“Bob shows no signs of slowing down, and why should he when has such a passion for what he does?”

Known as the Smiling Coast, Bob visited to pursue his love of birdwatching and photography and over the years has become a regular face to the villagers of Kotu. “They call me ‘Burnley Bob’, he smiles, “I’ve been five times now. A friend of mine who was a birdwatcher went there a few years ago and told me what a good place it was, so I just decided to go, and I went on my own and I’ve been in love with the place ever since. I know quite a lot of people in the wildlife fraternity over there now and I always have the same taxi driver, Musa. He’s got two children and one on the way. I invite him back to the hotel and have a meal with him, his wife and kids. Everyone is happy out there,” says Bob, “they have very little in the way of possessions, and every day their diets consist of rice, rice and rice. I know one chap out there works six days a week for 12 hours a day and earns the equivalent of £7 per week!”

Bob took retirement when he was 59, after working for years as a cutter, a semiprofessional photographer, and his last job was working in the stores department of a car company. “After being made redundant, I tried to get a job but at that age, I had no chance. I weighed up what I had in pension and with my redundancy pay I was no worse off than when I was

Nephew of Northern Life’s columnist and photographer Eddy Rawlinson, Bob was raised in a photographic environment and enjoyed snapping shots from the age of ten, which is why Bob loves to visit The Gambia, “there are over 600 species of birds out there, they are very colourful and appealing to photograph.”

But, it’s not just the wildlife that draws Bob to The Gambia year after year, it’s also the people coupled with the real sense of community. Whenever he visits he never goes empty handed and many of the folk in Kotu can be seen wearing Burnley football shirts. “They love football shirts out there,” he laughs, “so, I go to car boot sales and if I see any Burnley or England shirts, I take them out to them.”

Reader Appeal

Bob will be visiting The Gambia twice this year and we would love to be able to send football shirts out to the villagers. So, if you have any Burnley or England shirts that you could donate to Burnley Bob, please drop them in to the Northern Life office.

Bob Rawlinson
Bob with the recipients of some of his donated Burnley shirts

When I ask if he’d ever take out Blackburn Rovers shirts, he stops laughing, “No Nay Never,” he replies!

“When you’re going home they want your clothes so I give all my clothes away and I usually give some money away as well!”

Now aged 71, Bob shows no signs of slowing down, and why should he when he has such a passion for what he does and through his love of African wildlife, he too, has found love with Mariama, his Gambian girlfriend, who he met on his last trip there. “I talk to her every day on
Whatsapp,” he grins.

It’s obvious that Bob, is a man who lives life to the full , so, if you’re at Manchester Airport and see a chap leaving a plane that has just landed from The Gambia in the ‘nuddy’ with a wide grin, that’ll be ‘Burnley Bob’ returning from the Smiling Coast.

Look out for the April edition for an update on Burnley Bob’s African adventures.

Tanji fishing village
Tanji fishing village


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