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Tuesday, May 18, 1999 Published at 13:37 GMT 14:37 UK


Sweet message in a bottle

Emily Crowhurst receives her father's message from Steve Gowan

A message in a bottle which was dropped into the sea more than 85 years ago has finally been delivered.

The BBC's Clare Lyons: "Emily Crowhurst couldn't have been happier"
The letter was written to his wife by a World War I soldier and tossed into the English Channel as he left to fight in France.

But it was only discovered in the River Thames by fisherman Steve Gowan in March this year.

Two days after writing the letter in 1914, Private Thomas Hughes, 26, of Stockton-on-Tees, was killed.

His wife Elizabeth and daughter later moved to New Zealand, and Elizabeth died in 1979.

Now Mr Gowan has delivered it to the couple's daughter Emily Crowhurst in Auckland.

Mr Gowan, 43, dredged up the green ginger beer bottle with a screw-on rubber stopper as he fished for cod off the Essex coast.

When he opened it, he found Private Hughes's letter with a covering note written to the finder.

[ image: Private Hughes was killed two days after writing the letter]
Private Hughes was killed two days after writing the letter
The letter, written in blue ink, reads: "Dear Wife, I am writing this note on this boat and dropping it into the sea just to see if it will reach you.

"If it does, sign this envelope on the right hand bottom corner where it says receipt. Put the date and hour of receipt and your name where it says signature and look after it well.

"Ta ta sweet, for the present. Your Hubby."

The covering note says: "Sir or madam, youth or maid, Would you kindly forward the enclosed letter and earn the blessing of a poor British soldier on his way to the front this ninth day of September, 1914. Signed Private T. Hughes, Second Durham Light Infantry. Third Army Corp Expeditionary Force."

Mrs Crowhurst, 86, was only two when her father left for war.

'He would be very proud'

She was overwhelmed on Tuesday when the letter was delivered to her by Mr Gowan and his wife Jan, who were flown to New Zealand as guests of the New Zealand Post.

She said it helped fill a void in her life. "It touches me very deeply to know ... that his passage reached a goal.

"I think he would be very proud it had been delivered. He was a very caring man," she said.

Mr Gowan, 43, said he was pleased to have made the delivery, even if the letter's intended recipient was no longer living.

"I am just so pleased to have been able to deliver it and to have been the postman."

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