Belfast Telegraph

Rathlin volunteers discover message in a bottle borne on high seas for nine years


A message in a bottle has been washed up on a beach on Rathlin Island – nine years after it was thrown off an Icelandic cargo ship.

The bottle was retrieved by a dog and was later found to contain a painting of the cargo ship MS Selfoss and details of its position when the bottle was launched in 2005 – 240 miles north of Rathlin.

It was one of a treasure trove of peculiar finds collected by volunteers taking part in our annual Big Spring Clean litter campaign.

The Belfast Telegraph has teamed up with Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful and DOE Rethink Waste to galvanise 100,000 people across Northern Ireland to tackle litter this spring as part of our Big Spring Clean.

Since the campaign launched earlier this year, hard-working volunteers have come across everything from half a bra, a Halloween mask, a hockey stick and a dead sheep to a fridge and a baby doll.

One clean-up organised by the RSPB in Belvoir found a cat scratching post, a mattress and the contents of a make-up bag, while another at the University of Ulster Coleraine campus found a plastic sink, a Halloween mask and a lifejacket stuck up a tree.

Another clean-up organised by the Foyle Ambassadors retrieved a baby doll, a fridge, a dead dog and a dead sheep.

Meanwhile, a group of pupils from St Colm's High School in Draperstown who cleaned up a nature walk found a purse full of cards and managed to return it to its owner. The Rathlin clean-up was part of a cross-border 'Four Corners' clean-up which saw groups in four different parts of Ireland tackling the litter that is blighting their local area.

Volunteers who turned out for the Rathlin Development and Community Association filled a lorry provided by Moyle District Council with the litter they found, including rope, plastic and metal debris. But the most exciting find was the Coke bottle that had been thrown off the MS Selfoss cargo ship years previously and contained a painting of the ship.

Youth leader Fergus McFaul explained how his dog recovered the message.

"The dog was kicking about the bottle and we noticed a little bit of paper in it and it turned out to be a painting of a cargo ship, MS Selfoss," he said.

"It had been thrown off the ship in 2005 and it gave the latitude, which showed that it was 240 miles north of Rathlin. So it took nine years to travel 240 miles. Two people from Iceland were named on it. We're considering getting the schoolchildren on the island to take a photograph of it and send a letter back to them. It was one of a series of six bottles that were sent off."

Registration for the Big Spring Clean is free and with just a week to go before this year's campaign comes to a close, we are urging people across Northern Ireland to sign up and take part. Anyone who wishes to organise a clean-up can register at


Last year more than 50,000 people across Northern Ireland got involved in our Big Spring Clean, together collecting the same weight in rubbish as 26 adult African elephants. This year the aim is to recruit 100,000 volunteers. To find out more and receive your free clean-up kit, contact Nicola Murray at Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful at or 028 90 736924. The campaign is supported by all 26 Councils.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph