WHEN she opened the letter telling her she had been awarded an MBE, former dinner lady Beryl Scott thought it was a joke.
But it soon dawned on the grandmother-of-six that she really had been honoured by the Queen for a lifetime of service to children.
Beryl spent 31 years looking after youngsters at Padnell Infant School – seeing four head teachers come and go – and loved her job so much she refused to go quietly.
Finally retiring last year at the age of 69, Beryl has also been recognised for decades of dedicated voluntary work in her community.
For 38 years she has worked as a Cub Scout leader alongside her husband Chris, and even managed to fit in 10 years of coaching children through their cycling proficiency exams and seven years working in the coffee shop at the Rowans Hospice.
‘To be honest I never expected anything like this,’ said the 70-year-old, of Kings Road, Cowplain. ‘I loved my job, and I was so lucky to do it for so many years.
‘The headmistress told me I deserved an award for sticking with it so long, and now I suppose she has finally got her way.’
The school’s longest ever serving dinner lady, Beryl was in charge of making sure reception children were supervised at lunch times.
She said: ‘Things have certainly changed since I’ve been there; when I started I was told I just needed an x-ray and I could start straight away.
‘And by far the most rewarding thing was seeing the little ones grow. They were so small and innocent when they arrived, but by the end they could be a handful.
‘And I do miss the other dinner ladies, we had a good laugh and a joke together, but it had to end some time.’
The award tops a year in which Beryl will celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary and 50 years since the start of her Cowplain Cub Scout pack.
She said: ‘It’s certainly a year I’ll remember. I still can’t believe I’ve been given an MBE, it’s incredible.’
Her 71-year-old husband, and fellow Cub Scout leader, said: ‘I’m absolutely over the moon.
‘She cares so much about all the children she looks after, and wont hear a word said against any of them. And she was never looking for any kind of reward, but this award is definitely richly deserved.’
ALSO recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours list was Alan Smith, who received an OBE for his work at the Portsmouth branch of the Office for National Statistics.
Ken White, from Hayling Island, got an MBE for his long-standing services to lifesaving through the Royal Life Saving Society.
Another MBE was awarded to John Beavis, from Lee-on-the-Solent, who works for the Ministry of Defence.
Alan West also received an MBE for his work as chief executive of Petersfield technology company Exscitec.