Amazing message in a bottle comes back home 24 years later

Alex Melling was just six when he and his mum scrawled a note on the back of a child’s birthday party invitation, put it in a plastic bottle and threw it into the sea. It read: “If found please return to 27 Gilbert Street, Hindley. Thank You. Please address to Alex.” Alex, now 30, was scrolling on a residents’ group on Facebook last week and, to his amazement, saw his name mentioned in a post concerning a bottle found in a remote bay in Scotland – more than 175 miles from his home.

The post said the same bottle had washed up at Wigtown Bay, Scotland, in the summer and family who found it were desperate to find “somebody called Alex (no surname given), who gave an address of 27 Gilbert Street, Hindley”.

Alex lived at that address in Hindley, Greater Manchester, as a child but had moved when he was aged 12 and responded to the man, Rex Winter, on the social media site.

Rex’s daughter Izzy, 17, had found the bottle while on a camping holiday along with brother Freddie, 22 and their friends Liam Kelly, 22 and Cat Jones, 19.

Alex cannot remember where he was when he and his mum put the bottle in the water but “could not quite believe” it had been found more than two decades on. 

Since then, his mum Valerie Melling died of cancer when Alex was just 17.

“I will be keeping the bottle forever now with some other keepsakes. I can’t quite believe it,” Alex told Manchester Evening News.

“My brother Daniel was buzzing and my grandma was really emotional.

“I will be keeping the bottle forever now with some other keepsakes. I can’t quite believe it.”

Izzy, who lives in Newcastle, said: “We were camping in Scotland and had taken a boat out in Garlieston, around Wigtown Bay.

“We anchored the boat and went to explore in the caves.

“Freddie found the bottle washed up and we could see a message in it.”

Rex, a 62-year-old solicitor, found a Hindley residents’ group in a desperate bid to trace alex.

Izzy, a student, added: “I was doing my homework and I got a message from my dad saying: “I found him.”

“I was so excited. I messaged Freddie, Liam and Cat and we couldn’t believe it.

“We were just like: ‘wow’.”

Alex said the bottle was posted to him with a bottle of Jack Daniels as a celebratory gift and he has written a letter of thanks to the Winter family.

Poignantly, the Winter family were trying to find him around the time of his mum’s birthday.

Alex’s grandmother Lilian Wetherby, 86, confirmed the message was in his mum’s handwriting and a copyright date on the invitation was 1997 – when Alex would have been aged six.

He said his grandma was “very emotional” when she saw the handwriting of her daughter, who died at just 49 in around 2008.

Alex says he has a vague recollection of throwing the message to sea, although he can’t remember where they were.

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