John B Keane: A scary experience with a lady’s wig

ACTORS wear them frequently, and jurists are lost without them: they would be easily recognised afterwards by parties they ebulliently cross-examined and subjected to more than cross-examination.

ACTORS wear them frequently, and jurists are lost without them: they would be easily recognised afterwards by parties they ebulliently cross-examined and subjected to more than cross-examination.

Bald woman are a rarity and the only time I saw one was in the side-show at the Listowel races many years ago.

It cost tuppence to see her, but for this one was allowed to feel the top of her head to see if it was the genuine article.

She had a expressionless face and she chain-smoked. I saw her later in a public house, drinking a bottle of stout.

She sat on a high chair with her legs crossed and she sported a beautiful head of pitch black hair.

I wouldn’t have recognised her but for the fact that she was pointed out to me by the chairoplane operator in whose company I was.

She was quite attractive, al though she told me when I was introduced to her, that she had several grandchildren, through two married daughters, neither of whom were bald.

The thing about the artificially designed wig was that it cannot be recognised as a fake.

The look on her face underneath is proud rather than self-conscious or guilty.

My first experience with wigs was when I was a curious chap of seven.

It was the first major fright I had ever received.

An old lady, now deceased, lived further up the street and, for some reason, she took a liking to me.

She was inquisitive and prying and, because I had a lively imagination, I was able to supply her with the type of information she required.

One hot Sunday afternoon, for the want of something better to do , I called to see her.

She sat on a chair in the kitchen with her cat on her lap.

They presented a peaceful picture but since I was always in receipt of a penny after I answered her questions, I grew impatient and called into her ear. The cat heard me but she didn’t.

He leapt from her lap and glowered at me hostilely from another chair.

I shook the old lady gently in an effort to wake her, but she failed to respond.

I knew she couldn’t be dead because she snored loudly and consistently.

I shook her with greater force, and then a strange thing happened.

The top of her head started to move slowly.

I drew back in a mixture of horror and astonishment, but curiosity held me rooted to the spot.

The cat showed me greater surprise then I, because he jumped from the chair and stood near the door with his tail cocked, ready for flight.

Bit by bit the black crown of hair began to shift , until finally it slid right off and fell into her lap.

A few strangling wisps of whitey-grey hair were all that remained on her head.

She woke up then, and immediately she began to stroke the cat - only it wasn’t the cat; it was her wig!

When she saw her error, she scratched her head rather foolishly, grinned somewhat shyly and replaced the wig with what I considered a professional skill.

She looked at me briefly and neither of us said a word.

She raised her finger to her lips and handed me a tenner.

A nod is as good as a wink to a blind man. She could be sure that her secret was safe as long as she was liberal to her fellow conspirator.

My next experience of wigs was at the funeral of my maternal grandmother, a lady to whom I was very attached and whose passing caused much grief.

When the priests had concluded, her elderly cousin, an old gentleman of 80 with an astonishing thatch of brown curls was brought forward by other relatives.

Ceremoniously he bent and took a fistful of loose earth which he threw on his cousin before the grave diggers could commence the task of filling the grave.

It was most impressive and touching little ceremony but, unfortunately, the old man had bent a little too much because, together with the earth, his head of curls also filled the coffin. The wig floated down like a bird.

Having had experience of the seriousness of such a case I leapt nimbly into the grave in a flash recovered the wig.

I handed it to my cousin who accepted it with a look of gratitude so profound that he had tears when it was duly placed back on his bald head.

His subsequent action was something which I have always been immensely proud of.

Without as much as a word, he produced a comb from his waist coat and pocket and calmly proceeded to comb his hair as if nothing happened.