1982 Message in a Bottle Reconnects Scottish Sisters With Deceased Father


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Anyone who has ever renovated an old house knows it involves a bit of archaeology. Who installed this ceiling fan? Why are the walls insulated but not the ceiling? What lunatic placed a light switch inside the shower? Old houses are a grab-bag of choices made by previous owners, some perplexing, others delightful.

Clarke Elsby knows this well–he directs a team of technicians for Richardson & Starling contractors in Dumfries, Scotland.

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But imagine Clarke’s surprise when one of his workers, Kris McChesney, pulled out an old fireplace from a listed house in Lover’s Walk, Dumfries, and discovered a perfectly preserved letter in a bottle from 1982 behind the fireplace!


Often, when people seal messages in bottles within walls and floors and ceilings and whatnot, they leave only the simplest of messages–just a name and date. One such discovery recently took place also in Scotland, in Edinburgh, when a 90 year old man was “reunited” with his father via an 83 year old message in a bottle discovered in the walls of a 1930s building (that story here). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Scotland is a beautiful land, full of surprises.

For example, just a 10 minute walk from the Kirkpatrick’s house in Dumfries is this house, where Robert Burns spent the final years of his life:

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Robert Burns House, Dumfries, Scotland. Photo: Wikimedia commons.

But, back to the story at hand…

“We all thought it was simply a forgotten wine bottle that was disposed of many years before,” Clarke told me, speaking of the moment of discovery. “Kris passed the bottle to me, at which point we saw a piece of paper rolled up inside! We couldn’t get it out and I was concerned we may damage the paper so I used a long screwdriver to pop the bottom of the bottle off and the note fell out intact. There was an excited atmosphere in the room,” Clark said.

When the paper came out of the bottle, the Richardson & Sterling crew were delighted to find a detailed, thoughtful, fascinating message. “We were all in awe after I read the note out aloud,” he said.


Front side of the bottled note. Photo: Clarke Elsby.


Back side of the note. Photo: Clarke Elsby.

The crew was a bit overwhelmed by the note at first, but immediately felt a sense of urgency–a need to trace the note to its origins. Who was J. Kirkpatrick? Was he even still alive?

Clarke took to the web to seek out Mr. Kirkpatrick and any family he may have. It wasn’t long before he found Kirkpatrick’s daughters on Facebook.

“Of course they thought it was some kind of prank,” Clarke said of his initial attempts to contact Karen and Linda. “It was difficult tracking them down as one of them was married,” Clarke explained. “I tracked their cousin down on a Facebook page called ‘Old Dumfries’. They were somewhat overwhelmed–especially Karen Kirkpatrick. They were both extremely thankful and said many a person would have disposed of the letter. The strange thing is my wife to be is called Karyn and my mother is called Linda just like the daughters. My mother’s maiden name is also Clarke like one of the sisters’ new maiden name. That’s where I got my name!”


Left to right: Clarke Elsby, Karen Clark, Linda Kirkpatrick, Arthur Blower, a manager with Richardson & Starling. Photo: Clarke Elsby / Rischardson & Starling.

Mr. Kirkpatrick’s daughter Linda told Scottish Construction Now: “Richardson and Starling made great efforts to contact us through social media and, at first, we thought it was a wind up.  But when we read the letter it was so emotional for us both.”

Linda’s sister, Karen, spoke to the Scottish Daily Record about Clarke’s team’s discovery. “My phone was going off all the time and when I finally answered my friend asked if I had seen Old Dumfries Facebook page,” Karen said. “I went on straight away and I just broke down when I saw the letter. I was in bits. I knew the letters were there and I remembered. My dad renovated it over the 30 years he was there and every time he would write these notes with what was happening in the world and hide them in bottles wherever he was working. I know that there will be so many more. It is sad because my parents aren’t here to see it. They would have loved this.”


A card from the Kirkpatrick sisters to Richardson & Starling.

Sadly, according to the Scottish Daily Record, “Jim passed away after a long battle with dementia in 2004 while mum Martha passed away last year”. As many know, losing a parent to dementia is like losing them twice–once to the disease and then again at death. For Karen and Linda, receiving this note must have been like not only reconnecting with their father, but with their true father, as he was before dementia.

“I enjoyed every moment,” Clarke told me via email after he had gotten to meet Karen and Linda and deliver their dad’s note. “It was lovely to be in the fortunate position to provide the daughters with information passed on by their late father. The daughters were extremely thankful, however, I did continuously remind them that I really hadn’t done much, and that anyone else would have done the same. ”

Kirkpatrick Message in a Bottle Scottish Daily Record

Linda Kirkpatrick, Kris McChesney, and Karen Clark with the message in a bottle from Jim Kirkpatrick, which Kris unearthed behind an old fireplace in a building he helped renovate under the guidance of Clarke Elsby in Dumfries, Scotland. Photo: Scottish Daily Record.

Maaaaybe, Clarke, maybe–but I’m afraid some people would keep the note to themselves, not wanting to share something that is obviously a treasure. To me, Clarke’s work in tracking down the daughters and delivering the note speaks of a good heart and the exact sort of kindness that represents the best of Scotland and, really, humanity.

Clarke’s story and Mr. Kirkpatrick’s bottle got me thinking–Clarke’s crew must often have the chance to hide messages in bottles in buildings they work on. I had to know if they did that kind of thing!

“We do have many opportunities to hide bottles,” Clarke told me, “However, I’m not sure hiding messages in our clients’ walls would go down particularly well (haha).”

So…not a flat out “no,” right?!

Perhaps just to keep the mystery alive, Clarke ended his email to me with an enigmatic statement.

“I, however, may have already hidden a bottle,” he said. “Watch this space!”

Oh I’ll be watching, Clarke! Maybe when I’m 93 and still blogging about this stuff, someone will drop me a line to say they have discovered your hidden message in a bottle. If that happens, I’ll post it here 🙂



Irish Sisters Send Twin Messages in Bottles, Both Found Days Apart in UK


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There are a few kinds of message in a bottle stories I am a sucker for. Near the top of the list are those involving kiddos, and those highlighting the plastic pollution plague in our ocean. This story does both!

Rachel and Olivia, 12 and 9 respectively, each sent a message in a bottle while on a family outing in Brittas Bay, Ireland, near Arklow, according to BBC Wales.

Irish Sisters photo from

Rachel, left, and Olivia, right. Photo: Mythen Family /

Rachel and Olivia never thought they would hear of or see their messages in bottles again.

But the bottles were destined for an epic journey across the Irish Sea.

200 miles after launch, Olivia’s message in a bottle was found by Sara McAleese on an Aberystwyth beach in Wales on the UK’s west coast.

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Photo: Sara McAleese

Sara McAleese is now on my list of Sheroes for several reasons. First of all, she posted her find to social media and found Olivia and her family in just minutes–excellent detective work! Then, according to, Sara wrote back to Olivia, sending her intrepid message back to her, along with some memorabilia from Aberystwyth. To cap it all off, she recycled the plastic bottle in which she found the message. Awesome!

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Aberystwyth. Photo: Wikipedia user Gjt6.

That all seems simple enough, but consider this: Sara was walking the beach to pick up litter as part of the wonderful #2MinuteBeachClean campaign (I’m a big fan!). Some people in her shoes would have berated the young girls for “littering”. Believe me–I have seen people go after children on this point, and other adults, getting downright nasty about it. But instead, Sara treated the young ladies like friends, and it sounds to me like they might have actually struck up a friendship. And because of that goodwill Sara showed towards the girls, perhaps Olivia and Rachel learned something about the status of our oceans, rather than being scared off by an angry litter-picker. A little kindness goes a long way in this old world.

So once again, here it is: The power of messages in bottles to both connect people and spark real friendships, at the same time that they help raise awareness about pollution in the ocean.

One more thing: The route Olivia’s bottle took? Well, Sara’s wife knows it well. Following the route of Olivia’s message in a bottle, she crosses the Irish Sea each year from Arklow to Aberystwyth as a participant in the Celtic Challenge.

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Beginning of the Celtic Challenge. Photo:

But there’s a postscript to the story: Rachel’s message in a bottle was found just days later in Holyhead! That’s according to the Irish Mirror who noted that the girls’ mother was also contacted about this discovery through social media.

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Rachel’s message in a bottle as it was found in Holyhead. Photo: Irish Mirror.

Oceanographers like Curt Ebbesmeyer estimate that of all messages in bottles sent, no more than 10% are ever found. Personally, I think it’s probably an even lower percentage.

The fact that both Rachel’s and Olivia’s messages in bottles were found (and just days apart, no less) is a marvel. And that two kind people were the finders–what good luck!

I’m carrying this story with me today as I stumble through the world–all of it. Rachel’s and Olivia’s outgoing hearts, Sara’s kindness, her husband’s adventurousness.

Some days I don’t know what to think about the world or my place in it. But when I see stories like this, I am certain we need more of a few things: kindness, open-mindedness, and adventurousness of spirit.

Kudos, Olivia, Rachel, and Sara! Thank you for the important reminder 🙂

1982 Message in a Bottle Found: Seeking Nigel Hanlon of Australia!


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Another fascinating and old message in a bottle has been discovered on Australia’s west coast! The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports that Michael Thompson discovered a 35 year old message in a bottle on a remote beach in northwest Australia around Mundabullangana Station.

Look at this thing!

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35 year old message in a bottle recently discovered by Michael Thompson. Photo: Michelle Stanley /

Michael told ABC news, “The paper was that brittle I couldn’t get it in my finger inside the bottle to drag it out without breaking the paper, and so I had to knock the end off the bottle and break the bottle to get the note out, and of course it broke in three.” This had the effect of “shattering” the writer’s last name.

This has happened to me and to others as well: paper shatters when it is this brittle. Michael did the best he could, and, based on my experience, it’s impressive that he preserved as much of the note as he did! If you ever find an old message in a bottle, remember: Don’t get in a hurry. Either take it to a professional glass cutter, or cut the glass yourself with something like a dremel tool.

According to ABC, what’s left of the note reads:

This bottle was dropped over the side of the MV “Cape Don” (2000 tons) 50 miles from Port Walcott, north Western Australia on 20 November, 1982.

If found please write sending (?) Nigel Han…n (age 41), (?)7 Mawarra Street, Kingston, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

The crumbling of the paper proved costly: Michael only had a first name and the first letter of the author’s surname. According to, Michael “contacted the Fremantle Ports Authority, and the MV Cape Don Society,” the latter of which was able to determine from Steve Slavely, who was a member of the MV Cape Don crew in 1982, that a “Nigel Hanlon” had indeed also been a crew member aboard the MV Cape Don in 1982. He even shared this photo of himself (left) with Nigel Hanlon (right):

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Steve Slavely (left) with Nigel Hanlon (right), both members of the MV Cape Don in 1982 when Nigel sent his message in a bottle. Photo: Steve Slavely /

Mr. Slavely stated that the last he knew of Nigel’s whereabouts, Nigel was living in Fremantle, Western Australia. He would be about 76 today. Michael, who found the message in a bottle, would very much like to make contact with Nigel.

If anyone out there has information regarding Nigel Hanlon’s whereabouts today, please drop a line! Maybe we can bring this story full circle 🙂

Wanna see some other fascinating messages in bottles from Australia?

Check out this one, and this one, and definitely this one.


Message in a Shell Discovered on Florida Beach: Seeking Shane and Jolene!


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Today: a tiny post about a tiny–but very intriguing–message.

At the end of July this year, Amy Mayes was walking Cocoa Beach with her husband and kids when they stumbled upon a shell that appeared to have writing on its inner surface, according to WKMG News 6 in Orlando.


Photo: Amy Mayes

Not even a message, exactly–more of a record of something. But what? A wedding? A memorable vacation?

The writing simply reads:





The couple who found the message in the shell–Amy Mayes and her husband–want to find Shane and Jolene and return the shell to them.

Personally, I want to know the story behind the shell! Why sign the shell at all? Why do that instead of a message in a bottle? Why everything!

I think we can find Shane and Jolene by working together to spread the word!

Here’s the deal: The shell has been in the water for 8 years. It’s possible that it was tossed in the waves at Cocoa Beach and has just been sitting there for all that time. But it’s also very possible that it was dropped in the sea (or left on the beach) somewhere along Florida’s east coast. My best guess is that it started out somewhere south of Cocoa beach–like Vero Beach, or Palm Beach… Boca Raton, Pompano Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami are all also contenders.


Ocean currents!

The Florida Current actually originates in the Gulf of Mexico. It pushes into the Atlantic by squirming around the southern tip of Florida, and then heads north to join the Gulf Stream, like so:

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Of course, there’s only one way we will ever learn where it started, and that is to find Shane and Jolene. If you know anyone who lives in Florida–especially southern Florida–please pass this on to them.

Let’s find Shane and Jolene!

1948 Message in a Bottle Found: Are You Related to Lt. Col. Eugene J. McNamara from World War II?


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According to an article published by Stars and Stripes on June 15th, 2017, a 70 year old message in a bottle has been discovered in the Hotel New Grand in Japan’s Yokohama Harbor during renovations. The message dates to the years after the war when the US occupied Japan. Now, the hotel is searching for McNamara’s surviving descendants, if he has any, to connect them with this piece of their family history.

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Whiskey bottle with McNamara’s name on the front, and his business card within. Photo credit: Erik Slavin / Stars and Stripes.

The front of the business card simply lists McNamara’s name and rank. The brief note written on the back of the business card is pretty straightforward: Continue reading

90 Year Old Man Discovers 83 Year Old Message in a Bottle is From His Father


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Living in the world of messages in bottles, there’s a certain level of coincidence that comes with the job. That’s what makes it so cool 🙂

But occasionally something happens that knocks even my socks off!

Laurence Reid, an Edinburgh resident who recently turned 90, spent his working life as a joiner, constructing the wooden elements of buildings and the like. According to a story published by the Edinburgh Evening News, he recently decided to donate an old carpenter’s plane to the Living Memory Association, which is not exactly a museum, but an organization that nevertheless keeps the past alive.

While there, Laurence and LMA worker Miles Tubbs, struck up a conversation. I can’t imagine the conversation they had that led to this next moment–but somehow Miles got the idea to show Laurence an item the Living Memory Association had recently acquired–a message in a bottle.

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The message in a bottle at Living Memory Association. Photo: / Daily Mail

Continue reading

Message in a Bottle Found: “These facts may surprise you…”


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My friends, I need your help!

Don Lehman, crime and county government writer for The Post Star in New York state, was fishing in the Hoosic River last week when he found a message in a bottle!

The message, from Evan Hutchinson of Cambridge, New York, is dated 2015, and strikes me as a truly intriguing find.

Evan’s message reads: Continue reading

Message in a Bottle: Madelyn has been found!


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Woooo hoooo!

ABC11 News in North Carolina reports that Wyatt and his mom managed to track down Madelyn, whose message in a bottle Wyatt found on July 17th.

Turns out she’s 13 and lives just a few miles from Wyatt himself!

According to a note from Wyatt’s mother, the reason Continue reading

Message in a Bottle Found: Seeking Madelyn!


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July 17th, 2017 was a big day for 10-year-old Wyatt Young! He was with his family at Atlantic Beach, North Carolina, when he spotted a bottle with a note inside:

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Wyatt Young with his Message in a Bottle find. Photo: Jenny Young

A beautiful find! Amazingly, the note inside Continue reading

The Lighthouse Keeper’s Tale


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I recently stumbled upon a story that is equally heartwarming and heartbreaking…

Off the coast of Massachusetts lies a small island, a world unto itself, called Thacher Island.

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In the early days Continue reading