East Sussex village's lollipop lady retiring after almost 45 years

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A lollipop lady, who has been helping children cross the road safely in an East Sussex village for almost 45 years, is retiring this week.

Pat Brabon, 77, started as Northiam’s lollipop lady in February 1979.

Speaking about her job, she said: “I enjoy being part of the school community and I love seeing the children every day. It is a big commitment, being outside the school gates twice a day in all weathers, but the children and parents rely on me and over the years I’ve got used to the weather.”

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She is known around the village as ‘Lolly’ after a little boy announced one morning 42 years ago that he did not want to go to school but wanted to ‘watch Lolly crossing the children over the road’.

Pat BrabonPat Brabon
Pat Brabon

Every September Pat visits the new Reception class to introduce herself to the children and remind them about road safety, and often sees the children and grandchildren of pupils she helped across the road when they attended the school.

Reflecting on her career over the last 44 years, Pat said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed the job and if it was not for my health I would not be giving the job up.

“I have seen all sorts of changes over the years since I started in 1979. Back then all children walked to school. Now few do. There is also a lot more traffic on the road and people used to be more friendly and chatty. People always used to stop and chat. Today, not so many do.

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“The school has changed a lot. It used to be very small with only four teachers.”

Pat said she has always worked with children, as she used to be a nanny before she became a lollipop lady.

Julia Bray, headteacher of Northiam Primary School, said: “Pat has been an important person in our school for the last 45 years. Starting off as a both caretaker and Lolly lady, she has become an integral part of school life.

“She has been a welcoming face greeting the children as they come into school and ensuring they cross the road safely. She will greatly missed by all of the Northiam School Community. We wish her well for retirement.

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“Northiam Primary nearly lost Pat due to a funding crisis in 2017 and more recently in 2021. The Northiam community pulled together to keep Pat in post and she is a community-funded lollypop lady. Thank you to the community for helping keeping our children safe and allowing Lolly to reach this amazing milestone.”

Last month, Pat was one of a number of people from the School Crossing Patrol service to be presented with badges and certificates by the county council to mark the 70th anniversary of the service.

Provided by Road Safety GB, the badges and certificates were distributed to School Crossing Patrols (SCPs) by the county council as part of nationwide celebrations to mark the anniversary.

SCPs have been helping children cross the road safely since the service was officially created by the School Crossing Patrol Act in 1953. The first official patrol started work in 1954.

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With their distinctive round ‘lollipop’ sign, School Crossing Patrols have the authority to stop traffic and although their role was originally to help children across the road, patrols can stop traffic to cross any pedestrian, adult or child, safely.

The idea for SCPs came in the late 1940s when two of the newly-created road safety officers in the London Boroughs of Dagenham and Barking, Jock Brining and Dorothy Pummell, recognised a growing problem with the safety of child pedestrians given the increasing volume of traffic on roads.

Cllr Claire Dowling, lead member for transport and environment at East Sussex County Council, said: “We would like to thank Pat for her dedication to the Northiam school community.

“Come rain or shine, she has been helping local children cross the road safely on their way to and from school for an incredible 45 years.

“We wish her all the very best for her retirement.”