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The happy memory I'd kept bottled up

By Frances Burscough

Published 05/09/2015

Frances Burscough
Frances Burscough

I love this time of the year, when leaves are changing colour and the season's on the turn.

Last September I was lucky enough to spend a few days watching the onset of autumn from on board a boat in the middle of Lough Erne. My friend Mark and I hired ourselves a cabin cruiser for a few days, which, as part of a special low season mid-week offer, worked out about the same price at staying at a B&B.

It proved to be one of the best holidays I've ever had for so many reasons.

With our wee cruiser filled with fuel and 150km of shoreline interspersed with 154 islands ahead of us, the scope for exploring and adventure was vast and varied. Add to that the sheer fun of captaining your own vessel and the freedom of being able to stop for a stroll, a picnic, or an overnight stay anywhere with a jetty, made every day completely different and unique.

But for me, morning were the best time of all. Watching dawn break on the Lough was almost indescribable and tranquil beyond compare.

From the first glimpse of light, the mystical mist that had been hanging on the horizon from dusk gradually began to  disperse with the rising September sun. All around us birds emerged from the reeds to welcome the day with a squawking and clattering dawn chorus, while a family of swans floated by in a perfect line, causing ripples to chevron across the water in their gentle wake. One day we even spotted a kingfisher, darting low and straight along the Lough shore, flashing a brilliant reflection of azure and orange as it whirred past silently, searching the surface for glint of passing fish.  

Yes it was a truly memorable trip.

On the last night as the early autumn mist descended over the tiny island of Inish Davar and we sat on the deck finishing the last wee dram from the bottle of spiced rum that had kept us company all week, I decided it would be only right to mark the occasion in a traditional way.

So I tore a sheet of paper out of my sketch book and wrote the following note:

“Hello!

I'm a message in a bottle. I used to be a bottle of Captain Morgan's rum, but now I'm carrying this greeting after a wonderful week's holiday exploring Lough Erne. I'm planning to travel the length and breadth of the Lough before settling somewhere shallow to rest sometime in the future. I hope whoever eventually finds me is also enjoying this amazing part of the world too!

Bon Voyage from Captain Morgan and his crew, September 2014."

I then signed it off with my phone number at the bottom, before stuffing it into the empty bottle and throwing it out as far as I could into the open lake...

Earlier this week, completely out of the blue, I received a text message from an unknown number.

“Hello from Lough Erne! Warren & Joe from County Tyrone here! We were just having a barbecue on the shore when we found your message in a bottle floating by the jetty!”

It came with a photograph attached of my beloved Captain Morgan — complete with note — sitting on the deck of a lovely cabin cruiser as the September sun sank into the distant horizon.

Wow! I couldn’t believe it! My message in a bottle stunt had actually worked! My mind went back to that night on Inish Davar jetty and then ran riot for a while, imagining where and whence it must have travelled in the 12 months since I’d launched it. Maybe my bottle had sailed south towards Enniskillen, stopping at a few island retreats on the way? Or possibly it bobbed its way up north to Lusty Beg and got caught on the strong currents?

I had to find out.

“So where actually was it when you fished it out of the water?” I texted.

“It was just beside the jetty on Inish Davar!” they replied.

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