“Preston is still home”: Couple’s yearly pilgrimage to city despite husband emigrating more than 60 years ago


Roy Ryan, 84, left Ribbleton 61 years ago for a life of adventure after completing his national service in the RAF.

After moving to Canada at the age of 23 and quite literally marrying the girl next door, they then moved again in 1969, settled into a life in her home town of Cape Town, South Africa, where they had two sons and a daughter.

But he’s never forgotten his roots, and every year – Covid permitting – the couple have made the pilgrimage back to Preston to see family and friends.

Photo Neil Cross; Roy and Cynthia Ryan lives is South African but have made an annual pilgrimage to their home city every year for the past couple of decades

Roy, who lived in Moor Nook and went to St Joseph’s RC School in Rigby Street, said: “It’s fantastic to come back.

“Like everywhere, changes have happened – some appear to be for the better, and some for the worse.

“I’m talking mainly about architecture really. The university area is very nice now. When I left, there was no university, it was the Harris Technical School, so it’s interesting to see the developments there.

“The covered market is nice too. Other building styles I see I don’t like so much.”

Photo Neil Cross; Roy and Cynthia Ryan lives is South African but have made an annual pilgrimage to their home city every year for the past couple of decades

Roy, who worked on submarines and then spent 20 years in IT, said he’s still able to make his way around Preston as many streets still look the same.

He said: “The Flag Market, Fishergate and Friargate, nothing’s really changed there. It’s still the same as when I used to go to the Hippodrome – but of course that’s not there anymore!”

This week Roy has met up with an old school friend and spent a day visiting places from their youth.

He said: “It was wonderful, and for my wife, it’s all quite foreign. The big differences are that in Cape Town it’s extremely scenic with lovely beaches and you can go on safari and see lots of wildlife.

Photo Neil Cross; Roy and Cynthia Ryan lives is South African but have made an annual pilgrimage to their home city every year for the past couple of decades

“The lifestyle is very different, but there’s lots I miss about Preston.

“I miss the wonderful country pubs, because you don’t get them in South Africa – or if you do, they’re phoney.

“And the people in Preston are very, very friendly. You could talk to anyone.”

Roy has also retained his love of Preston North End, a club he played for as a youth.

He said: “I was one of the fortunate ones who saw Tom Finney play week-in, week-out.

“For me, he could walk on water. And when I played for the PNE youth team, Tom Finney and Tommy Doherty would practice with us at night.”

Roy is able to carry on his support in Cape Town when matches are screened on television.

The couple have made it back for every Preston Guild – held every 20 years- and last time, in 2012, were able to make it to the Guild Ball.

Roy said: “My friend is quite well-connected in the business world and was able to get us tickets to the Guild Ball with the Mayor.

“It was quite a privilege and something we’ll always remember.”



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