Devon folk bewildered at US twin town "visit."

The people of the town of Bideford, Devon thought they were only twinned with a town in France. Imagine their shock when a group of vistors from Manteo, North Carolina arrived - a town that no-one in Bideford had ever heard of - saying that their town has been twinned with Bideford for the last 20 years or so.......

Town's shock as residents from mystery US 'twin' turn up bearing gifts

20th October 2006

Residents of Bideford were completely unaware of their twins in North Carolina. The Devon town was only known to be twinned with Landivisiau in France.

For the small American community of Manteo, it is a source of pride to be twinned with a British town.

But when a representative travelled to Bideford to celebrate the special relationship, he found no evidence that the "proud link" was reciprocated in Devon.

Instead, he was told by embarrassed officials that they were unaware of their twin-town status.

And in fact, they had never even heard of his home town.

Yesterday residents of Manteo, in the state of North Carolina, insisted they have been twinned with the North Devon town for two decades.

But a search of Bideford town hall archives has not revealed a single record of the arrangement.

Manteo resident David Riley, who presented Devon officials with a commemorative clock from his town has now returned home to investigate the mix-up.

Bideford town clerk George McLauchlan said yesterday: "He seemed like a nice guy and gave me a clock. It was a very nice clock."

"He said he was very proud to be twinned with us and offered a sincere thanks on behalf of the town's population for representing them in the UK."

"I said thank you but had to let him down gently. It seemed even more cruel not to."

He added: "He seemed a little puzzled and said our name was on all their road signs."

"I couldn't really offer any consolation so he said he was going home to look into it."

Council officials in Bideford were contacted by Manteo this summer by their American counterparts who hope to revitalise the twinning arrangement.

An email from town manager Kermit Skinner, one of just 1,052 residents of the town on a small island on the East coast of the US, read: "Our town was twinned with Bideford in the early 1980's during the 400th anniversary celebration of Sir Walter Raleigh's voyages to the then new world."

"Unfortunately the relationship between Bideford and Manteo has grown distant during the intervening 20 years since the cities were twinned."

"However David Riley, a resident of Manteo will be travelling to England this fall and will be passing through Bideford."

"We have a gift from the people of Manteo that he will be bringing."
Bideford officials were bemused, but arranged to meet Mr Riley, who handed the authority a commemorative clock on behalf of his fellow residents, to commemorate the "proud links" established between the two communities.

He also showed them a Manteo town sign which read: "Twinned with Bideford, England."

But after the formal presentation, Mr McLauchlan felt obliged to explain the uncomfortable truth - that no-one had ever heard of Manteo.

Bideford, he told him, was in fact twinned with Landivisiau in Brittany, northern France.
Yesterday Mr McLauchlan said: "I was very curious."

"I Googled Manteo and saw it was colonised by the English during the exploration of the New World, but couldn't find a link with us."

"We asked around some former staff but no-one knew anything so we thought we'd run with it."

"There's definitely been some confusion somewhere along the line."

The only explanation he can come up with is that a resident of Bideford must have visited Manteo in the 1980s and said or done something which led the townsfolk to believe an official tie had been established.

Neither Mr Reilly or Mr Skinner were available for comment yesterday.

But Manteo town planner and council spokesman Erin Trebisacci remained defiant and insisted the twinning did exist.

He said: "We are twinned with Bideford in Devon - and extremely proud of it. Every entrance to the town has a sign up with the name on."

"As far as we know there was a ceremony in 1984 in Manteo where there was an exchange of friendship and gifts."
"Everybody here knows about Bideford. It is not in question."


Bideford, population 14,599, is a market town and working port on the River Torridge in Devon

The pannier market, named after the baskets in which farmers’ wives brought their wares to market, was awarded its royal charter in 1272

Sir Walter Raleigh is said to have delivered his first cargo of tobacco to the port. Later, wool became a major commodity in the reign of Charles I

The town gave its name to Biddeford in Maine, USA

It complements the seaside attractions of Ilfracombe and Newquay

Very strange.
Last edited by Blackleaf; Oct 21st, 2006 at 04:59 AM..
Nobody in Bideford has ever heard of Manteo- NOT TRUE I work in the library next door to the town hall and we have a book presented by Manteo , on the history of Ranoake island, as a gift of friendship to the people of Bideford- dated 1984 , as the good people of Manteo said. Unfortunately although the library is in the same building , George preferred 'to google' Manteo rather than ask his local history person next door.Well we are normally the place of last resort, so I wasn't that surprised. What a missed opportunithy though and of course Bideford and Manteo go back 400 years to the first settlers from Devon and Bideford who arrived there.
Tsk tsk those "silly Americans" getting it all mixed up as usual - especially bearing gifts of brotherhoood, sisterhood and friendship!
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