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East End Lollipop People

June 25, 2014
by the gentle author

Let us now praise the Lollipop People. Those benign spirits who arrive miraculously twice a day, like guardian angels or fairy godparents, glowing fluorescent, wielding their wands and shepherding their flocks safely across the road to and from school.

When the City of London & Cripplegate Photographic Society approached me offering their services to collaborate with Spitalfields Life, I knew at once that the Lollipop People would be the subject – to my eyes, they are unacknowledged, universally-loved, heroes and heroines who deserve to be celebrated and photographed.

Yet, getting to the right place at the right time and capturing these timid fleeting spirits, proved more challenging than we had anticipated. We discovered that, due to the Education Cuts, the Lollipop People are an endangered species and, such is the unassuming nature of these modest folk, some shunned the lens while others would not give their names.

Thankfully, through tenacity and charm, Cathryn Rees and Jean Jameson were able to produce this slim portfolio of elegant portraits that must serve as the historical record of these hardy, altruistic souls.

Frank Smith at Cubbitt Town School, Isle of Dogs (Photo by Cathryn Rees)

Sabah at Bigland Green School, Limehouse (Photo by Jean Jameson)

Abdul Rif at Caley Primary School, Bow (Photo by Jean Jameson)

At Cyril Jackson Primary School, Limehouse (Photo by Jean Jameson)

Jackie Clarke, St Peter’s School, Wapping (Photo by Cathryn Rees)

At Cyril Jackson Primary School, Limehouse (Photo by Jean Jameson)

Julie Hutchinson at Mayflower School, Poplar  (Photo by Cathryn Rees)

Sabah at Bigland Green School, Shadwell (Photo by Jean Jameson)

At Redlands Primary School, Stepney (Photo by Cathryn Rees)

Photographs copyright © Cathryn Rees & Jean Jameson

Learn more about City of London & Cripplegate Photographic Society, London’s oldest photographic society, founded in 1899

10 Responses leave one →
  1. jeannette permalink
    June 25, 2014

  2. June 25, 2014

    They’re such a dying breed. There are no longer any round here in North Yorkshire, I don’t think.

  3. Jill permalink
    June 25, 2014

    I salute my London colleagues from my crossing point in Sussex and wish them all dry days with no drivethroughs – it’s not about the money (poor) but all about the children…and the glamourous uniform of course.

  4. Vicky permalink
    June 25, 2014

    That was lovely Jeanette, thank you. Special to us all, so sad if they disappear.

  5. June 25, 2014

    In Germany the School Safety Patrol is called “Schülerlotsen” — a very fine & important job!

    Love & Peace

  6. Dru permalink
    June 25, 2014

    I used to go to Mayflower School & the lollipop lady there was brilliant. You were always greeted with a ‘Good Morning’ . She was very freckled & as very young children we thought that her freckles would all join together & she would be tanned forever. Shame no photos of Lollipop ladies back in the day.

  7. Laurinda permalink
    June 25, 2014

    Well done for writing especially about them because they do a fantastic job and also put their lives at risk. Unfortunately, not all drivers respect them. I see Frank Smith every day outside Cubitt Town school and often stop to chat with him when I have time.

  8. Alice permalink
    June 25, 2014

    Frank’s neighbourly ‘hello’ (or wave) is a very welcoming part of living here

  9. Janet Tocqueville permalink
    June 25, 2014

    My Mum is a Lollipop Lady in East London. She started out as she wanted a job that fitted in with my school holidays when I was at junior school. She has been escorting the children across the road outside my former school for close on 40 years now.

    It has taken it’s toll on her health. She has arthritis in her hand which she puts down to holding the pole while wearing wet leather gloves over the years. She has met many thousands of lovely people and unfortunately a few who are not so nice.

    At Christmas, she receives many gifts from the children. Thankfully, the Roses advert featuring a Lollipop lady is now a distant memory but at the height of it’s popularity she received somewhere in the region of 20 boxes of Roses!

  10. Melvyn Brooks permalink
    July 3, 2014

    I hope it is not too late to comment. Our “Crossing Lady” at Richmond Road, Hackney was an important link in our well being. She was the person who was entrusted with the forgotten swimming costume (“cozy”), the few pence we were allowed to buy sweets or tiger nuts or other vitals that we had forgotten in the morning rush to get to Gayhurst Road School before the bell. She was also the person who kept us safe and I wish I could thank her nearly 60 years on.

    Melvyn Brooks Karkur, Israel

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