Highlands & Islands

St Kilda 'castaway' basketball found by German children in Denmark

The basketball John Molyneaux launched into the sea after working on St Kilda Image copyright PA Media

A basketball launched into the sea off St Kilda as a joke inspired by Tom Hanks' film Cast Away was found by a group of German children in Denmark.

John Molyneaux was flown on to the remote, uninhabited island archipelago for two weeks' work.

The ball was given to the contractor by his colleagues at Ogilvie Fire Protection in Ayr as a nod to the Oscar-winning 2000 film.

Mr Molyneaux wrote his details on it before kicking it into the ocean.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption John Molyneaux launched his basketball into the sea after two weeks spent working on St Kilda

He nicknamed it "Wilson" after painting a face on it similar to the ball in the movie, which sees Hanks play a character marooned on a remote island after a plane crash.

After cutting his hand and drawing a face in the bloody hand print on the ball, Hanks' character begins talking to it.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption In Cast Away, Tom Hanks plays a man marooned on an uninhabited island after a plane crash

Mr Molyneaux's ball, launched into the North Atlantic on 17 March at the end of his time on St Kilda, washed up on a beach near the village of Vigso in the north of Denmark, after travelling approximately 1,000 nautical miles.

It was found on 13 June, by a group of German teenagers from the Internat Schloss Rohlstorf boarding school, who were on a hiking trip.

They took just 51 hours to track down its owners via a social media appeal covered by German television.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption The basketball travelled about 1,000 nautical miles from the North Atlantic

Paul Ogilvie, who gave John Molyneaux the ball, said: "We couldn't believe it when we saw the photographs and video. We knew it was Wilson right away.

"It all started as a bit of fun. When John was going out on the job, we got him the ball and painted the face on it to look like the ball from the film.

"If he was going to be a castaway, we thought it would be a good idea for him to have some company."

Teachers at the German school now plan to use the ball in lessons from maths to geography.

"The kids are so proud of it," said Maike Kramhoft from the school.

"This is an exciting adventure for all of us - the kids and the adults. It was like a message in a bottle - without the bottle."

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption German schoolchildren found the St Kilda basketball on a hiking trip in Denmark

St Kilda, 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides, is home to nearly one million seabirds.

It is the UK's only dual Unesco World Heritage Site for both its natural and cultural significance.

It was evacuated on 29 August 1930 after the remaining 36 islanders voted to leave as their way of life was no longer sustainable.

Islanders used to launch their mail into the sea in the hope that it would be picked up by a passing ship.

The tradition continues through National Trust Scotland, which launches a small wooden boat each year to see where it turns up.