Bradley Walsh as host persuades Longridge lollipop lady of 53 years to go on Blankety Blank

A long-serving lollipop lady from Longridge says she was shocked to be invited out of the blue onto the revived game show Blankety Blank - but was persuaded to take part because of who is now hosting the programme.

Monday, 1st November 2021, 2:46 am

Producers approached Irene Reid MBE to be a contestant after learning that she had clocked up more than half a century standing station at the same school crossing in the town.

However, the 81-year-old stalwart was in two minds about whether to make the move to the small screen - until she found out that one of her favourite TV personalities had taken the reins of the classic show.

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Irene's 50 fabulous years as Lancashire's Mrs Lollipop

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Irene Reid pictured with a commemorative lollipop after clocking up 50 years' service in Longridge - she has added another three since

“When my boss first asked me if I'd be interested, I wasn’t so sure and I was going to say no.

“But then he told me it was with Bradley Walsh and straight away I said, ‘I’ll do it’,” Irene laughs.

And the genial host did not disappoint one of his biggest fans.

“Bradley was wonderful - he just made everybody feel so at ease, he was really marvellous.

“I like everything he does, whether it’s presenting or acting. For instance, I love him in The Larkins [the comedy drama also recently revived].

“He is so versatile and he wasn’t a bit big-headed about it either. He was just like: ‘This is what I do and here I am’.”

Irene was accompanied on the near 600-mile round trip to studios in Maidstone in Kent by her daughter Angela - who also unexpectedly got to meet one of her favourite celebrities when she discovered that singer Peter Andre was on the panel of six stars trying to help contestants including Irene fill in the blanks.

He was joined by tennis coach Judy Murray, comedians Rob Beckett, Shaparak Khorsandi and Ellie Taylor, and DJ Rickie Haywood-Williams.

Irene got through to the penultimate head-to-head round in the edition that was screened on Saturday night, but missed out on the final and ended up going home to Longridge with the iconic Blankety Blank chequebook and pen.

As well as being a fan of Bradley Walsh, Irene has always been an avid viewer of Blankety Blank itself, a show which has had three main hosts since it first appeared in 1979 - Terry Wogan, Les Dawson and Paul O'Grady, in character as Lily Savage.

“I’ve liked every single one of them,” Irene says.

“When you would find out that one was leaving, you’d think, ‘Oh no’ - and then the next one would be different, but just as good.

“It doesn't require any great brains, you can just sit there and have a laugh.”

Meanwhile, 53 years after first striding out, lollipop in hand, to guide the children of Longridge Church of England Primary School across Berry Lane, Irene says she has no plans to hang up her fluorescent jacket - and she puts her longevity in the role down to the people of the town she loves and calls home.

“I’m still up and out every morning - I can't see that coming to an end yet. Longridge just likes to have somebody from the town doing something - it doesn't have to be anything major.

“I mean I tried to keep it quiet about being on Blankety Blank, but you can't do that in Longridge. I went to the shops this morning and people were shouting, ‘We’re going to watch you on the telly tonight’.

“Because the people in Longridge are so nice and it’s such a friendly place to live, you feel like that’s why you are doing it.

“It’s living here that means I can be a lollipop lady after 53 years, because the people are so charming, “ adds Irene, who was awarded an MBE in 2012 for services to road safety.

You can see Irene's appearance on Blankety Blank by catching up with the show on the BBC iPlayer.