Scots pupils’ pirates message in bottle from 1980s washes up in Florida

Ruth and Lee Huenniger found the message in a a bottle near their home in Key Largo, Florida, Picture: SWNS
Ruth and Lee Huenniger found the message in a a bottle near their home in Key Largo, Florida, Picture: SWNS
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A message in a bottle written by Scottish primary school pupils in the 1980s has washed up more than 4,000 miles away in Florida.

The undated letter came from a class of children who are now all in their mid-30s who sent the message out into the North Sea while studying a project about pirates.

American couple Ruth and Lee Huenniger found the message in a a bottle near their home in Key Largo, Florida, Picture: SWNS

American couple Ruth and Lee Huenniger found the message in a a bottle near their home in Key Largo, Florida, Picture: SWNS

It was found by American couple Ruth and Lee Huenniger while they were inspecting street lights after Hurricane Irma hit Florida in September last year.

Retired teacher Fiona Cargill, 60, from Newtyle, Angus, is certain that the letter was written by pupils in one of her classes in the 1980s.

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She has narrowed it down to one group of P2/3s in particular who had a family link to fishermen in Arbroath which allowed the bottle to go further out into the North Sea.

Retired teacher Fiona Cargill(left), 60, from Newtyle, Angus,  with a class of her's in the 1980s, Picture: SWNS

Retired teacher Fiona Cargill(left), 60, from Newtyle, Angus, with a class of her's in the 1980s, Picture: SWNS

Fiona, who retired from teaching 18 months ago, said that she would use pirates to strengthen a variety of skills and keep pupils aged around seven interested.

She said: “It’s amazing.

“I’m sure that it was one of my primary 2/3 classes from the 1980s. I liked to teach a project on pirates because it helped develop a lot of different skills.

“One part of that would involve getting in groups, writing a letter and sending a message in a bottle out to sea and seeing if it ever came back.

“I believe it is one class of primary 2/3 in particular because one of the children was related to a trawlerman in Arbroath who would take the bottle in their boat and throw it a bit further out so that it was less likely to just wash back ashore.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find the pupil who wrote the letter but looking back there’s an error where they meant to write ‘street’ which I found quite amusing.

“Stupidly, I forgot to get them to date the letter which really would have helped in narrowing it down.”

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The message inside the bottle, written by a pupil, explained that class P2/3 had been learning about pirates and sent the message to see how far it would travel.

The paper used for the letter was wrapped in transpaseal to prevent water damage while it travelled at sea.

Their letter said: “The plastic bottle was frosted, with no barnacles or other sea life. I almost missed seeing your message because the bottle was no longer clear.”

The bottle was found against a chain link fence, 500 feet from the Atlantic Ocean.

It was found on September 29 in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in the USA.

Ruth said that the bottle was in remarkable condition for all the distance it had travelled but the couple threw it out -- not thinking they would get a response.

She said: “Lee found it after Hurricane Irma as he was checking for damage along a fence in our homeowner’s association.

“It was a large plastic bottle, like a Coke bottle and it was frosted over and you could not see very well inside.

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“Lee could not get the top off of it but saw a corner of the paper near the neck of the bottle.

“He was going to put in the recycle bin but decided to cut it open.

“It was several weeks maybe six before we received a response.

“We threw the original bottle out because we thought we were not going to hear anything else about the note.

“We were pleasantly surprised when we received the response from the previous teacher at the school that is no longer there.

“The bottle and note was amazingly well preserved to have been in the ocean for so long.”

The school where the message in a bottle was written was Chapelpark Primary School in Forfar, Angus.

It closed in 2007 and pupils were relocated to Strathmore and Whitehills Primaries in the town.

The letter from America was addressed to the old school primary school and eventually ended up in the possession of staff at Whitehills Primary.

It took six weeks for Ruth and Lee Huenniger to receive a response.