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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Everyone knows Lollipop lady Gail

Lollypop lady Gail Burns
Lollypop lady Gail Burns helps (l-r) Charlotte Atkinson and Katie Steel from Burlington school cross the road.

PARENTS, kids, even the dogs – Gail knows the names of everybody who passes her “pitch” outside Burlington CE School.

She’s been Kirkby’s lollipop lady for coming up 13 years so her standing in the community is well established.

Despite her being an offcomer Gail Burns, pictured below, has immersed herself in rural life. She runs Mother Survival Days in the school holidays and during term time she runs the church youth club and a breakfast club, before starting her shift as a lollipop lady.

So what brought a Kansas woman to put down roots in Kirkby? She arrived in Kirkby on a sabbatical while serving at the Church of Christ in Tunbridge Wells. She started attending the Church of Christ at Wallend, in Kirkby, and the church asked her and a colleague if they would stay and work with them.

“I don’t fancy relocating again,” says the 58-year-old. “This village is quite active, there’s a lot going on.

“I’m the secretary for the community centre and we have our gala coming up. There’s a big push to get the sports hall built. There’s a lot of clubs and a lot of community participation. There are three pubs in the village which have good clientele and quiz nights.

“There are things going on in the village for a whole range of ages and it’s a safe place to be. The kids can pop out and play in the community centre and their parents don’t have to be with them the whole time, which is nice. It’s a good school as well.”

Gail won over local people when she stepped into the lollipop lady’s shoes. “I was only going to do it for a couple of years,” she says. “It’s one of those things you just kind of keep doing, year after year.”

It’s a big commitment – supervising the crossing patrol every morning and afternoon – but the job reaps its own rewards. Kimberley stops and gives Gail a progress report on how her classmates are coping with Sats; Gail breaks off to escort Katie, Charlotte and Katie’s mum across the busy A595 and Sam gets a cuddle.

“I’ve known Sam since he was a puppy. I know all the dogs as well,” smiles Gail. She knows all 56 pupils by name and many of the 1,200 residents.

Her Mother Survival Days have proved a huge hit.

“I hold them during the Easter, Christmas and summer holidays,” says Gail, of Hershell Terrace. They’re a games day, from 10am until 2pm. The children bring their lunches and play games – running games, searching games, tower building, whatever. It gives their parents a break. At Christmas they drop the kids off and go shopping, in summer time they can go and do the gardening.

“There are several children in the village who don’t go to the village school and it’s their chance to meet the children around them.”

As a deacon she also helps coordinate the church’s Tuesday club, which is essentially Sunday school.

“It’s an hour and a half when they can make noise and mess and we don’t bother anybody,” she says. “It works well after school. Some people see it as a baby sitting service, but I don’t care.

“We get them for an hour and a half and we do craft lessons and in June we’re doing treasure chests.”

The Tuesday club compiled a recipe book, which is on sale in Kirkby’s Moorland Stores to raise money for the Christian Blind Mission.

Gail’s chocolate brownies are legendary and she’s never as popular than on the last day of term.

“They like me especially before school breaks up because I always have cakes and biscuits,” she says.

She’s also proud of the fact that in 13 years patrolling the crossing she’s never once been yelled at by a motorist. She says: “I must have the best pitch in the country.”

Although she’s never hardened to the British weather. Even on temperate days her brightly knitted scarf is always within reach.

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