Real Lives: Lollipop man gives kids final high five

lollipop man Peter Habermann

lollipop man Peter Habermann

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Peter Habermann, a long-serving lollipop man, is retiring after 11 years of helping kids cross the road at Pumpherston and Uphall Community Primary School.

The father of six moved to West Lothian in 1999 after coming close to being killed at the hands of a robber in his home town of Johannesburg.

Mr Habermann said: “I was visiting a friend to buy their computer, and had put it in the car when I heard a man shouting ‘lie down, lie down!’.

“He was pointing a gun at me, and when I realised it wasn’t a fake, I did as I was told. That is when I heard two shots, but the bullets must have been jammed in the barrel, because they didn’t hit me.”

Mr Habermann, who was born and raised in Johannesburg, was trained as a police traffic officer and knew exactly what to do.

“He took everything I had, my wallet, watch, and the car, so I called it in to my friends in the traffic authorities,” he said. “But my car had disappeared off the face of the earth.”

It would take a lot to faze him but he describes the Scottish weather as the toughest part of being a lollipop man. “I was hijacked at gunpoint, so I decided to come to Scotland and freeze to death.

“The times standing in the snow are when I think most about going back to South Africa.”

Mr Habermann stumbled into “lollipopping” by accident when he moved to Scotland, where his wife Sandi was born, to work as a traffic officer.

Upon realising there were no jobs in his chosen profession, he looked for an alternative.

“Someone suggested that I try being a lollipop man, so I did,” he said. “I found that I loved the interaction with people, and the way that you become a centre for information.

“I had to familiarise myself with the area because of the number of drivers who would stop and ask for directions. But my experience as a traffic officer in South Africa helped me no end.

“I loved making friends with the kiddies. You do become a target of their snowballs, but it is all part of the fun. The school was lovely, and the headmistress, Ms Brockbank, was incredible and supportive. She made me look forward to coming to work.”

He is known for making jokes with the kids and his “high fives” that he gives pupils, so the children bade him farewell by giving him a collective high five at the end of a special celebration and presentation of gifts prepared by the school.

He added: “I will really miss everyone. Working at the school has been a wonderful experience.”