Barbers: concluded

The child Brian with his great mop of fair curls was the obvious starting point.

He was a surprisingly quiescent client, beaming widely as the tresses fell all around him. He cooed and gurgled with delight.

His hair was so soft and thin that even my fabric scissors sheared through it with ease. His older siblings, lined up along the kitchen wall were not so phlegmatic. There were further mumblings of discontent which I had to stamp on right away.

I blamed my errors on these unnecessary distractions. I nicked his ear and drew blood but apart from a sharp cry and a few minutes wailing, the child was all right.

I had seen my father tear tiny strips off the Belfast Telegraph to staunch the flow of blood when he nicked himself shaving. I fetched last night’s copy and applied one strip to the child’s ear lobe.

I drew back to admire my handiwork.

Not bad for a first effort, I concluded.

I tackled Michael’s thick mop of hair next.  Not bad again, I felt!

I was heartened sufficiently to attempt my first shave. 

My oldest brother Michael was nine years old and denied that he needed to be shaved.

I would have none of this rebellion.

7 O’Clock blades were blunt even when purchased new in Brian Donaghey’s shop. But this one clearly had been used several times and had clocked up several miles of stubble contact.

I was already through the first news page and on to the inside pages of the Telegraph – and he looked like a fairy tree at a Sunday’s Well with pistogues of rags tied to it – when I decided to give it up as a bad job.  

Michael was released from the chair.


Kathleen and Lucia, the two younger sisters nearest my age, were proud possessors of tightly-entwined plaits which were held fast at the ends with large bows. 

I wasn’t the only one to conclude that they looked ridiculous!

I didn’t bother to unwind them, being content just to hack them off close to the scalp with a steak knife.

The finished product didn’t look pretty, I’ll admit – and I was starting to have my own doubts – when the door flew open and mum entered, looking aghast!

She let a wail out of her, the likes of which I’d never heard from her before. 

Indeed it didn’t sound human at all.

She sounded like the banshee! 

To me, this was a gross over-reaction, not to mention a total lack of appreciation for my best efforts.

I took off as fast as my legs could carry me.

My aunt Dolly at 43 Monaghan Street wouldn’t hear of me moving in with her, despite my eloquent explanation of my dilemma.

She soon heard details of my offence from another source and arranged to have me escorted back to the Meadow.

By this time my father was home from work.

My mother insisted that he use his trousers’ belt on me.

This he did with gusto – all the time assuring me it hurt him more than me, but I wasn’t convinced -as he left many very painful welts on my backside.

For ages afterwards, Brian took to wearing a helmet on his head, to disguise his injuries and all his hacked tresses!

I never did become a barber after all!



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