USUALLY we think of getting a message in a bottle but at the March meeting of Armoy Women’s Institute we got a message from a bottle! At our Guest night, after welcoming ladies from neighbouring Institutes,President Katy McCurdy introduced the’ Bottle Collector’ aka Rev, Neil Cutcliffe from Mossley, writes Betty Robinson.
This gentleman has collected bottles for a wee lifetime and now has a collection of over 9000 bottles - big, small; clear, coloured; drinks, medicine: glass, stone; printed, plain; old, new; capped, uncapped; good condition, broken; clean, dirty common; rare. cheap and expensive - he collects them all.
Among his collection he had an old stone milk bottle from Molloy’s in Armoy. Most of these he has acquired by ‘digging’ or by swapping with equally enthusiastic collectors all over the world. For a good bottle dig there are three main requirements - nettles that would sting you to death, a stinking smell that would poison you to death and flies that would bite you to death!
Why ? -because then you will probably be digging in an old dump where you are most likely to find bottles. Their value for most of the bottles to Rev Cutliffe is the story that is associated with each and the life lessons that a bottle may have taught him. Telling stories that amused his audience he shared some of these lessons with us.
Dirty Bottle - Be not deceived with outward appearance, God sees the potential good in everyone he has created
Fermanagh Bottle - found by bottle collector that had been overlooked by others for a Century -if we look with eyes of expectation we will see the answers to our prayers
US Quart Milk bottle- these he had in abundance and found easy to give away but difficult to give a rarer bottle away but in so doing reaped great rewards as it is better to give than to receive
Smashed Bottles -Chasing a starling in anger around his bottle room caused lots of breakages ,while opening the window to let it free stopped the carnage - when we get angry we only cause more hurt to ourselves.
Broken Rare Bottle -how unimportant that bottle was when the young son he had scolded severely for breaking it later was seriously ill-how often we can get caught up with material things and don’t appreciate what is most important to us .
The Rare Blue Bottle -received as a gift when he honestly fulfilled a ‘swap’ with a colleague in New Zealand when it would have been so easy (and tempting) to short change him -honesty will always pay.
Rev. Cutliffe is writing a book on the Ginger Beer Bottles of Ireland -look out for it -it should be an interesting read .Ann Patton thanked the speaker who then judged the competition for the smallest bottle - winners were Marian Gregg, Dorothy Brown, Ann McGonigal and Helen McVicker. After a delicious supper, a visit to the sales table, a kind thank you on behalf of the guests from Marian Gregg and the singing of the countrywoman’s song the guests left for home and a short business meeting was held.
A special congratulations was expressed to Karen Munnis as her talent has once again been recognised and her beautiful photograph of a March Hare adorns the front cover of this months magazine.