I’D like to thank the small group who gave two or three hours of their time recently to continue the clean-up of Darwen cemetery.

I’d especially like to thank the man from Sri Lanka, a Muslim asylum-seeker, who saw the Friends’ website and decided to come and help us.

Not knowing where the cemetery was, he set off and walked a mile-and-a-half or so from his home and, as he walked through Whitehall Park, spotted our small group chopping and weeding and digging.

He breezed up, introduced himself and got stuck in, joining a second Muslim asylum-seeker from the Yemen who was also helping us as a ‘thank you’ for having had the Lancashire tradition of friendship extended to him in recent months.

They managed to converse in a mix of English and Arabic and did an excellent job together before my wife and I took them to our home and gave them lunch – and an hour-long English lesson.

The lad from Sri Lanka, a Tamil forced to flee the civil war which has ravaged his country, has two university masters degrees and his wife is a university lecturer.

And yet they can’t look for work until they get refugee status. It could take years. Their lives are slowly wasting away.

He wrote a few paragraphs during his English lesson. He wrote of meeting new friends and said the day was one of the most memorable of his life.

He was humble in his appreciation of the friendship he had found. I couldn’t explain to him how humble he made me feel.