Islington’s longest serving lollipop lady
When Margaret Lonergan first started her job as a crossing patrol officer in 1975, she didn’t intend for it to become such an important part of her life. Now, 42 years later Margaret is Islington’s longest serving lollipop lady and a popular face within the local community where she works. IslingtonLife finds out why her role is so special and the changes she has seen throughout the years.
How did your role as lollipop lady come about?
I knew the lady who was originally working on the crossing. She was local like me and moving on elsewhere. My children were quite young and I happened to say it would be handy having a few spare bob, which was scarce in those days. Next thing I know I had a police lady knocking at my door and taking my measurements! I’d been put forward for it.
What’s the most challenging thing about your role?
I used to worry all the time about the kids getting hurt. I still do. I shadowed the police officer on duty when I started and was thrown right into it, which was a good thing. The police used to manage the crossings before the council did, you see. You think it’s just being a lollipop lady but it was nerve-wracking.
Did you imagine being in the role for as long as you have?
I can’t even believe how long I’ve been doing it myself! I only intended on working for three months. Two months in, unfortunately, I lost one of my sons, he died in a fire in the playground not far from here, so I certainly had no intention of going back. About four weeks after my son’s funeral, our wonderful local police lady was at my door encouraging me to come back to work. She stayed with me on the crossing for my first week back and helped me get my confidence back and I’ve been there ever since.
What schools are in your crossing area?
I’m in the centre of it all, between MacKenzie Road and Liverpool Road. I cover Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School, St Mary Magdalene and Drayton Park.
What are the biggest changes that you have seen over the years?
There’s so much more traffic now, including cyclist’s and scooters. Fortunately, there’s never been any major accidents. I’ve also seen the area transform into a multi-cultural community, which is a fantastic thing.
Tell us what you enjoy most about your role?
If I’m not in the best of moods, I see these beaming little faces and it gives me incentive to carry on. What more could I ask for really. Children run up to me and give me a hug because they’re so excited to see the lollipop lady, even bus drivers wave at me in the mornings! I get people coming up to me saying “You were my lollipop lady.” They’ve grown up into these lovely young men and women with families of their own, it’s amazing.
What do you like most about living in Islington?
It’s so central to everything, you’ve got the shops and transport on your doorstep. I was very shy when I first came here. I’ve learned over the years you have to make an effort. My neighbours are very good, they rallied round and were there for me when I lost my husband five years ago. They’re there when you need them.
Do you plan on putting down your lollipop stick any time soon?
I know I’ll have to retire at some point but I’ll continue for as long as they let me! I’ve got eight years to go until retirement. If I start losing my concentration before then, I’ll know it’s time to stop. There’s not many of us lollipops ladies around now, which is a shame. I would really miss it, it’s my life.
Thanks for sharing your story, Margaret!