Pupils help John, 79, mark his last day of school

EDINBURGH'S oldest lollipop man has retired from the school he has attended on and off over the past nine decades.

John Rudden, 79, was given an emotional send-off from St Mary's RC Primary School in Leith to mark a retirement that brings to an end an association with the school which has endured since he was a pupil there in the 1930s.

The great-grandad has worked as a lollipop man for 11 years, but has decided to quit ahead of the coming winter following a fall last year.

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He said: "I was walking back from my shift and then the next thing I know I woke up and I was staring at the sky. I had cracked my head off the ground quite badly and I was knocked unconscious.

"I got taken to hospital by ambulance but I was back to work the next day. I probably shouldn't have been - the doctors certainly didn't think so - but the kids had to get to school.

"Last winter was bitterly cold and I don't think I can do another one, so I've decided to call it a day."

The proud Hibee hopes to spend his free time practising in the choir at Leith Church Hall and spending more time with his wife Irene.

The couple have two daughters - Bernadette and Maria - four grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren.

Mr Rudden was given a final farewell at St Mary's School yesterday with a mass and a small party, and departed to high-fives and hugs from all of his little friends at the school.

He said: "It's a sad reflection of the times that I have to get a nod from the parents whenever one of the children wants to give me a hug, but none of them ever object.

"They're very affectionate children and I've always got on very well with them. I like to keep an eye on them all.

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"One of the first children I helped across the road is married now. It's been nice watching them all grow up."

When John attended the school classes were still held inside St Mary's Star of the Sea Church, in Constitution Street, and their playground was on the roof.

He said: "They probably wouldn't allow it these days because of health and safety, but it was enclosed by railings so it was perfectly safe. The teachers could've still thrown us off though."

In 1938 John moved with the school to new premises at Yardhead before going on to attend St Anthony's Secondary School. Following a short spell as a butcher, he went on to work at the Scottish & Newcastle plant in Leith until his early 50s when a brain haemorrhage forced him into early retirement.

However, the workaholic couldn't be kept down so he took an assistant job at Holyrood Palace, and later Edinburgh Castle before becoming St Mary's lollipop man in 1999. Apart from his short illness his retirement will be his first time off since he was 14 years old.

School secretary Louisa Iannarelli-Hancock, who has known Mr Rudden since she was a child, said: "We'll be sad to see him go.

"Every year he takes time out to help the children with their Kerbcraft road safety lessons, and comes in to talk to them about life during the war.

"He's a lovely man who has been wonderful with the children."