Vietnamese boat people’s return to Barnoldswick

Long Lai (51) and Binh (40) (back row) with mother Ngoc Truong and Edith Sheldrick in a visit to Barnoldswick.
Long Lai (51) and Binh (40) (back row) with mother Ngoc Truong and Edith Sheldrick in a visit to Barnoldswick.

A member of a Vietnamese family who moved to Barnoldswick in 1980 having fled their homeland in the Far East has returned to the town for the first time in 30 years.

Binh Lai (40) moved to the Coates Estate when he was seven years old with his parents, five brothers and his sister after becoming one of the Vietnamese boat people leaving their home for Hong Kong.

After a year in Dorset, the family moved north to Barnoldswick and were one of two Vietnamese families in the town at the time.

And on Friday, Binh, with brother Long (50), mother Ngoc Truong and the sons’ children, returned to visit Edith Sheldrick who was one of the church members on an unofficial welcoming committee helping the family settle into their new home.

The family reminisced about life in Barlick and in particular one of their first memories of life in the town was their surprise to see snow, something which they had never seen before.

Binh said: “When we moved to Barnoldswick, we were on our own. Edith helped us and showed us around. I remember being quite small.

“For my mum and dad I think it was probably quite difficult because of the language barrier. For us it was easier as we had school and had learned English.”

Long said: “When we moved here there was one Chinese takeaway. Now there’s Indian, Italian; things have changed.”

Binh added: “When we moved, the people were so welcoming and friendly, always saying hello. We didn’t have any problems. In London you don’t get that.”

Edith said: “It’s absolutely amazing and wonderful to see them. We have kept in touch every Christmas. It’s been brilliant having them for the day.”

The family left Barnoldswick in 1984 to move to Birmingham where some friends from Vietnam were living.

Long with mother Ngoc last returned to Barnoldswick around 10 years ago.

Binh now works for the NHS in Birmingham, while Long is the only member to live in the north in Manchester where he works as a chef. The remainder of the family live in London.