Family discovers 135-year-old message in a bottle under floorboards

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A mum-of-two has been left stunned after a 135-year-old message in a bottle was discovered under the floorboards in her home. Eilidh Stimpson could not believe her eyes as she read out the message, which had been rolled up inside an empty whisky bottle since the day the floor was laid on October 6, 1887.


The Victorian time capsule was discovered by plumber Peter Allan at the house in Edinburgh who just happened to cut through the exact place in the floorboards where it had been left more than a century ago.

The GP told Edinburgh Live: “It’s pretty cool. And so lucky as well, because we were meant to be moving a radiator from one side of the wall to the other.

“The plumber came and started cutting a hole and said it was going to be a bit of a nightmare as there was a floor on top of a floor.

“Then he came down the stairs going, ‘look at what I just found in the hole I just made!’. It was quite exciting.”

Amazed by what the plumber had found, Dr Stimpson decided to wait until her two children, aged 8 and 10, got home from school before opening the cork on the bottle and reading what was contained inside.

She added: “They were super-excited. When I picked them up from school I said ‘I’ve got the most exciting thing to tell you’ – to which they asked: ‘are we having hot dogs for tea?’ ‘More exciting than that,’ I said.

“My 8-year-old is in P4 and actually learning about the Victorians right now, which is great.”

Once her partner got home from work, the family tried getting the message out of the bottle, but did not have any luck.

In the end they realised they were going to have to break the glass to avoid tearing the historic note.

Dr Stimpson said: “We were desperately trying to get the note out with tweezers and pliers, but it started to rip a little bit. We didn’t want to damage it further, so regrettably had to smash the bottle.”

Untouched for an astonishing 7,049 weeks and four days, the message written on the mysterious parchment was finally revealed.

Signed and dated by two male workers, the message read: “James Ritchie and John Grieve laid this floor, but they did not drink the whisky. October 6th 1887. Whoever finds this bottle may think our dust is blowing along the road.”

Curious about the identity of the workers, one of Dr Stimpson’s friends did some research and discovered that there were two men registered as living in the Newington area by the same names in the 1880s.

Following his discovery, the plumber said: “It’s all a bit strange, but what a find! Where I cut the hole in the floor, is exactly where the bottle was located, which is crazy and so random.”

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On Wednesday, Dr Stimpson took to social media to share her family’s incredible find with the community.

She said: “We’ve just been amazingly lucky, and I’m glad everyone thinks it’s as interesting as we do.

“It feels quite nice to have a positive news story amid all this doom and gloom that’s around at the moment.

“Now, I’m thinking we need to preserve the note and replace it with a message of our own for future generations to discover.”

Responding to her post on the I Love Morningside Facebook page, Lucie McAus commented: “I don’t think they ever could have predicted when they wrote it that you would be able to take a photograph using a device no bigger than your hand and put it instantly on a platform that could reach the entire community in a few seconds. Incredible.

“If you place one for the next person who knows how it would be discovered and the information shared. What a lovely timeframe from the past.”


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