The Avondhu - By The Fireside
Off she went at 8.20am – Monday to Friday to look after “her boys”. The boys were pupils of St Joseph’s National School, Fermoy or ‘Barrack Hill’ school as it was and still is called by us native northsiders. She was the lollipop lady.
She loved the fine mornings. “Sure it’s not like work at all when the sun shines,” she would say, and thus her day began. Boys from Beechfield Estate, Wolfe Tone Park, St Joseph’s Square, Bridget Street and Marian Square all seemed to appear at once. The boys from Marian Square walked up the boreen and sure the boys from St Bernard’s Place weren’t seen by the lollipop lady at all, as they had the school on their doorstep. A hop, skip and a jump and they were at their desks. While the boys from Greenhill were a further walk from the school.
9am, all crossed to school, safe and sound, lollipop down and off she went to do the housework until 12.45pm when her boys would shortly start to appear again at the crossing going home, some finished school for the day and some on lunch break.
When the mammy’s were with their boys, the lollipop lady would enquire “how is he getting on?” The replys would vary of course - “He is getting on grand”, “Oh Lord he hates school”, “He has my heart broken”, “I don’t know what to do with that fella”
- the banter was mighty.
School finished every day as happy as it began, I would call most days to the lollipop lady and on one of those days, she said “My God, I will have to get a book.” “For what?” I asked. “A book to write in the names of those little devils that won’t come down to me at the crossing, they are crossing at Shinnick’s Corner and one of them will be knocked down,” she said in despair. “I wouldn’t mind,” she said half laughing, “they were waving down at me, full of mischief!”
Well, ‘the book’ was bought, the names went into it and it was kept in the pocket of the lollipop lady’s white coat. It was often taken out in full view of the culprits and in their names would go. On one occasion, she got a visit at home from one of the culprits, he asked that his name be removed from the book, and he promised he would go to the crossing in future, that promise lasted a whole week!
After many years of loyal service, the lollipop lady retired, however she still saw the boys coming and going to school, a sight that always made her smile.
‘SHE KEPT US ALL SAFE’
When this lovely lady passed from this world, I met one of the chief ‘culprits’ at her funeral. He spoke with tears in his eyes to tell me he gave the lollipop lady an awful time when he was a small boy at school. I assured him he was surely forgiven. It was hard to see this young man so upset at her passing, yet it was lovely to know how much he really thought of her. “She kept us all safe,” were his parting words to me.
The lollipop lady’s name was Nell Fitzgerald and she lived in her beloved Wolfe Tone Park, number 25. We all loved this lady who looked after “her boys” so well for many a year.
Sure, why wouldn’t I love her? She was my mam. I never go through that old school crossing without thinking of her in her white coat and with her shiny lollipop. Thanks for those memories mam!