Scarborough People: School dinner lady Lorraine Yeoman

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School dinner lady Lorraine Yeoman has worked for the Queen, served tea to Jimmy Savile, Terry Wogan and Noel Edmonds and lived abroad. She spoke to reporter Dave Barry.

BORN in Carshalton in Surrey, Lorraine moved with her family to Welwyn Garden City in neighbouring Hertfordshire as a girl.

After school, she worked for the BBC at Bush House, lived at Buckingham Palace for a few years, lived in Loughborough and Melton Mowbray in the Midlands, spent a few years in Cyprus and Germany, then moved to Yorkshire.

When he was 21, Lorraine’s father, Joseph Davin, emigrated from Ireland to Surrey, where he met the woman who became his wife.

The Davins had five sons - Joseph, Michael, Stephen, Anthony and Christopher - and two daughters, Lorraine and Ann, both of whom now live in Scarborough. Lorraine lives in Woodlands Vale, near the hospital, and Ann (Kelly) lives in Scalby.

Lorraine had a Catholic upbringing and a difficult childhood. Her dad worked for a company called Avdels, which made aeroplane parts, and at weekends was a barman at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s social club in Welwyn Garden City. He died in 1982 of a brain haemorrhage, aged 46. Her mum worked at Avdels part-time.

With both parents out working most of the time, Lorraine was responsible for her younger brothers and had to help around the house, doing chores, cooking, etc.

The family couldn’t afford to go on holiday and Lorraine didn’t see the sea until she was 11 and taking a ferry across to Holland on a school trip.

The previous week, her seven-year-old brother Stephen had died of peritonitis. The condition afflicted six members of the Davin family, including Lorraine, whose son Aaron had a couple of months off school with it when he was 16. “It runs in our family,” Lorraine says.

Lorraine’s schooling was at a Catholic primary and the Mater Dei convent, both in Welwyn Garden City. At the latter, the boisterous girl was always getting into trouble with the strict Italian nuns who taught her. “You were supposed to walk round in silence,” she recalls.

After leaving the convent aged 17, she wanted to go into catering and was accepted by the respected Cassio Catering College in Watford, but couldn’t go because her parents couldn’t afford the kitchen whites and tools.

So Lorraine got a job at the BBC catering department at Bush House in London for six months, pushing tea trolleys around and serving people whose faces were rarely out of the papers.

She then landed a silver-service job with the royal household staff at Buckingham Palace. She was interviewed and vetted at the Houses of Parliament and had to sign the Official Secrets Act. To this day, there are still lots of things she can’t talk about.

Lorraine says she had a lot of contact with the Queen and was responsible for one of six dining rooms, where lords and ladies would be entertained.

Home was room 616 in the south wing, unless the monarch was heading to one of her other homes, in which case many of her staff preceded her. “If the Queen was going to Windsor Castle you’d move house,” says Lorraine, an ardent royalist.

In the summer, the royal household would decamp to Balmoral in Scotland. The staff would go for one of two six-week spells, covering either the first half of the Queen’s stay or the second. They would then follow her to Holyrood House in Edinburgh. Lorraine also worked for the royal family at Sandringham in Norfolk in the new year.

The most memorable part of working for the Windsors was during the silver jubilee, when the royal family were posing on the balcony, with staff in the same room, enjoying the spectacle from the other side.

But after three and a half years of hard work, with precious little time off and not much private life, Lorraine quit and got a job with Smith Kline & French pharmaceutical company in Hertfordshire, packing drugs for 18 months.

She met her husband Paul, who was in the army, while on holiday in Germany, near the Dutch border, in 1979. They married in Hatfield, near Welwyn Garden City, six months later.

Their daughter Louise was born in 1980 and son Aaron in 1984. Lorraine succumbed to a virus when she was pregnant with Louise, who was born with congenital cytomegalovirus. The baby had severe disabilities - quadriplegic, blind and suffering fits and died a few weeks before her fifth birthday.

Lorraine and Paul have just spent nine days in New York, where they bought a memorial brick in memory of Louise, to help raise funds for the new building at the 9/11 site. “It was quite moving,” Lorraine says.

In 1986, Paul was posted to Cyprus and Lorraine and Aaron moved with him. However, as soon as they got there, Paul was posted to the Falklands for six months. Lorraine’s brother Joe and brother-in-law Steven Kelly were there at the same time, in the armed forces. In her husband’s absence, Lorraine trained as a playgroup leader and did voluntary work with the Mission to Military Garrisons in the forces Naafi café at Paul’s base.

After three years in Cyprus, Paul was posted to Berlin for four years. The couple were there in 1989 when the Wall came down; living in the city, not on a base.

Lorraine remembers the heady, euphoric atmosphere well. “We tried to get down town but couldn’t as everywhere was choc-a-bloc,” she says. “Everyone was excited and greeting each other. The buses and U-bahns were full, so we went down the following day. There were lots of East German Trabant cars backfiring and many East Germans queuing for fruit and the cashpoints ran out of money.”

Lorraine took a photo of Aaron peering through a big hole in the Wall. They grabbed a couple of chunks and donated the biggest to a museum in Cornwall, where Paul was born.

After four years in Berlin, the Yeomans came back to England. In 1994, when Paul reached the end of his 25-year army career in the Royal Signals, they moved to Scarborough. Paul worked as an instructional officer on an army base near Harrogate then changed his career and trained in Taunton, Somerset.. This led to his current job as a civil servant at Irton Moor wireless station. Lorraine got a job as a cook at Graham School.

Aaron went to Gladstone Road junior school, Graham School, the Sixth Form College and Hull University, where he studied creative music technology, in Scarborough and Hull.