THE head painter at Loretto School is preparing to down tools for the final time next week. . . half a century after he started working at the Musselburgh school.

Willie Lamb was just 15 when he took up the job, days after leaving school himself.

He has remained there ever since, even living in the school grounds for 19 years with his wife Joan and their son David.

Mr Lamb, now 65, explained how he was initially offered the job.

He said: “I left school fairly young because my parents needed the money.

“I got a phone call from Loretto School – I didn’t know where it was, or where Musselburgh was – and I came down for an interview.

“I was asked to start on January 6, 1968, and it has been great.

“I’ve seen lots of headmasters and have wonderful memories.”

Mr Lamb, who was raised in Dalkeith but now lives with his wife in Port Seton, reflected on the changes to his role over the past half century.

“The campus is so vast – it was quite frightening at first,” he said.

“My boss retired after my four-year apprenticeship and I worked myself for 14 years before it got to a point where the school asked if I needed an assistant.

“Eventually we had up to five painters, which was a good experience, but that dwindled down to two.”

Mr Lamb also recalled the day in 1981 when the school changed from all-boys to allow girls to attend.

“It was a great moment,” he said. “The boys loved it.”

Mr Lamb, who recalled TV presenter Andrew Marr and former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alastair Darling among Loretto’s notable alumni during his time, also remembered meeting the Queen Mother on two separate occasions.

He said: “The Queen Mother came to open the new science labs – they were on the old tennis courts where I used to sit and have my tea beaks.

“She came back to open the maths block so I was lucky enough to meet her twice.

“At one point we were going to get one of the royals here and that was really interesting. The police and the army came in but it never went further.”

On the last 50 years, Willie – who plans to focus on his own artwork, some of which can be seen on display in Cockenzie House – added: “I couldn’t have been made more welcome.

“I’ve just loved it.

“I will miss it, of course – you can’t go somewhere every day for 50 years, then stop, and not miss it.”

A school assembly is planned for next week to mark Mr Lamb’s retirement.

Jonathan Hewat, director of communications at the school, praised his years of “loyal and dedicated service”.

He added: “We thank him most sincerely for his professionalism and expertise to Loretto.

“He is known and respected by generations of pupils, parents and staff and we shall miss him; his friendship and sense of humour, though we hope to see him back as a regular visitor to the school.

“I would suggest that there is no one who knows Loretto better than he does and he has witnessed some remarkable events and changes during his time at the school. We all wish him a long and happy retirement.”

Mr Lamb’s last day is next Friday (February 2).