Beyond the job description…

Well-known Coolera panto dame Brian Devaney is an upcoming guest on our In The Lamplight podcast. When we recorded his episode a few weeks ago one of us commented on the fine head of hair he was sporting. The story he told us as a result stayed with me.

Brian’s brother-in-law runs Christie’s supermarket on the Pearse Road. Beside it is Headhunters barbers and hair salon. Brian had been going there for years to get his hair cut by Ignatius Beglane. When Brian’s father Paddy died earlier this year, Ignatius offered to come out to Brian’s house to cut his hair before the funeral. As he had done when Brian was in hospital in Dublin for an extended period of time a couple of years previously. Part of the service.

I had never heard of anything like this happening before.

And then I heard during the week from a friend of mine that when her husband was sick, another well-known Sligo barber Alfie Mahon regularly came out to her house to cut his hair and never took a cent.

And so I wondered if indeed these kind actions were as a result of a tradition passed down in training from one barber to another, or was it simply two kind-hearted individuals giving something back to customers whose hair they had cut for years?

And like most things, the answer lies somewhere in between.

Barbers get to know people. And if they stay in business long enough, they get to know people very well. I remember waiting to get my hair cut in Alfie’s and seeing 3 generations of men coming in. Hearing stories of men who started coming in themselves as children now bringing their own children in.

And so if something is up with one of their customers, a barber will know. Or if they don’t come in after their usual month or 6 weeks, a barber will know. And if that barber is a caring person, like Ignatius or Alfie, they will follow it up, do something about it. Offer their services if they are needed.

Because a house where someone is sick can be a stressful place. Family members worried. The person themselves not in great form. And for the 30 mins while the barber is there, people can forget about the grim reality of the situation. Talk about something else for a while. And as Alfie said to me, if you can go out and alleviate a bit of stress by giving someone a haircut then why wouldn’t you.

There are probably plenty of barbers who don’t do this. But some do. Like some musicians go in to the Hospice or Nazareth House and sing a few songs for the residents. There are kind-hearted people in all fields.

So if you can be kind, be kind. It doesn’t have to be a long-standing tradition in your field of work. But by doing so, you might just start something.

Column 11 for the Sligo Weekender. Published 12th November 2020.

PS I had to share this today. A song with kindness at it’s heart actually – written by Leonard Cohen and sung so beautifully by Sinéad Conway on this week’s episode of the podcast.