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Lollipop brothers form double act to keep pupils safe on busy dual-carriageway

By Nevin Farrell

Published 27/06/2015

Brothers Pat and Jim Kerr at the school crossing at North Road, Ballymena
Brothers Pat and Jim Kerr at the school crossing at North Road, Ballymena

Meet the Kerr brothers who are lollipop men with a difference.

That's because the safety-conscious siblings are not just ordinary school patrol men - they BOTH work on the same crossing as a danger-diverting double act.

They are believed to be the only brothers in the UK and Ireland to share the same crossing.

North Road - a town centre dual-carriageway section in Ballymena - is deemed so dangerous by the authorities that two patrol personnel are needed at peak times. And working with each other on both sides of the road it is a good job they get on.

Even so, when working the brothers rarely meet in the middle... of the road.

Pat (64) and Jim (72) Kerr, both patrol the North Road crossing on weekday afternoons outside one of Northern Ireland's biggest schools - St Louis' Grammar.

But when hundreds of pupils flood out of the classrooms at the end of the school day and head for Ballymena town centre, they funnel down a pathway towards the Kerr brothers' crossing.

And that being the case the brothers say they each have to faithfully patrol their respective side of the road to ensure everyone gets safely across the full four lanes of traffic.

And it literally was an accident how the brothers came to be working side-by-side.

Pat slipped and injured himself doing another job in a car park and as he was off for three months he feared he might lose his crossing patrol beat.

He said the authorities asked if he knew anybody who could step in and he recommended brother Jim and when Pat returned the other lollipop man moved to a new post in Ahoghill to be closer to home and that meant the Kerr brothers became a traffic-stopping twosome.

Said Pat, a former taxi driver: "I injured myself, and was off for 13 weeks, so I was worried about losing my crossing job altogether. The school asked me if I could get somebody because it was hectic and fortunately Jim said he would do it."

Jim, a former driver for Waveney Laundry, said there has always been two crossing patrol men and that when the other patrol man applied for a new job to be closer to his home in Portglenone "that left the vacancy here so when Pat came back I got the other job."

Pat added: "I love the job, the children are so pleasant and never cease to say 'hello' and 'good morning' and are very polite, they are wonderful kids.

"There are two roads here, it is a dual carriageway. There are 200 to 250 children coming out here in the afternoon at half three. I try to get as many of them built up as possible so I can stop the traffic for a minute rather than three times in a minute."

In the mornings Jim works another crossing on the opposite side of the school but is drafted in to North Road to help out as the Cullybackey Road pedestrian exit is closed at that stage.

Pat added: "North Road is a very dangerous road, there are some bad drivers out there.

"They come off the roundabout on two lanes and I have actually seen a police car booking people for speeding coming round that corner."

Jim added: "There have been some close calls but no accidents," and Pat joked: "We haven't lost anybody yet."

The brothers agreed they like working with each other as they come from a "very close family" but explained that they rarely meet in the middle of the dual-carriageway as each has to stick to his own side of the road.

"We have had no fallouts yet and even play golf with each other at Ballymena Golf Club," said Pat.

And with the school year coming to a close the popular patrol men have been being getting gifts from children and their parents and have been going off home clutching boxes of sweets.

With a box of Milk Tray in his hand, Pat smiled: "I love doing the job, it is a great job."

And Jim wasn't left out either - he had Quality Street.

Belfast Telegraph

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