'We will miss you' - the Merseyside lollipop lady leaving school after 30 years
Pat Meakin is going to spend a lot of time in her retirement thinking about her pupils. Soon the 73-year-old will be hanging up her lollipop stick after nearly 30 years of helping them to safely cross the street. In fact, generations have navigated the busy St Helens Road in Prescot, Merseyside, without injury thanks to her careful observation of the traffic. I met her as she collected her stick from outside the reception at Our Lady's Roman Catholic Primary. I'm not sure which is brighter - her dazzling fluorescent uniform or the beaming smile still visible behind a yellow road safety face mask. It is a morning that she has been looking forward to. "It's the same as when we come back after summer holidays. You haven't seen them for six weeks. I usually get, oh, I've missed you!"
All of the pupils are returning two months after the school gates closed to all but the children of key workers. "When the very first lockdown came, I was finished-up because of being over 70. I went in to say goodbye for three months to the children. I cried my eyes out for three months, but today has been an eye-opener. I've completely forgotten how busy we are." Watching her carry out her duties it is obvious that she has as much pride in her job as rapport with those fleetingly in her charge.
Pat started the job at another crossing in 1991, a month before her first grandchild was born. She told me that she was asked to cover this crossing for six weeks and is still here 13 years later.
Horns honk as Pat boldly strides out into the street; not because she has stopped the traffic but because everybody knows Pat in this part of Prescot. She gives a little wave, half in gratitude and half in recognition. Pat gets spotted at the shops too by children who must be excited to see that their friend doesn't wear high-vis in her downtime.
Haydn Boyle, the head teacher at Our Lady's, says Pat has a "heart of gold".
He has arranged for a huge banner to be placed at the roadside to say thank you for keeping them safe. Pat looks shocked. I wonder if more surprises might be planned before the month is out.
Pat first considered retiring when she was 60 but the time has finally come for the great-grandmother to spend more time with her own family. However, the pupils will never be far from her thoughts. "Thankfully I only live around the corner. I'll maybe knock next door and say can I take your children to school so I can come and see them? But yes I think it's time now."