Limerick's 'best barber in the world' Pat Stapleton passes away

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

Email:

fintan.walsh@limerickleader.ie

ONE OF Limerick’s most iconic businessmen, the “best barber in the world” Pat Stapleton, has passed away. 

Pat, 87, who ran his famous barber shop at 27 O’Connell Street from 1964 until his final shift on Wednesday last, passed away this Friday. 

The eminent businessman was known for his eccentric marketing, witty humour and his passion for both unusual and traditional haircutting techniques. 

Even if you weren’t a customer, you knew about the “best barber in the world”, an endearing  moniker he once gave himself. 

Below his shop on the footpath would be his signature sandwich boards, displaying his unique humour and panache. 

“I’m in business for 40 years because my flock are not being fleeced!!” was one of his promotions. 

And another, which has stood the test of time among his many phrases: “There is only one GOD & one BARBER. He is upstairs!”

Upstairs in his shop was a lens into the much-respected man’s life. Posting memes on his wall before memes were even a thing, his studio was laden with good humour and spirit. 

But as well as his eccentric side, there were symbols of everything he loved in life; his family, his animals, and sport, among others. 

From the barber shop on 27 O’Connell Street, he was able to help his two daughters pursue their dreams to become doctors -- one in the field of medicine, Nicola, and the other in mechanical engineering, Natalie, who works at University of Limerick. 

“He couldn’t believe he had two doctors in the family. It all started with 27 O’Connell Street which was his business address, so he would say it all started there and look what we ended up with. It’s a lovely thing for a dad to end up with two doctors. He was just really proud and we were fierce proud of him,” said Nicola, who is a GP in the city centre. 

“[He] was absolutely brilliant. He taught me an awful lot about equality and fairness, and he was always very much into stuff being fair. And a lot of the stuff that I have done and what my sister would do is really based on that.

“He was just so proud that he managed to educate the two of us. He did everything for his family and everything was about his family. He was such a great dad, a great husband and a great person. The one thing he wanted to do was educate his two kids and he successfully did that,” she said. 

Nicola said that he loved his two young grandchildren, Christopher and Michael. 

“It gave him a new lease of life. It was a very exciting time for him when the children came along. Every single weekend, without fail, himself and my mum would come out and we would all spend the weekend together on the Sunday.”

And the love of his life was Brigid, with whom he spent 48 glorious years. 

“They were such a lovely couple together,” she said, adding that her mother worked alongside Pat in the barber shop for many years after they met. 

In fact, they loved their work so much, that instead of missing a day of work for their wedding, they held the special ceremony in the evening time!

“They were very dedicated to their job!”

Also a member of the family was much-loved Lizzie, whom he adored, and it seemed that Pat and animals were part and parcel. 

When Pat was younger, he bred horses on a small scale, and was involved in showjumping and horse training. 

One of his horses, Final Cut, enjoyed many successes and were the reason why there were so many rosettes glued to his salon wall. 

"When he got a bit older, the horses were a bit too much to manage, so he got a pony [by the name of Mr Pat]. He used to drive around for years in his pony and trap, which is really quite a sight actually. It was quite a quirky look."

And even in his earlier days, Pat was an esteemed and talented cyclist, winning more than 30  championship medals in his early career, before the advent of professional cycling. 

But before wheeling to glory in sport, he was a trained razor sharp barber, learning the traditional straight, cut-throat razor shave, which he never stopped doing and for which he would later become known all over. 

In an interview with the Limerick Leader in 2004, he said: “A clean shave is like a clean soul. It is heavenly.”

Nicola said that he was among the trendiest in Limerick city when he set up shop, always making an effort to show off his fashion and finesse. 

“Back when he started in the 60s, he was so snazzy. You should have seen him, he was very much into his really clean cut. He looked really good. He was one of the trendy sort of people of the day. He maintained the same passion for doing classic haircuts over the years. He was cool, he was very cool.”

Nicola said that she, her sister and the family are “fierce proud” of his achievements in life. 

“He wanted to work until he died, and that is what he did. He was 87 and he was still working full time which is a bit of an achievement in itself.”

Late of Graigs Lane, Navan, Pat Stapleton is survived by his loving wife Brigid, adoring daughters Dr Nicola and Dr Natalie and much loved dog Lizzie, cherished grandchildren Christopher and Michael, sisters Nan and Judy, brothers Dick and Eugene, sons-in-law David O'Connor and Hugh McCarthy, and all other relatives and friends. 

Reposing on Sunday, 1st September, at Cross' Funeral Home, Gerald Griffin Street, from 2pm to 4pm followed by removal on Monday, 2nd September, to arrive in Ballysimon Cemetery for 11.45am.