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.
A few months before Laurence’s visit to the LMA, the bottle had been found by workers renovating a building in St. Peter’s Place in Viewforth, an area southwest of Edinburgh’s old town. Apparently, in knocking out walls and whatnot, this bottle, holding a note, was discovered in some hidden space. The guys who found it didn’t know exactly what to do with it, so they donated it to the Living Memory Association. And then Laurence came by.
When Laurence read the note, the whole world tilted.
The note, dated 1934, was signed by his father.
Not only that, but Laurence’s brother and his brother-in-law were also signatories.
In full, the simple note reads:
16th July 1934
This shop taken over by St. Cuthbert’s Co-op Assoc. and altered by Flying Squad.
Can you just imagine, for a minute, what this would be like? You are 90 years old. You have long understood that you would never hear from your parents again. But then, out of the clear blue, one day, you receive one final note from your dad. One final chance to connect. And to think–Laurence was just a kid, just 6 or 7 years old when his dad hid this message in a bottle. It reminds me of the story of Carl Ott’s message in a bottle, discovered after 87 years and given to his beloved granddaughter.
As you can tell from the note, Laurence’s dad, brother, and brother-in-law (Neil, John, and Willie, respectively), were joiners, too. They concealed the bottle within the walls of a building they renovated. They never could have guessed that Laurence would stumble upon their note these 83 years later. James Barclay, son of Willie in the note (also the grandson of Neil and nephew to Laurence), wasn’t even born yet when the note was written.
The sheer coincidence of this story boggles the mind. That the message in a bottle survived so long; that the finders donated it instead of keeping it; that Laurence just happened to donate a tool to the same place; that Miles Tubbs happened to be working and decided to share the bottled note with Laurence. The whole thing is bananas! I love it!
One last thought: People who leave time capsules like this usually don’t just do it once. If anyone reading this knows a way to find other buildings renovated by Neil Reid, John Reid, and Willie Barclay, known as the Flying Squad, speak up! It’s possible that other bottles from these guys have already been found, but the finders didn’t know how to find their descendants. Or there could be other bottles waiting to be found in walls… This story is amazing already–but maybe it’s not over?
Edinburgh, by the way, is home to at least one other amazing message in a bottle story.
(Random sidenote: The building where the bottle was concealed in 1934 is in a spot called St. Peter’s Place in southern Edinburgh, near an area called Morningside. If you are a Proclaimers fan, you might recognize “Morningside” from the song, “Then I Met You,” when the guys sing, “I thought I knew this city / Thought I knew all about it / And then one night I went to Morningside and you were waiting”. Well, one thing they certainly didn’t know was that in visiting Morningside, they were within spitting distance of a message in a bottle so old it had been hidden for decades before they were even born! But this is one of the many things to love about Edinburgh: it is a city with a thousand layers of history, an endless supply of lovely surprises.)