'I learn so much just from helping people cross the road': Cork lollipop man says he has forged many friendships in role 

A popular Cork school warden tell Sarah Horgan he loves life as the man who helps kids to cross the road to their school safely. 
'I learn so much just from helping people cross the road': Cork lollipop man says he has forged many friendships in role 

Brendan (Buzz) O'Connell with his grandson Ciaran at Holy Well NS in Carrigaline, Co Cork. Pic: Larry Cummins

A LOLLIPOP man in Carrigaline has turned the school run into an adventure for parents and kids in the area with his novel approach to helping children cross the road.

Brendan O’Connell, who is better known as Buzz in the community, is being celebrated for his tireless work ahead of International Men’s Day on Friday, November 19.

The 68-year-old has become a firm favourite among families in the area who have forged friendships with him during the course of their journey to school.

In his younger days, Buzz coached the local football team and now meets many former players accompanying their own children to school.

He spoke of how he initially worked in construction before finding his calling as a lollipop man in his sixties. 

Now 68, Buzz said he even gets recognised on his days off.

“One woman who saw me in a cafe said “it’s the lollipop man” when she saw me, adding that she had to buy me a drink. Come Christmas, I’m awash with chocolates, biscuits and flowers, so many that they barely fit inside the house.”

Buzz’s grandson Ciaran is among the many children he meets while on duty.

“My grandson Ciaran Morrissey O’Connell will cross over with me even though he is coming from the opposite side,” he said. “I’ll always have a treat waiting for him. It will usually be a Turkish delight.

“I’ll have a walnut whip for his dad - my son Brendan. Brendan also has a nickname and is known to everyone as Beezer.”

The story behind the nickname 

The Cork man explained how he acquired the nickname Buzz.

“When I was 18 or 19 I had very long hair. Buzz Aldrin had already gone to the moon at that stage. He was completely bald so somebody thought it would be funny to nickname me Buzz. It stuck from then on. If my mother answered the phone and someone asked for Brendan she’d reply that she didn’t know any Brendan but they could talk to Buzz!”

The school children, however, have an alternative theory.

“The kids all assume that I was named after Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story,” he said. “One kid even puts out his hand when crossing the road with me and shouts the catchphrase “To Infinity and Beyond”.

Brendan (Buzz) O'Connell on duty at the crossing at Holy Well NS in Carrigaline, Co Cork. Pic: Larry Cummins
Brendan (Buzz) O'Connell on duty at the crossing at Holy Well NS in Carrigaline, Co Cork. Pic: Larry Cummins

Buzz has struck up a friendship with many families in the area.

“You have to have a good sense of humour to be a lollipop man as there tends to be a lot of banter between you and parents. I would have coached their dads in soccer so there would be a lot of slagging going on.

“One of the dads joked that I had always wanted authority. Now I’m the only one - he says - to be able to stop a squad car in their tracks.”

He listed the other qualities required to be a successful lollipop man.

“You also have to be a good listener. Sometimes a person will be chatting to you and they’ll tell you all their problems. I learn so much just from helping people cross the road. One dad told me that he had never seen water in Algeria which I found fascinating.”

The Crosshaven native, who now lives in Fountainstown, joked that he may well influence career paths along the way.

“One kid told his dad that he wanted to be a lollipop man just like me when he grew up,” he laughed. “When he asked him why he said it was because I didn’t have to start work until I was over 60 years of age.”

An important role in a changing society 

He described the important role of lollipop men in a changing society.

“If you had told me years ago that I would grow up to be a lollipop man I probably would have laughed.

“It’s not a job you would have seen men doing years ago but times are changing now. I can remember in my day when men would be laughed at for pushing a pram. Things are different now and you see so many dads pushing prams and nobody even questions it.

“This is exactly how it should be.”

Buzz has braved all kinds of weather conditions to help kids cross the road safely.

“I go out in any kind of weather. Sometimes it’s been so treacherous that I’ve skidded on the ice. However, the council provides me with all the gear to make my job as easy as possible.”

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