Belfast Telegraph

Tyrone lollipop lady honoured for keeping pupils safe for 40 years

Isabella Collum who has been a lollipop lady at Fivemiletown Primary School for 40 years
Isabella Collum who has been a lollipop lady at Fivemiletown Primary School for 40 years
Isabella Collum back in 2004
Isabella Collum with pupils on her last day
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

A Co Tyrone grandmother has been rewarded for her 40 years of service keeping children safe on their way to and from school.

Isabella (Daisy) Collum has notched up the record after over four decades as lollipop lady at Fivemiletown Primary School and without taking a sick day.

The 73-year-old was the only applicant when the job was advertised and since her first day on September 3, 1979, she has never looked back.

"I told my friend I had seen the job in the paper and she said to go for it. Back then it was thought of as a job for pensioners but I think it was made for me," Isabella said.

It was a challenging time as she was the youngest lollipop lady in Northern Ireland and mum to daughters Janet and Amanda.

"I've never forgotten my first day as my elderly neighbour looked after my youngest girl, who was three at the time, while I was at work," she said.

"After a while I wondered what I'd let myself in for standing out in the cold. Now I pass no remarks on the weather."

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As well as taking a daily jog, Isabella can be found at the school gates at 8.50am, 2pm and 3pm every weekday from September to June.

"I don't know where the last 40 years have gone. I've always loved my wee job," she added.

"When I first started at the school there were about 100 pupils, but now we have nearly 300 as a lot of families have moved into the town.

"I really look forward to every September to see all the new faces but then there are always tears in the summer when the older ones move on to other schools."

While the faces of the children have certainly changed down through the years, so too has the behaviour of drivers, and according to Isabella, not for the better.

She added: "The traffic in the town is unbelievable now, especially in the mornings, and you see all sorts.

"People drinking coffee, eating cereal from a bowl on their knee or women doing their make-up. I've seen it all. Drivers can ignore me and nearly run into me at times so I have jumped on to the footpath. If they got up in time they wouldn't need to be like that."

Last month Isabella was recognised for her contribution to her community at Northern Ireland's Road Safety Awards.

Melanie Houston, principal of Fivemiletown Primary School, insisted Isabella is a valued member of the school community.

"Isabella is always where she should be to make sure the children and any accompanying parents are safely escorted across the road," she said.

"I have never heard her complaining about the weather no matter how cold or wet.

"She is a friendly and familiar face and as much a part of our staff as any teacher, classroom assistant, caretaker or kitchen staff member."

While this year has been eventful for Isabella, 2020 will be just as significant as she will celebrate 50 years of marriage to her husband Victor (76).

But she has no intention of downing her lollipop yet and hopes to manage another 10 years in the role. I'll be 83 at that stage so I might be too old but maybe I'll take it five years at a time," she adds.

"I just couldn't imagine sitting at home with nothing to do."

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