Discovering messages in a bottle is a truly exciting yet very rare occurrence. One roofer from York was lucky enough to experience such a discovery after a family connection was uncovered in an unlikely place.

Luke Redhead, the owner of JLR Roofing and Property Maintenance, was on a job with his team working on the roof of a sandwich shop on Newgate, in the city centre, when they stumbled upon a green glass bottle that was sealed into the roof. To their surprise, they found a note that was 40 years old, written by Luke’s grandfather. Luke commented:

When I first saw it I had a range of emotions. There was a definite sense of pride – it was a proud moment. We have maintained the roofs at the site for a number of years and always knew there was a bottle with notes stuffed inside, bedded into the cement haunching.

One note read: “The tiler who laid these tiles, George Redhead, is a York resident born and bred”, dated 1981. The late George Redhead senior, my grandad whom I, unfortunately, didn’t get a chance to meet, had re-roofed the roof more than 40 years ago.

Luke Redhead

The practice of writing messages in a bottle date back to at least the 2nd century BCE, when the Greek philosopher Theophrastus wrote of tossing messages into the sea to study ocean currents.

However, the use of messages in bottles as a form of communication and communication tool is believed to have originated in the early 19th century, when ships often carried bottles on board to send messages to other ships or to send distress signals. This practice became more widespread as shipping routes expanded and communication technology advanced.

Today, writing messages in a bottle remains a popular pastime and a way to connect with people and places far away. Alongside the element of romance and adventure, messages in a bottle are considered positive from an educational stance as they can teach children about geography, ocean currents, and the environment.

Here are the top three most amazing incidents of people finding old messages in bottles:

  1. In 2022, A Scottish woman was having renovations done in her house when a plumber stumbled across an old message in a bottle from 135 years ago. The note read: “James Ritchie and John Grieve laid this floor but they did not drink the whisky. October 6th 1887. Who ever finds this bottle may think our dust is blowing along the road.”
  2. In 2018, a 132-year-old bottle was found on a beach in Australia. The world’s second oldest message in a bottle was used for ocean science and was dropped in the Indian Ocean from a German research ship called Paula.
  3. A 112-year-old message in a bottle was found inside a Montclair University Wall (New York). The bottle was found by a worker demolishing the wall. After he heard a glass break, he put down his hammer to investigate. The note read: “This is to certify that this wall was built by two bricklayers from Newark, N.J, by the names of William Hanly and James Lennon.”

These incidents demonstrate the power and longevity of messages in bottles, and the emotional and personal connections they can create between people separated by distance and time.

Image Source:

  • Photo by Scott Van Hoy: instant images