A message in a bottle, thrown by passenger on a sinking ship into the Irish Sea 160 years ago, could be lurking forgotten in someone’s dusty cupboard in Millport.

That’s the hope of an author who has researched the tragic story of the wrecking of RMS Tayleur which made headlines around the world almost 60 years before the Titanic.

Gill Hoffs, whose book about the tragedy was published in January, contacted the “News” as part of her on-going research into the sinking, in which 360 people lost their lives in 1854.

The incident has been called “the First Titanic”.

Gill said: “There were at least 78 Scots on board when the ship wrecked in 1854 on Lambay, just off the coast of Dublin, on its way to the Australian Gold Rush.

“Luggage and bodies were washed up along the west coast of Scotland many months later. What I found particularly poignant was this message in a bottle, thrown overboard by an emigrant from Manchester, as the ship wrecked: ‘On board the Tayleur, on striking Lambay Island. Many of the passengers and crew are now drowning before my eyes, and no assistance. My wife is also lost. William Clough, Manchester’. Gill said newspaper articles at the time said the bottle was washed up on one of the Cumbraes, but did not indicate which one.

She said: “If any readers have any information on the wreck, the bodies, the bottle, or perhaps a link to the travellers I would greatly appreciate them contacting me.

“William Clough, who wrote the message, must have acted very quickly to get a pen or pencil, paper and bottle because the ship sank rapidly.

“The bottle travelled 163 miles (according to Google) to one of the Cumbrae islands and may well still be there in someone’s attic or a dusty cupboard. I can’t help wondering if there are other, similar, bottles still out there, with desperate messages waiting to be read.” Unlike Titanic mementos which achieve huge sums at auction, Gill does not believe the bottle and message would be particularly valuable.

She said: “I suspect a number of museums would want it, especially the Warrington museum or Ireland’s National Maritime Museum but I don’t know whether they would pay, especially with all the recent cutbacks.

" I think its value is unlikely to be monetary, though I bet the owner could get something for it on ebay. I’d certainly put a bid in!” The RMS Tayleur was run by the White Star Line, the same company that ran the Titanic, and both ships were heralded as the most splendid liners of their time. Both sank in tragic circumstances on their maiden voyages.

Gill’s book tells how on 19 January 1854 the Tayleur, the largest merchant vessel in the world, left Liverpool for Australia. Packed with approximately 580 emigrants, her hold stuffed with cargo, the iron clipper was all set to race a wooden White Star Line vessel to the Antipodes.

But the ship’s revolutionary iron hull prevented its compasses from working. Lost in the Irish Sea, a storm swept the Tayleur, and the 650 people aboard, towards a cliff studded with rocks. Only 290 survived.

The Sinking of RMS Tayleur — the Lost Story of the Victorian Titanic — by Gill Hoffs is published by Pen and Sword, priced £19.99.

You can contact Gill on gillhoffs@hotmail.co.uk”