Nfld. & Labrador

'Lewis is not gone:' Mariner's bottled message found in Ireland, years after death

This week, Susan and Yvonne Knight made contact with an Irish family that found a 12-year-old message in a bottle sent by their late father.

Message in a bottle sent in 2004 found by Irish family

Lewis Knight was a mariner for many years with Marine Atlantic and the Woodward Group. He died in 2011, but the messages he dropped into the ocean are still being found. (Submitted by Yvonne Knight)

The thought that their father's notes in a bottle are still floating in the ocean, waiting to be found, brings joy to Susan and Yvonne Knight.

Their father, Lewis Knight, died in 2011. But last summer he made contact with a family in Ireland, through a message in a bottle that washed up on their shores.

Knight was a sailor, first with Marine Atlantic and then with the Woodward Group in Labrador. Between 1970 and 2008 he pitched an unknown number of messages in a bottle into the sea — and received more than a dozen responses.

Message in a bottle a heartwarming find for Newfoundland and Labrador family.

6 years ago
Duration 1:49
Lewis Knight died five years ago but a message in a bottle he sent to sea nine years earlier has been picked up by someone in Ireland

Today, his messages are still being found.

On Tuesday, Yvonne connected through Facebook with Donal Gallagher, who found her father's message on Inisheane, a small island in County Donegal. To the best of the family's knowledge, it was the second time a bottle has been found after his death.

"The first one pretty much all made us cry, because it felt like there was a piece of him living on," Susan said. "This year, when we got this one at Christmastime, it's almost like a little Christmas gift from him."

A life at sea

The Knights say their father loved to be at sea. His career lasted decades, working his way up from deck crew to ship's officer.

His messages were not complex — usually just his address where someone could write him back — but he was fascinated about where they would wash up.

They were often sent inside Purity syrup bottles, the family says.

This latest bottle had been thrown from the Northern Ranger off Labrador in November 2004.

Donal Gallagher and Alibhe Gallagher found the bottled message in June 2016, on the island of Inishmeane (Submitted by Donal Gallagher)

Gallagher found it with his daughter on the small island in June 2016, while on a family vacation. He was amazed at its condition.

"The first thing we saw was the date of 2004. This is unbelievable, because the bottle itself was in quite good condition," he says. "The actual message, it was in great condition considering what it went through."

After trying multiple ways to reach Lewis, Gallagher posted a few photos to a Facebook group called Lost At Sea. It's there that he made contact with Yvonne.

"It just takes you back to the excitement that he would have had if he had still been alive," she says, "and just share the love that he had for the sea, and throwing things overboard to see where it would go."

Lewis Knight's latest found message was dropped from the Northern Ranger off the coast of Labrador in 2004. It was found in northwest Ireland. (Submitted by Donal Gallagher)

Lewis Knight's home, where the family still lives, is filled with postcards and responses to his bottled messages.

The women say there have been 30 bottles found so far, many of them in Scotland and Ireland.

The responses ranged from postcards and pamphlets to photos of families and a newspaper article from Scotland in 2008, where Lewis Knight was featured.

"That's exciting to see, that it's not just fun and fascinating for us, but that other people find it quite intriguing too," Yvonne says. "He got to see a little bit of a world even though he didn't have to go there."

Lewis Knight received postcards, tourist pamphlets, and even newspapers from the places where his bottles were found.

Knight's daughters say there is always a funny story to how the messages are found — for instance, by kayakers stuck on an uninhabited island or a man chasing a sheep up the side of a cliff.

"I like the idea that there is potential that they're still floating around and can be found," says Yvonne.

"As long as his bottles are out there, Lewis is not gone. Lewis's spirit lives on," Gallagher said.