• Tony Bosworth

Message in a bottle – perilous river journey brings a smile to flood-hit Pitt Town Bottoms family

During the flood emergency as heavy rain fell and waters rose towards the family home at Pitt Town Bottoms, 12-year-old Samuel Murphy decided he would send an old fashioned message in a bottle and see where it went.

Samuel and David Murphy

“For him to come up with that idea, and he said where do you think it will end up and I said I don’t know it might end up in China, we were laughing about it. I said I haven’t heard of anyone doing that for about 40 years,” Samuel’s dad David said.

“Honestly,” Samuel told the Post, “it was really just my way of getting my mind off things happening and we were going through a hard time with the floods and I thought it would be uplifting if someone found it.”

Samuel wrote a message on a sheet of paper asking anyone who found the bottle to please call his dad, put it in the bottle, walked out of the house to the riverbank and slipped it carefully in water which was rising by the minute. It was Saturday.

Not long after, the recently renovated house was completely flooded out, right up to the roof. Dad David, mum Laura, Samuel and brother Jackson, 14, escaped but they lost pretty much everything – Dave even had to go to Kmart in the middle of the night to buy underwear after they were forced to leave their home.

Depressing doesn’t begin to cover it.

David, Jackson, Samuel and Laura Murphy at their Pitt Town Bottoms home in happier times before the flood

“It’s certainly devastating, it’s been an emotional roller coaster for us,” David said.

“After spending so long doing a renovation over 18 months and we were in there for just three months after that and now it’s destroyed, gutted. Your emotions are still running a bit high and we’re still a bit lost at the moment on what we’re going to do.”

They are living in an apartment in Norwest while they work out their options. It’s very depressing, David said.

“I’ve never lived in an apartment in my life so I’m sort of struggling with it.”

But then they got a phone call.

“I was lying in bed,” said Samuel, “and then I got the message from dad and at first I thought he was pranking me but then there were the pictures of the people and the note.”

The bottle’s journey down the raging Hawkesbury River, in among all the debris and personal belongings cluttering the water can’t have been easy. It could easily have become snagged in trees, it could have been smashed, it could even have got out to sea, but amazingly – a week later - it ended up out front of a home at Milsons Passage, some 70km from where its perilous journey began.

Michael, Debra, Heather and John found the message in a bottle at Milsons Passage

“We’ve never even been that far down the Hawkesbury on the boat,” Dave said. “Furthest we’ve been is to Lower Portland, so that bottle went a long way.”

The people who found it, Michael, Debra, Heather and John, told David tonnes of debris was flowing past their homes but the bottle wouldn’t move. They even tried to push it on but it wouldn’t budge. They eventually netted it and found the message and then called Dave.

“The bottle just stayed there out the front of their place,” said David.

“It wouldn’t leave. To find someone, for that to actually work, it’s a pretty remote thing to happen. It didn’t get caught in any of the trees, the stuff in the Hawkesbury River on the bank, to find somebody who found it is near impossible.

“As much as we were all doom and gloom, it actually brought a tear to my eye,” said David.

“At that point the water hadn’t even gone down so we couldn’t even get back to the property, but for someone to call up - they were such nice people - they were so happy to have found it, it gave us a bit of an uplift.”

David says they will get through the flood disruption, in part thanks to the uplift from people like the family from Milsons Passage, plus the great support they’ve received from the Hawkesbury Community.

“If there’s something that’s really got me and touched me it’s the support of the Hawkesbury. The community where we live, whether it’s Pitt Town, Oakville, McGraths Hill, wherever, it is the people around that are amazing. It’s such an amazing place to live.

"It’s unbelievable, the people that have reached out, including the people who found the bottle, and other people in the Hawkesbury who we don’t even know, who have wanted to buy us clothes or even Playstations.

“We absolutely love living here. It’s the best lifestyle for the kids, having the freedom of the life we have in the Hawkesbury. It’s a beautiful life.”

And Samuel says he’s glad he sent his message in a bottle.

“It made us happy and lifted our spirits, and it made us smile. It was good thing to do and I’m really happy someone found it.”

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