South Shields dinner lady hangs up her ladle after 32 years at one school

Harton Primary School kitchen assistant Audrey Russell is retiring after 32 years.
Harton Primary School kitchen assistant Audrey Russell is retiring after 32 years.
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A popular school dinner lady has hung up her ladle after 32 years.

Audrey Russell said farewell to pupils and colleagues at Harton Primary School in East Avenue, South Shields, on Friday.

Audrey Russell, 62, raises a glass as she retires.

Audrey Russell, 62, raises a glass as she retires.

The 62-year-old has been serving up dinners at the school as a kitchen assistant for more than three decades, and has seen generations of youngsters along the way.

The gran-of-one, from Horsley Vale, South Shields, said: “It just feels surreal. We usually have a holiday over Christmas so I don’t think it will sink in until after the holidays when I don’t have to go back to work. The children who were 11 when I first came to this school will be 43 now. It’s just unbelievable.”

She added: “I’ve seen children grow up and their own children join the school as well as lots of relatives, my cousins’ children and their children. I’ll miss the children the most.”

Audrey is now looking forward to spending time with her grandson Ethan, two, and holidaying with her husband Ken, 64, who took early retirement four years ago.

I’ve seen children grow up and their own children join the school as well as lots of relatives, my cousins’ children and their children. I’ll miss the children the most.

Audrey Russell

She said: “We’ve never been able to take holidays during school time so we’re excited about that and we’re hoping to go on a cruise.

“I enjoy sewing and working on my family history and I’m looking forward to spending more time with my grandson.”

Elizabeth Luke, catering manager for South Tyneside Council, said: “Audrey has served up thousands or maybe even millions of meals.

“She knows the children really well and we’re sorry to see her go, but all hope she has a long and happy retirement.”