Schoolchildren who sent message in bottle thrilled to receive gifts as a reply

It’s every child’s dream to send a message in a bottle out to sea, knowing it could be read by a mysterious stranger.

But this dream became a reality for three schoolchildren who got a response after sending their bottle into the open ocean.

Siblings Gary and Mya McKee and their half sister Lilly Hughes – who were visiting Cushendun in Northern Ireland on their holidays – decided to write some letters and send them on their way.

The bottle travelled 63 miles in total, all the way to a beach in Barassie, Scotland, where it washed up on the shore and was found by 68-year-old Anne Smillie.

The mum-of-two, who was cleaning the beach, almost dumped the jar but then noticed there were some pieces of paper inside.

Anne said: ‘I was on the verge of chucking it in the bag but I noticed there were three bits of paper crumpled up inside it so I decided to keep it until I got home then have a look inside.

‘I was so surprised to see it was messages and from reading them I could see they were writing from Cushendun.

‘It was lovely to see that children had the imagination to do something like that, especially in these days of smartphones and gadgets.’

The former council worker was determined to find out who the senders were. She instantly recognised Cushendun, located on the Causeway coast, after visiting the area a few years ago during a cycling holiday.

After contacting news website Causeway Coast Community, she was able to track down the family so she could send them some gifts. Anne posted a selection of Troon gifts, including a starfish printed bag, an RNLI Troon teddy bear, pens and Troon postcards.

She added: ‘I took the more traditional route of Royal Mail.’

Lorna Hughes, the children’s aunt, said the youngsters were all ‘ecstatic’ to see that their message in a bottle had travelled so far.

She said: ‘They were absolutely ecstatic when it showed up in Scotland, they couldn’t believe that someone had found it.

‘I showed them where Troon was on the map then Anne got in touch.

‘It’s been amazing for them. They were so excited when the souvenirs from Troon arrived, they loved it.’

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