'Lollipop man' with school children: 1979
Photographer Margaret MacDonald. Outside Christchurch Church of England School, Spitalfields. ID no. IN39815
As a trial, Pummell and Brining recruited ‘active retired
gentlemen’ to help school children cross the road, issuing the men with a
lollipop, white coats, yellow armbands, and peaked caps. Other boroughs
followed suit, and the patrols were recognised officially with the introduction
of The School Crossing Patrol Service in the 1950s by the Metropolitan Service, part of The London Traffic (Children Crossing Traffic Notices) Law of 1952.
The Act allowed any person authorised by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan
Police, using the prescribed traffic sign, to stop traffic in order to allow
children to cross. Traffic had to stop before reaching the patrol or be fined
£5. The 1953 School Crossing Patrol Act extended the idea nationally; since
then patrols have been granted the right to stop traffic and to escort adult
pedestrians across the road as well as children.
Whilst the first patrols were male, the ‘lollipop lady’ and
her distinctive uniform became a common sight outside schools across the
country. Many, like Gallagher, became much loved figures within their
community. The earliest lollipops were
red and black rectangles printed with 'Stop, Children Crossing'. The round
lollipop was introduced in the 1960s and the uniform changed to the familiar
yellow coat in 1974. With the removal of the legal requirement to provide
patrols in 2000 many are now disappearing from the streets. Remaining posts are
difficult to fill due to short hours, low pay and aggressive behaviour from
motorists. In some London boroughs, as many as 50% of posts are vacant.