“There is no place like home” according to a Burnley woman who has returned after 23 years away from the town.
Heather Barclay-Whiffin (47) has been “overwhelmed” by the instinctive friendliness of the people of Burnley since arriving from South Africa this month.
If there were ever a prize for ‘Most Welcoming Place’, Burnley would take top honours!Heather Barclay-Whiffin
After losing her job at Burnley Mechanics due to a loss of government funding she decided against auditioning for another role, and instead opted to see more of the world.
She arrived in Kenya in 1992 and travelled extensively before ending up in Durban, where she fell in love, got married and settled.
Twenty-three years later she has returned to visit her parents who still live in Landless Street, Brierfield, and in her short stay has been amazed by the town’s northern hospitality.
“It is such a refreshing experience to be made so welcome,” she said.
“When you go away and experience something and somewhere different then come back to the fold, you are a lot more appreciative.”
By contrast, she feels South Africans are more distant and believes the country’s high crime rates both reflect and influence a more parochial society.
In 2013/14 there were 17,068 murders - which means South Africa’s murder rate was about five times higher than the global average of six murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2013.
By comparison, the United Kingdom had 653 murders in 2011 - making its murder rate of one per 100,000 drastically below South Africa’s 31.
“Durban is not like Burnley at all,” she said.
“There are no ‘hello’s or ‘how are you’s in the shops or on the streets. People are just very insular.”
“I was robbed there two weeks ago and I don’t think the crime rate helps.
“People are a lot less friendly.”
But in Burnley Heather has found people to be a lot more open - from offering directions in the street, to striking up conversations on the bus, to supermarket staff “bending over backwards” in their eagerness to help.
And after experiencing their many small kindnesses, Heather feels she can only give the people of Burnley top marks.
“I know when I leave I am really going to miss it. People do not even try to be kind - they just are,” she said.
“I’ve been around the world and nowhere have I felt more welcome.
“If there were ever a prize for ‘Most Welcoming Place’, Burnley would take top honours!”