A joiner’s note hidden in an Edinburgh shop 80 years ago is reunited with son

James Barclay with the message hidden in a bottle by his father Willie Barclay.
James Barclay with the message hidden in a bottle by his father Willie Barclay.
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IT is an incredible story – the discovery of a precious piece of a family’s history more than eight decades after it was buried deep inside a wall.

Six months ago, workmen transforming a building in Viewforth pulled a bottle from a cavity and spotted a message inside before handing it into the Living Memories Association at Ocean Terminal.

A short time later, Laurence Reid – a former joiner who will today celebrate his 90th birthday – turned up at the LMA museum to donate an old carpenter’s plane used during his working days.

Laurence got chatting with project worker Miles Tubbs, who decided to show off the message in a bottle.

But as the visitor read the note, dated 1934, he was left utterly speechless.

It read: “This shop taken over by St Cuthbert’s Co-op Association and altered by Flying Squad.”

And it was signed: “N Reid, J Reid and W Barclay.”

“Would you believe it, but Laurence instantly recognised the names,” said Mr Tubbs.

Amazingly, they were Laurence’s dad Neil, brother John and brother-in-law Willie – together known as joinery team The Flying Squad.

Laurence spread the word amongst his family and soon managed to piece the story together.

It turned out the team had been transforming the building on St Peter’s Place into a St Cuthbert’s Co-operative when Willie Barclay scribbled the brief note and stuffed it in a bottle before hiding it in a wall.

Laurence’s sister Frances married Willie and the couple had son James, who said the family had been stunned by the discovery.

He said: “It must have been the first time in 80 years the building was renovated.

“When he was shown the note, my Uncle Laurence was gobsmacked. He knew the three names in it – Neil Reid was his father, John Reid his brother, and Willie Barclay his brother-in-law, who is my father.”

Frances died last year aged 98 and James said it was a shame his mother would never learn of the incredible discovery.

He said: “It is sad that my mother isn’t still alive to see all this. I am completely gobsmacked that not only has it has been found, but by a series of coincidences it has made its way back to me.”

To add another twist to the astonishing tale, the shop where the bottle was discovered was once managed by Tom Barclay – James’ paternal uncle.

“My father must have told him he had hidden the bottle because when I told my cousin Elizabeth about the remarkable find, she had heard about the note,” he said. “The whole thing is just mindblowing.

“My father died in 1980 and it has been sitting there all this time.”

Laurence, a lifelong Hearts fan who is celebrating his 90th birthday in the Gorgie Suite at Tynecastle this afternoon, was overwhelmed by the find.

“He welled up,” said Mr Tubbs. “The hairs on the back of my neck went up and we all had tears in our eyes.”

fiona.pringle@jpress.co.uk