Great grand­mother hangs up apron at 81

Harefield Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - By Will Ack­er­mann will.ack­er­mann@trin­i­tymir­

LIL Smith never planned to be a cook, but when a mem­ber of staff at her daugh­ter’s school rushed out one morn­ing ask­ing for help, she agreed to chip in for the day.

That mo­ment sparked a ca­reer span­ning nearly half a cen­tury, start­ing with 26 years at what is now Wood End Park Academy.

Now Mrs Smith has hung up her apron for the last time, hav­ing re­tired as head cook at St Ber­nadette’s Catholic Pri­mary School, in Uxbridge, where she has been serv­ing up meals for more than 22 years.

Great grand­mother Mrs Smith, 81, of Dorset Av­enue, in Hayes, said: “I’ve loved it here, but I am en­joy­ing be­ing able to have a lie in.

“Although I of­fi­cially started at 8.30am, I liked to get there early to avoid all the chil­dren with their bags and things, so I used to get up at 5.45am and leave the house just be­fore 7am to get in be­fore the rush.”

The school, in Long Lane, or­gan­ised a farewell tea party for the ‘ su­per cook’, who joined as head cook in 1992, tak­ing three buses to work each day come rain or shine.

Through­out her time at the school, she and her four staff pre­pared up to 180 meals each day, plus an ex­tra 100 or so on Fri­days – fish fin­ger day.

Head teacher Catherine Moss said Mrs Smith’s ‘in­no­va­tive ap­proach to good home­made food’ made her a star long be­fore Jamie Oliver en­tered the healthy school din­ners de­bate.

She said: “Her food is al­ways whole­some, well thought-out and de­li­cious.

“But her con­tri­bu­tion to the school has been more than sim­ply nour­ish­ing young minds and empty tum­mies.

“As an evac­uee, her ex­pe­ri­ences of be­ing bil­leted first to Wales, and later to Berk­shire, have proved an in­valu­able and rich source of his­tory to the Year 6 chil­dren, who each year are in­vited to spend an af­ter­noon with her hear­ing about her war time rem­i­nisces.”

Be­fore hav­ing chil­dren her­self, Mrs Smith, who was born in Vic­to­ria, Lon­don, worked as an ad­min­is­tra­tor for the For­eign Of­fice, in a build­ing in White­hall.

She left when her first child, Martin, now 57, was born. His sis­ters, Wendy, 56, and Sue, 55, soon fol­lowed.

At her leav­ing party on Wed­nes­day, Fe­bru­ary 11, bingo-lover Mrs Smith was pre­sented with a bou­quet of flow­ers, a Marks & Spencer gift voucher and a bot­tle of Bai­leys, while also en­joy­ing home-made sand­wiches and cakes.

Head teacher Mrs Moss said: “She is a hard act to fol­low.”

n GOOD­BYE: Lil Smith with teacher and pupils from St Ber­nadette’s Photo by Katie Lamb www.buyapho­ WL150818

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