Ivan Gibson is clearly someone who loves his work. The Rathcoole parishioner, in the Diocese of Connor, has been helping children, parents and grandparents to cross the road outside Carnmoney Primary School for 16 years.
His commitment and daily good humour have not gone unnoticed, for 78 year old Ivan, was recently voted Belfast’s favourite lollipop person in a contest run by the Belfast Live website.
More than 3,000 names were put forward. The 10 who had the most nominations were put out to the public vote, and at the end of the process Ivan received 40 per cent of the votes cast.
Ivan’s family have always belonged to the Church of Ireland and moved from Belfast to Rathcoole in 1962. They became members of St Colmgall’s Parish Church, where Ivan married his late wife Irene in 1965.
He now lives in nearby Carnmoney, but remains a member in Rathcoole Parish, and is now on the Select Vestry.
Ivan left school at 16 to start as an apprentice at Shorts Factory. He later worked for Rolls Royce, Sirocco Engineering Works, and LFE in Mallusk, before returning to Shorts until taking redundancy at the age of 60 in 2001.
Three years later he took up the role of lollipop man at Carnmoney Primary School, located on the summit of a hill. “The only thing I don’t love about the job is the weather – this is the coldest place in Northern Ireland you know,” he points out.
But Ivan is undaunted on even the wettest day. “The kids are great, the school’s great, the teachers and principal are all very down to earth. There is good discipline, the children have very good manners.”
He works three and a half hours a day during term time – guiding children across the road first thing in the morning and at the different finishing times.
“I enjoy the banter with the kids and the parents and grandparents, and they enjoy it back,” Ivan says.” The presents I get at Christmas..! It’s embarrassing!”
He admits that drivers can be testing at times. “It is not so much that they are rude, but they can be distracted, or impatient – silly people. There are the boys who sit revving their engines, and I think you are a bit of a fool, because I am going to keep you waiting a little bit longer. The same with the boys who keep edging ahead.”
You get the impression that behind the smiles and the twinkle in the eye – Ivan Gibson is something of an Ironman when it comes to staking his authority in the middle of the road!
Ivan said news that he was Belfast’s favourite lollipop person had come out of the blue. He plans to continue to work as long as he is able. “It keeps me fit and healthy,” he says. “School holidays are a big chunk out of my life, the weekends are long, although I go to church on Sundays. I get lonely.
“You have to thank the Lord for your health. This job keeps me well and keeps me in touch with things.
“Just last week the children gave me a home-made card with a flower on it, and all the classes had signed their names on the petals. It was to say thank you for helping them cross the road and stay safe. It was just lovely.”
Read more Connor Diocese news on their website here.