FOR almost four decades, Eleanor Ellison and her trusty ladle have helped keep generations of school pupils fed and watered.
A well-known face at Larne and Inver Primary, she has been serving up lunches and keeping a watchful eye on the youngsters for as long as most of the staff can remember.
But now, after 37 years, the much-loved dinner lady has officially hung up her apron for the last time, at the age of 72.
The Larne woman, who lives at Tullygarley, was a pupil at the school herself back in the 1940s, and returned in 1974 as a cleaner and supervisor. Despite giving up her cleaning duties in 2004, Eleanor remained a familiar face in the canteen and on the playground in her supervisory role.
For her last day on the job on Friday, pupils and staff gathered to bid Eleanor a fond farewell and present her with a few parting gifts in recognition of her years of service, including a custom-made ceramic teapot bearing the words “Best Dinner Lady”, a basket of flowers and a collection of pictures drawn by the pupils.
Eleanor’s granddaughter Katey McMullan, a pupil at the school, was on hand to deliver the gifts and wish her granny a happy retirement.
Speaking at the farewell bash in the school canteen, a delighted Eleanor told the Larne Times: “I just wanted to slip out quietly without any fuss, and I had no idea all this was coming. The presents are lovely and I want to thank everyone at the school for their kindness.
“I am really going to miss being a part of this great school, as it has been such a big part of my life. But I decided it was time to step aside and give someone else a chance to do this job.
“I have so many fond memories at Larne and Inver, as not only did I go to school here, but so did my two children and my grandchildren.
“A lot of staff and pupils have come and gone during my time here and I have made so many friends over the years. But what I will miss the most is chatting to the children every day, as they always had some interesting things to say!”
Principal Kirk Patterson paid tribute to Eleanor for her years of dedicated service.
“I have only been principal here for a short time, but I can safely say that Eleanor will be greatly missed by all the staff and pupils at Larne and Inver. We all wish her well and hope she has a long and happy retirement,” he added.
Eleanor will have plenty to keep her busy during her retirement – in fact, she hopes to jet off to Barcelona soon for some much-needed relaxation.
Eleanor is also involved in a number of local groups and organisations, including the Trefoil Guild, Mothers’ Union, and the quilting group at St Cedma’s Church.