt game which he wishes to put on line. Its home will be at Nessie Hunt.
His main business today is writing under various pseudonyms, occastional guiding and speaking on Scotland's history, natural history and Loch Ness. His Inverness Tours business has recently been sold to his main guide and you can still find it here. He had grown it over six years to the point where it had several guides expert in Scottish history and heritage and it is still the most highly praised private tour company in Scotland on Trip Advisor.
The book has been a major project for him and is now published with LuLu in the UK, Amazon in the USA including Nook and Kindle. Other publishers have expressed an interest, but he will not compromise the honesty exhibited in the book by taming down any of its contents.
CHAPTER ONE – PREHISTORY
Interviewing Eye Witnesses
CHAPTER TWO – FOLKLORE
The Absent-Minded Researcher
From School To Business
CHAPTER THREE – INVERNESS TO LOCHEND
Protecting The President’s Son
From Inverness To Lochend
Exploring The Highlands
CHAPTER FOUR – CASTLES ALDOURIE TO URQUHART
Castles Aldourie To Urquhart
First Encounter With Dinsdale
CHAPTER FIVE – FROM URQUHART TO FORT AUGUSTUS
The Obsessed Mr Shine
Castle Urquhart To Fort Augustus
The Move To The Highlands
CHAPTER SIX – COMPLETING THE CIRCUIT
Late Night Nessie Shows
Completing The Circuit
Conceiving The Exhibition
CHAPTER SEVEN – NESSIE’S ORIGINS
Staging The Exhibition
CHAPTER EIGHT – LAND SIGHTINGS AND FOOTPRINTS
Land Sightings And Footprints
Discovering The Project
CHAPTER NINE – THE NESSIE ICON
The Power of Dom Perignon
The Nessie Icon
CHAPTER TEN – THE CLASSIC PHOTOGRAPHS
His Monster’s Voice
The Classic Photographs
Developing The Exhibition
CHAPTER ELEVEN – THE DINSDALE FILM
The Dinsdale Film
CHAPTER TWELVE – SURFACE OBSERVATION VIGIL
The Media Monster
Surface Observation Vigil
Monster Centres At War
CHAPTER THIRTEEN – AMERICAN SONAR INVESTIGATION
Vive La Difference
American Sonar Investigation
CHAPTER FOURTEEN – MONSTERS EVERYWHERE
The Incredible Sinking Car
The Exodus From Genesis
CHAPTER FIFTEEN – NESSIE’S COUSIN CENTRE STAGE
Nessie’s Cousin takes Centre Stage
Missing The Bus
CHAPTER SIXTEEN – 24 HOUR SONAR PATROLS
“Seeing” The Morar Monster
Twenty-Four Hour Sonar Patrols
Macbeth And The Benedictines
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN – 40 STRONG SONAR CONTACTS
Fanaticism And Violence
Forty Strong Sonar Contacts
Rescuing The Abbey
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN – CAUSES FOR ERRORS
The Wogan Show
Causes For Errors
CHAPTER NINETEEN – THE DAY I SAW NESSIE
The Day I Saw Nessie
Intrigue In The Cloisters
CHAPTER TWENTY – OPERATION DEEPSCAN
Plumbing The Depths
No Peace For The Wicked
CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE – THE CLUE IN THE FOOD CHAIN
Abbots, Popes And Priors
The Clue In The Food Chain
More Awards But Where Is The Money?
CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO – THE REAL NESSIE
Will The Real Nessie Please Stand Up?
A Stroke Of Luck
CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE CONCLUSIONS
I have deliberately not provided links to each of those chapters as the story can only be understood fully by reading from beginning to end. Each chapter is linked to from the previous one so I suggest you keep the page you are reading as a favourite so that you can pick up there next time.
If you want to cheat and get to the Nessie evidence pro and con, then buy the book!
Tony Harmsworth 30th November 2012