Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Message from the past in a bottle


Waterford News & Star
August 07, 2005

The message, containing a list of names and a receipt from the former Mayfield Shop in Portlaw, lay in a sealed “Schwepp” bottle on the bed of Crotty’s Lake since July 15, 1888 until it was discovered by chance by a diver.

Local history buffs in Portlaw believe a group from a social club in the town threw the bottle into the deep glacial lake during a Sunday afternoon outing. They are now trying to piece together information on the people listed on the message and what club or society they belonged to.

Bray-based diver Ian McIlveen, a member of the Wicklow Aqua Nuts diving club, found the bottle on December 27 last year while exploring Crotty’s Lake with other divers from Limerick. “We went down quite deep, about 15 metres or so, and then I saw the bottle. I thought it was quite modern looking at first, but as I got closer I could see it was a corked torpedo bottle with the name of Schwepp and Oxford Street on it, and there was a message inside.”

Mr McIlveen brought the bottle to a friend at the Archaeology Department of UCD and was warned the letter could disintegrate if the bottle was immediately uncorked. He was advised to dry out the bottle, which he did for four weeks and then cut a hole in it with a jeweller’s tool and carefully took out the folded letter. He recalled that when he looked at the note first, he was filled with disappointment as he spotted the number 88 and immediately thought the letter was less than 20 years old. “Then we carefully unfolded it and saw the receipt for Mayfield Stores was 1888.”

Mr McILveen said the letter was in fairly good condition despite the fact water seeped into the bottle over the years. He keeps it carefully stored inside two layers of polythene. He says most of the hand writing, particularly the sections written in pencil, is as clear as if it was written yesterday.

Mr McIlveen passed on a photocopy of the message to Eamon Power from Dunmore East, who promised to do some research into its history. Mr Power presented a copy of the document to Walsh’s Newsagents at The Square Portlaw, which is based in part of the building Mayfield Stores once occupied. Proprietor Collette Walsh said they put the photocopy of the century old message on display in the shop and it attracted huge local interest and speculation. “Loads of people have come into the shop enquiring about it. One of the town’s older residents knew all the names and knew some of people.” According to Collette, the men and women listed on the piece of paper were probably from a social club in the town that was on a summer outing to Crotty’s Lake that summer Sunday in 1888.


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