Portrush girl makes message in a bottle friend

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A six-year-old girl has come away from a trip to the beach with an unlikely pen-pal, thanks to a message in a bottle.

Sophie Scott was with her father Michael on Portrush beach on Saturday looking for debris to throw for their dog to catch when she found a bottle which seemed to have something interesting inside.

"I thought I saw a wee plastic bag inside, then I saw there was a letter in it," she said.

It turned out the bottle had drifted 2,089 miles across the Atlantic from Newfoundland in Canada.

Inside was a letter written in January by Hayley Hoyles, who is also six-years-old.

It said: "Hi, my name is Hayley Hoyles, I live in Newfoundland, Canada. I have one brother. His name is Matthew. He is ten-years-old. I have a cat named Seamus and a dog called Sandy."

Sophie wrote back to Hayley, but the story took another twist when her father happened by chance to meet BBC Radio Ulster's Alan Simpson in Portrush a day later.

Surprise

The DJ interviewed the Scott family on his Monday afternoon show where they told him of their exciting discovery.

It turned out he had a further surprise in store for them when he got Hayley and her mother Judy on the phone.

Judy Hoyles told them: "Hayley's dad works at an oil field, and when he went out to sea two and a half years ago, he began throwing out messages for his children.

"Matthew was receiving replies from France, Spain and Ireland but Hayley wasn't getting any, so he said he'd just throw out messages for her.

"She has now received two replies, both from Ireland."

In an age of instant communication, it seems that the old-fashioned message in a bottle is not entirely dead yet.

Although the first conversation between the two girls was somewhat stilted, not unsurprising given that it was on live radio, the strange discovery on Portrush beach could well be the start of a long-distance friendship.

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