When Irene Reid says she’s top of the class she is not joking.
It is a claim she can rightly make after notching up a remarkable record of being the lollipop lady on Berry Lane, in Longridge for 50 years.
This week she was looking forward to celebrating, with family and partner Hawklords musician Harvey Bainbridge, her golden anniversary doing what for Irene is the best job in the world.
The mother of four, grandmother of six and great grandmother of seven was recognised in 2012 with an MBE for her services to road safety.
In 2017 she was acclaimed as the nation’s longest serving crossing patrol and many years ago she won a car after being named Britain’s most popular lollipop lady.
But even with all those claims to fame, plus her status as a much loved local VIP regularly invited to officiate at special events, notching up 50 years helping generations of youngsters cross the road outside the Berry Lane CE school is something very special indeed.
She helps not just Berry Lane pupils, but junior and high school students en route to other schools too.
She said: “Obviously you’ve got to like children. I couldn’t get up in the morning and not do this. I’m really lucky.”
When Irene first started the uniform was certainly no attraction. She recalled: “I started on March 17, 1969. I was a real big hippy then. I had long black hair and I wore little hot pants and bright coloured clothes so the lollipop uniform was ‘Oh my word, I’m doing that?’ ”
But once she started the job, which fitted well round her family commitments, she realised she didn’t want to stop...and still has no plans for retirement.
The former Preston Park School student, now in her late seventies, had attended Glovers Court College in Preston after grammar school intending to train as a teacher of needlework : “I packed up with the idea as the children got older I would then go back and finish this degree course...but I never did go back.”
Road safety is paramount for Irene. Such is her dedication Irene also goes into schools to teach road safety.
She said: “I love Longridge. I can’t think of anywhere else I would like to live. The people are fantastic, they are just great “
Now County Hall has sent Irene special congratulations. County Councillor Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways and transport, said:
“Having achieved such long service is a truly fantastic achievement, and the way she is known and loved by generations of children, parents and teachers in Longridge is testament to a lifetime of dedication to her local community.
“On behalf of Lancashire County Council I congratulate and thank Irene for her excellent achievement and dedication to road safety over the past 50 years.”