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An Extreme Walker and a Dog Find a 21 Year Old Message in a Bottle…

That may sound like the setup for a punchline, but in fact, it is the heart of an amazing true story. A 21 year old message in a bottle was found in Scotland by a man walking the entire coastline of the UK to raise money for SSAFA, the UK’s Armed Forces charity–or rather, it was found by the dog he was walking with! Former paratrooper Chris Lewis told Belfast Live “I was on a Scottish leg of the charity walk with my pal Kenny and his dogs and Toby, one of the dogs, found the bottle at Portlogan. When we saw it had a message inside it was amazing.” Incredibly, Toby is one of many dogs who have found messages in bottles!

Chris Lewis walking the coast of Northern Ireland after returning 21 year old message in a bottle.

Chris Lewis walking the coast of Northern Ireland after returning 21 year old message in a bottle. Photo: Alan Lewis / Belfast Live.

21 Year Old Message in a Bottle Found by Chris Lewis

21 Year Old Message in a Bottle Found by Chris Lewis in Scotland. Photo: Chris Lewis.

Chris Lewis, however, is one of a kind. His fundraising page explains that he is walking the entire UK coastline in order to raise awareness and funds for SSAFA which helps UK military service personal, both veterans and active duty folks, with “Whatever challenges they’re facing.”

(Support Chris here | Support SSAFA here)

You can follow Chris’s spectacular journey along the 11,000 or so miles of the UK coast by following his Facebook page, Chris Walks the UK. He constantly posts breathtaking photos of his adventure, and you won’t regret following!

Chris Lewis Running Road - Belfast Live

Photo: Chris Lewis.

Of his military experience, Chris writes, “I served with the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment and have had some challenging times since returning to civilian life. As a single parent, I’ve been bringing up my daughter for the last ten years and SSAFA have really helped me keep my head above water throughout that time. I have experienced first-hand what they do and I honestly don’t know where I would be without their help and support.”

So, Chris decided to embark on a monumental adventure to help the charity that helped him. Now that is paying it forward!

Dog Finds 21 Year Old Message in a Bottle; Humans Open It

Chris invited his friend Kenny to walk with him along a section of Scotland’s coast, and Kenny brought his dogs. One of them, Toby, was the actual finder of the bottled note.

Toby, a dog, found the 21 year old message in a bottle.

Toby, a dog, found the 21 year old message in a bottle. Photo: Chris Lewis / Belfast Live.

Smartly, Chris and Kenny took the bottle home before opening it.

The note inside read:

Hello bottle finder,

I am Martin George. I am 13 years old, and I am in Northern Ireland. I have a brother, Christopher. He is 10. And a sister, Patricia. She is 17. I have lots of hobbies, which include football, reading, birdwatching, and I like listening to rave and pop music. I and my friends go to our local rave disco once a month. We have good craic there, and we meet lots of new people. My favorite football team is Man. United. I have a pet dog. She is a German Shepherd. Her name is Maxie.

This is not my first message in a bottle, as I call it. I have sent lots of them. Are you a boy or are you a girl? What age are you? Where are you from? I am very curious about your hobbies and hope that if you decide to write back, I will be very happy to hear from you. A thing or two that I have not mentioned is that I am a member of the RSPB. That stands for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Finally, my mates. I have six mates: Danny, Dan, Ryan (unclear), Paul (“Scally”), Patrick (“Paddy”), Connor (Conker), Ciaran.

I hope you write back. Your friend, Martin George. (Address) Goodbye for now.

Sender and Finder of 21 Year Old Message in a Bottle Connect in Northern Ireland

Martin George of Northern Ireland sent the note in 1997 when he was just 13. He was 34 by the time Chris contacted him about the bottled letter.

Chris needed to walk Northern Ireland’s coast as part of his overall goal to walk the entire coast of the UK, and Martin still lived in Northern Ireland. So the two met up, and Chris delivered the note, and Martin handed him a bottle of wine as thanks.

Chris Lewis returns 21 year old message in a bottle to Martin George of Northern Ireland.

Chris Lewis returns Martin George’s 21 year old message in a bottle to him in Northern Ireland. Photo: Chris Lewis / Belfast Live.

Martin told Belfast live, “I am so happy to get this bottle back. I think I threw it in from the Larne-Stranraer ferry and never dreamed I’d hear about it again, let alone hold it in my hands. My son is too young yet to grasp what has happened here so I’m looking forward to telling him the story when he is a bit older…it’s very special for all of us. When we watched the video of Chris opening the bottle it was very emotional. I’m very grateful to him for bringing the bottle back over here. I’ve a plan to get the letter and the bottle put on the wall on a box frame – it’s a lovely story to be able to tell.”

“Handing it over to him was such a good feeling,” Chris told Belfast Live, adding, in a bid to win my heart, “At the end of the day life is about the good connections human beings make, about the innocence and curiosity of childhood and how complete strangers can become mates in the most unexpected ways.”

That’s the thing about messages in bottles – they are always unexpected, and they always have that magic potential to make “mates” out of “complete strangers”.

Chris Lewis and Martin George with the 21 year old message in a bottle on the beach.

Chris Lewis and Martin George with the 21 year old message in a bottle on the beach. Photo: Alan Lewis / Belfast Live.

21 Year Old Message in a Bottle Shines Light on SSAFA

Walking the UK coastline is no easy task, and should attract attention just because of the enormity of the challenge. Chris’s story is impressive on its own. But I particularly love the way that this little message in a bottle, which some would regard as trash, not only created an incredible bond between two men, but also helped grab headlines and raise awareness for Chris’s mission. It never occurred to me that a message in a bottle could help raise money for such a worthwhile cause, but here we are.

21 year old message in a bottle found by Chris Lewis.

Martin George’s message in a bottle from 1997. Photo: Chris Lewis.

It is also bewildering to know that Martin’s bottle could have been found by anyone. But Chris Lewis found it, and it is helping him raise money for a deserving charity. It all goes to show — you never know who may end up on the other end of your message in a bottle, and there’s no telling how many lives your simple gesture might improve.

And with that in mind, I encourage everyone reading this to consider donating to either / both Chris’s survival fund and SSAFA itself.

Donate to SSAFA, the charity Chris is raising money for, here.

Donate to Chris’s survival fund here.

***If you liked this story,  like my Facebook page for more message in a bottle stories! YOU could be the next one to solve a message in a bottle mysteryClick here to learn more about messages in bottles, and you can always contact me with questions, ideas, or stories.