Lollipop lady back on the roads for 43rd year running
Local treasure is well on her way to holding a national record for long service
08 September, 2017 — By Emily Finch
Margaret Lonergan has helped generations of children cross the road safely
ISLINGTON’S longest serving lollipop lady, who found solace in her work after the death of her son, returned to work this week as the new school year began.
Margaret Lonergan, 72, has helped children and the elderly cross the northern end of Liverpool Road, Holloway, for the past 42 years.
She decided to become a lollipop lady in her thir- ties, much to the surprise of her late husband Michael.
“He thought I was too young as lollipop ladies were usually retired people, but I thought it would be handy to have a few spare bob. I said I’d try it for three months, and I’m still here 42 years later,” said Ms Lonergan.
Tragically, she lost her 11-year-old son Denis just a couple of months into her new career when he was killed in a fire at the nearby Martin Luther King playground.
“I had three or four weeks off. It was difficult going back to work, because he had just started school in Highbury Grove.
“I would see him com- ing up in the evening with his tie mislaid, and his shirt open. I would see him in my mind walking up the road,” said Ms Lonergan.
“It was difficult for a good while, but time heals. Meeting people while you’re out there helped me. The wonder- ful local police lady, PC Ford, was at my door encouraging me to come back to work.”
She added that the drive to ensure children crossed the road safely got her back on duty. “It’s a really dangerous job – I used to have nightmares about the road. You always think the worst – what if a child breaks loose from its mum and runs? You have to be on your toes all the time,” she said.
With the rise of smart phones, Ms Lonergan says she sees a lot of near misses, with people on their phones unaware of oncoming cars.
“It’s not the kids I wor- ry about on their phones, but mums with their kids behind them. There’s so much more traffic now, including cyclists and scooters,” she said.
Ms Lonergan is from County Tipperary and spends her summer holi- days visiting friends and relatives in Ireland. But she says that by the time it gets to the end of summer she always itches to get back on duty.
“I look forward to com- ing back. There’s only so much countryside you can take, especially if it’s raining. I enjoy it when it’s busy and all the children are back,” she said.
Three generations have crossed roads under Ms Lonergan’s care and she says she feels old whenever someone balding recognises her from their school days. She said: “I was invited to the wedding of a girl I’ve known since she was little. It’s really cool.”
Ms Lonergan has eight more years until she has to retire, which will make her the country’s longest- serving lollipop lady.
The current record holder from Hull retired earlier this year after 45 years on the road. “If I start losing my concentration before I retire, I’ll know it’s time to stop. But I would really miss it,” she added.