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Long-serving Dunbar Grammar School dinner lady retires after 31 years

ONE Dunbar Grammar School dinner lady has hung up her apron and retired after more than 30 years’ service.

Sheila Martin, 69, was born and brought up in Galashiels, moving to Dunbar when she married husband Derek nearly 50 years ago.

Derek, who used to work at Dunbar cement works, sadly passed away from cancer five years ago.

The pair had two children: Kevin, 43, a labourer at a local farm, and Joanne, 40.

Before Dunbar Grammar, Sheila worked nightshift at Torness Power Station.

A former colleague provided relief at the school when staff were off sick.

Sheila covered for her one day and, after her third time providing relief, stayed at the school ever since.

Working at the school for 31 years, Sheila has witnessed a lot of changes over the years.

She said: “The job has changed quite a bit over the years – this place is a lot busier than it used to be.

“It is a lot harder and you don’t always have the right amount of staff, someone is always off sick.

“That just puts pressure on and you get a bit grumpy some days when you’re short staffed. It can be quite crazy some days, especially when you have a delivery coming in.

She added: “When I first came, the pupils had their dinner – a standard meat and two veg, and a pudding – that was it; and we used to transport meals out to places like West Barns and Innerwick schools and also used to do meals on wheels in here.

“There was a milk bar and we had to wash the dishes by hand.

“They are going back to main meals now but there is a lot of fast food kids can have too.

“When I first started, all of the food, including meat and veg, was prepared fresh unlike now, where it is mostly frozen.”

Her colleague Lorraine Batchelor added: “The kitchen used to be a lot bigger than it is now; it was also all wooden apart from the marble slab for their pastries.

“People don’t realise how much work is involved in being a dinner lady – they think it’s as simple as coming in and preparing food but there’s more to it than that.”

Sheila has plenty of stories from her long career, with many laughs shared between her and her colleagues.

Lorraine said: “We’ve had heartache, we’ve had laughs, we’ve had everything as a team.”

The ladies recalled that during the school’s refurbishment, one colleague went to take a cover off an electric fly trap and ended up with a face covered in dust.

Lorraine added: “We laughed forever – all you could see were her eyes!”

Another tale involved trying to catch a mouse which Lorraine ended up standing on.

Other standout moments included end-of-term parties and the many silly moments and jokes shared with her colleagues.

When asked about the pupils, Sheila said: “They are a good bunch of kids – Lorraine and I have quite a good rapport with them.

“You meet them outside in the street when shopping and they stop and say hello. Some kids I’ve served have went on to have their own kids and I have served them too.

“Some students were upset to hear I was leaving – you get to know them and what they like. I can’t say anything bad about the kids at all.”

There are a lot of things Sheila – who finished at the school at the Christmas holidays – is going to miss, including laughs with her colleagues and interaction with the pupils.

Claire Slowther, headteacher at Dunbar Grammar School, said: “It’s a huge thing to have worked somewhere for so long.

“She’s lovely and so caring with the kids, certainly all the staff in our bistro are, they never see our kids go hungry and always look after the youngsters.

“Sheila is very much a core member of the team having been here for so long but it’s going to be an odd sensation not having her.

“We’re very much going to miss her, she’s fantastic and such a figure, she’s just so synonymous and a matriarch of the bistro and the school catering.”

Lorraine added that although her and the rest of the bistro staff were going to miss Sheila, if the canteen ever needed an extra pair of hands, Sheila would be the first person they called.