THE AMBER GOLD EXPEDITION
North West Highlands
6th - 9th September 1996
- View photos (Laide '96)
- Videos coming soon
We first met Derek immediately after the gig at the Falkirk Town Hall on 30th June 1994. A crowd of around 800 people turned up to hear Malcolm Robinson and Philip Mantle’s talk on UFOs. We performed our songs in between their talks.
The conference was organised by Billy Buchanan who also introduced the speakers and the band. It was extremely well run, anyone and everyone from all parts of the UK, who was interested in the subject, was there!
Derek was a witness himself and knew Malcolm very well. He had travelled the 230 mile journey from his home in the Highlands to be at the conference.
As the conference ended around 11pm Billy had organised a nice surprise for the band, speakers and guests. We were all led to another part of the town hall where sandwiches and drinks awaited us. It was a good chance to meet people and we chatted to some of the Bonnybridge witnesses. Malcolm, who was sitting next to Derek, introduced us. Malcolm then went on to tell us he visited Derek’s home in Wester Ross and saw what Derek had reported to him some years earlier. Near to his home in Aultbea he would flash the night sky with a torch and get responses from lights in the sky. Malcolm had witnessed this on his visit and was astounded.
Derek was a quiet spoken intelligent man, typical of the Highland folk he lived among. He discussed his sightings in a matter of fact manner, like he took it all for granted. I’m not easily convinced as others will testify, but Derek Lauder is one of the few ‘true witnesses’ I have encountered over the years.
He had no chance of getting a bus or train that evening so he came back to Glasgow with us and would travel home next morning. After arriving in Glasgow we had a couple of beers and chatted until the early hours. It was then we made up our minds to visit Derek sometime in future.
The Journey North
It would be two years before we headed to Derek’s home in Mellon Charles, Wester Ross. We asked if Malcolm was interested as he knew the area and Derek very well and had witnessed the strange lights in an earlier visit. Malcolm was up for it and we all planned to go September ’96.
It would be a fair trek up into the NW Highlands plus it was the area where ‘Gabriel’s View’ would be set so we aptly named the visit ‘The Amber Gold Expedition’. We would get a close up of the area and meet Derek all in the one trip!
Strangely enough our planned new album ‘Gabriel’s View’ a music/documentary was to be set close to Derek’s area. It was initiated as early as 1991 and some music/recording had already been completed. Nobody out with the band knew any details of the storyline yet here we were getting involved with a witness in the same area. It wasn’t the first time we encountered parallels within ufology.
We had booked the Ocean View Hotel in Laide from 6th - 9th September and early Friday morning with Brian jnr at the wheel we headed off to pick up Malcolm at his home in Alloa. The weather was perfect and the drive through the Highlands was spectacular. It certainly is one of the most beautiful picturesque areas in Europe. We stopped a number of times to stretch our legs, take in the views and of course inhale the pure Highland air! The serenity however was disturbed on one or two occasions when the RAF decided to have practice runs directly above our car. Amazing to see, glad it was ‘dummy’ runs!
As we got closer to our destination we discussed Malcolm’s earlier visit to see Derek and the importance of the sighting. We all hoped it would happen again while we were present. We were all well prepared with still/movie cameras and binoculars etc looking forward to upcoming skywatches.
After a five hour journey we arrived at our hotel around 3pm. We settled into our rooms, had a wash and a couple of pints in the lounge before ordering a meal. Apart from us there were only a handful of guests in the hotel, obviously due to the time of year, so the service was good.
After a hearty meal we phoned Derek, just a couple of miles away, telling him we had arrived. He was pleased to hear this and looked forward to seeing us the following day.
We continued the evening with a few pints and a couple of games of pool then headed out for a bit of skywatching. We strolled along the cobbled beach using our torches constantly as the area was literally ‘pitch black’. It was a starry night and the Milky Way could be seen easily with the naked eye. A classic skywatch area, nevertheless apart from a few satellites nothing unusual was seen and around 12.30am we headed the mile or so back to the hotel. After the journey, beer and the fresh sea air we hit the pillow and slept like logs!
We awoke around 7.30am, showered and headed for the breakfast table. It was a terrific start to the day; the full Scottish breakfast was much appreciated. Afterwards we headed along the beach taking particular notes of the various small inlets and caves in the area. Along with guidance from the hotel manager we used local information booklets and maps to get a proper feel of the place. The caves nearby and islands in the distance, including Priest Island, portrayed the perfect image for ‘Gabriel’s View’. It was exactly as we had imagined it would be. Again the weather was perfect. In the warm sunshine we walked along the beach filming and taking photographs before heading back to hotel for a bite of lunch.
After lunch we met up with Derek and he did his ‘tour guide’ showing us around the area. We drove a couple of miles north of Laide to a beautiful horseshoe bay at Mellon Udrigle. The white sands and turquoise sea was unbelievable, we took lots of film and photographs here. From there we travelled back to Derek’s home in Mellon Charles for a coffee. The journey took about 15mins with breathtaking scenery all the way.
We discussed his various sightings and viewed some of his artwork. He is an excellent artist painting birds, animals, flowers and landscape scenery from his surrounding countryside. His knowledge and love of the area are evident in his work.
It was a most enjoyable day and we certainly learned a lot from Derek about his lifestyle and Highland environment.
We headed back to our hotel around 5pm dropping Derek off at the Aultbea Hotel on the way. He worked there as a chef and would get a change of clothes. He also picked up his bicycle and would cycle over to our hotel later for the skywatch! This would mean we could all have a couple of pints, no worries about driving. He assured us it was no problem as he often cycles to work and back!
Derek arrived at our hotel Saturday evening around 7.30pm and we all relaxed with a pint before heading out about 9pm. We walked along the rocky shoreline until we found a high point to skywatch. We were about a mile from our hotel and its lights were now dots on the horizon. It was literally ‘pitch black’ no moonlight and apart from a few thin clouds scattered around it was perfect for a skywatch. Unlike towns and cities the only dots of light we could see were the odd house across the bay. We settled down with video/still cameras and binoculars at the ready. Around 9.30pm Derek began to flash his torch into the starry sky. As he did so he spoke of past experiences. We were surprised to learn that it was Arthur Shuttlewood who advised him of the flashing torch technique. Derek had met him in Warminster while visiting friends there in 1977.
It was only during his interview with Malcolm the following day when Derek stated ‘he felt there was a possibility that some form of telepathy was occurring when flashing his torch into the sky’ that we realised perhaps we shouldn’t have broken his concentration with all the talking!
Apart from the odd meteor, most moving objects we saw were satellites. The one unusual object that created interest was much larger than a satellite and appeared to slow down overhead before speeding up again. I remember we joked that it could have been Derek’s contact but knowing we were present, wouldn’t approach him?
I personally got the feeling that Derek was genuinely expecting something, perhaps similar to what he and Malcolm had witnessed during his visit a few years earlier.
As the time went on though I think he became a bit frustrated, like he was trying too hard. He is well aware his technique isn’t 100% but I’m sure he would have loved it to have happened while we were all present!
Nevertheless the skywatch was most enjoyable with the usual mixture of laughter and meaningful discussion, as it should be!
It was just after midnight when we decided to call it a night and headed back along the cobbled shoreline to our hotel. Derek picked up his bike and we waved him off into the dark. We would visit him to-morrow and film Malcolm interviewing him regarding his UFO experiences.
We headed into the hotel in time to get a couple of beers and a chat before retiring.
Again we awoke after a good nights sleep, was it the sea air or the beer? Probably both!
It was still early so after the usual shower and welcome breakfast we decided to drive around before we visited Derek. We arrived at Gairloch 11am and took some video and pics. As usual the scenery was fantastic. The town was completely dead to the world; we were forgetting it was Sunday morning! Two seagulls and a cat just stared as we walked along the beach, can’t imagine what they were thinking. On the way back we stopped at Loch Tollaidh. It was a small inland loch close to the road and we stayed for a while filming and photographing the surrounding area. The area is no stranger to UFO sightings. During 60s and 70s UFOs were seen by various witnesses in the Loch Broom area close to Ullapool. They were apparently seen going into and up and down the loch.
Next stop was the Aultbea Hotel for lunch then off to Derek’s to film the interview.
Once again the weather was brilliant so we agreed the interview should be filmed outdoors showing the beautiful countryside around Derek’s caravan. After a coffee Brian jnr set up the video/audio equipment. Malcolm and Derek stood by as Brian jnr started the camera rolling. The finished article is well produced and shows a relaxed Derek relating his various experiences. After another coffee and chat we said our thanks and goodbye to Derek, all hoping to meet up again sometime in the near future. I think we all had a bit of sadness in our hearts as we shook hands and began the drive back to our hotel.
When we arrived the evening was still bright so after a hearty ‘fish tea’ we walked along the shoreline taking more film and photographs. Malcolm also did a short interview in which he summed up our visit. We got a few beers in and played pool with two German guests at the hotel. It was around 11.30pm when we went out for a short skywatch close to the hotel. We all agreed we would take a different route back home, this time via Inverness and take in Loch Ness. We retired around midnight hoping to get an early start in the morning.
To get an early start on our journey we left immediately after breakfast. Heading for Inverness we travelled south then east on the A832. Again we passed some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland. We stopped now and then to take in the views. The loch side views were a treat to the eyes. We passed on through Inverness then south to Loch Ness. Malcolm knew this area very well as he had visited the loch on many occasions.
We stopped at the visitor centre in Drumnadrochit. The place was mobbed with tourists from all over the world, unbelievable! We looked in at Urqhart Castle before heading south where we stopped and got closer to the loch. Nessie wasn’t spotted that day but the scenery and atmosphere was amazing! Eventually we arrived at Fort Augustus where we had a bite of lunch and visited the Benedictine Abbey on the loch side. From here we had great views of the loch looking north. It was interesting to watch the various boats passing through the ‘locks’ heading to the Caledonian Canal. We stayed here for around an hour then headed south enjoying the incredible scenery on the way. We dropped Malcolm at his home in Alloa and filmed inside his ‘UFO One’ caravan sitting in his drive. This was Malcolm’s office and the interior is packed with various pictures and UFO memorabilia gathered over the years. He also works on his SPI investigations from here via telephone and PC.
After meeting all the family, more tea, coffee and choc biscuits Brian jnr and I headed back to Glasgow.
Even years later we all agree the ‘Amber Gold Expedition’ was a total success. A great idea that became a fantastic reality the minute Brian jnr started up the car in Glasgow that sunny Friday morning.
The band have known Malcolm now for 25 years so when we all meet up you know its going to be laughs all round. We are aware there is a balance and when necessary and warranted we take our ufology very serious.
Meeting Derek in his Highland environment was absolutely fantastic. There isn’t a ufologist on earth who wouldn’t want to have been there. Had we spotted/filmed a true UFO it would have been amazing but any disappointment felt at the time took nothing away from a cracking weekend. Thanks for all the driving Brian jnr, much appreciated.
Copyright © 1996
Brian A McMullan
Brian J McMullan
for C E IV