Christy Archer – Summer 2005

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End of an Era as Athenry’s Last Male Barber Retires

From Saturday evening, January 15th, for the first time in living memory, there was no male barber working in Athenry. That date marked the retirement of Christy Archer from the Barber Shop on McDonald’s Lane. It also marked the 55th anniversary of his first day as an apprentice barber in J. C. Carey’s, Tipperary Town.

Following enquiries by his former headmaster, Mr Holmes, in his home village of Oola, Co. Limerick, Christy secured an apprenticeship that began on the morning of January 16th, 1950. His mother, Bridget Archer at almost 93years of age still lives in their home in the village from where he cycled the round trip of twelve miles, six days a week to work from 9.00am to 8.00pm weekdays and to 11pm on Saturday nights. Four and a half years later, he moved to Athenry to begin work in the Athenry salon of Grant’s of Eyre Square. The salon in Davis Street was one of two barbershops in the town. The other was located in North Gate Street and closed in 1961. In 1958, Christy moved to the Grant’s salon in Eyre Square, Galway.

At that time, Haircuts were two old shillings each and barbers had to do ten haircuts to earn one pound. In Eyre Square, one of his customers was Nobel Prize winner, Sean McBride S.C., who attended at the Courthouse on a regular basis and whose habit it was to study a sheaf of legal paperwork while having his hair cut.

In 1961, Christy returned to Athenry and set up his own barbershop in the Davis Street salon previously occupied by Grant’s. He was to remain there until February 1990 when a fire destroyed the building and resulted in the move to McDonald’s Lane from where he has worked for the last 15 years. In 1962, he married his wife Teresa and has four daughters and a son and now nine grandchildren. The working hours in the salon continued to be long and at the end of a busy day the air would be blue with the thick curtain of smoke from the dozens of cigarettes smoked by the customers in the salon. Saturday night closing time in Athenry remained at 11 pm until the introduction of Saturday evening mass in the 1970’s when the hours became shorter. Long though the hours were for some customers they were not long enough, and Christy I remembers having to return to the salon at 11.15pm one Saturday night to reopen the salon for a customer who needed a shave and a haircut.

Fair Days were also extremely busy and as the farmers herded their cattle through the streets of Athenry, a specially made gate had to be erected at the door to the barbershop to stop the livestock getting in. On one occasion a loose bullock broke through the gate and it took a number of strong customers, lined up the stairway in the entrance hall to push him back out into the street.

After the fairs were over the shopkeeper had to go out and to wash down their walls and their section of the street. Anyone who went to have his hair cut will remember that the small boys sat on a seat which consisted of a plank of wood across the arms of the big barber chair, until they were tall enough to sit on the chair for themselves. Short-back-and sides in in the 50s and early 60s changed to the fashion for long hair in the late 60s and 70s when men first began to visit women’s salons, or unisex salons as they were called. In the 80s and 90s short and skintight styles using clippers came into fashion. The hot towel shaves, was a stalwart of the exhausted Galway Race punters to ready them for another day’s racing and a night of revelry is just a cosmetic feature.

In 1950, Christy began work in a predominantly farming town and now 2005 retires from a busy urban town that has grown more than three times its size. He will enjoy his retirement playing chess games. He will continue to teach school children and community games teams in the game and will engage with other chess players over the Internet and continue his hobbies of painting and traveling.

Well done, Christy!

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About this record

Written by To be confirmed!

Published here 14 Jan 2024 and originally published Summer 2005

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