Limerick hairdresser ‘waves’ goodbye to her salon after 50 years of styling

Aine Fitzgerald


Aine Fitzgerald

Fond farewell: Mary Morris with her final customer Patricia Moloney at her salon on Emmet Street in Kilmallock. When Mary started in the hairdressing industry some 48 years ago, a razor cut was half a crown. She recalls vividly the 'blue rinse craze': 'Will I ever forget it?' she smiled. Picture: Brendan Gleeson
FROM blue rinses to 1980s perms, Mary Morris has done them all, but now, after almost 50 years of combing and coiffing, the Kilmallock hairdresser has called it a day.

FROM blue rinses to 1980s perms, Mary Morris has done them all, but now, after almost 50 years of combing and coiffing, the Kilmallock hairdresser has called it a day.

Mary has packed away the curling tongs and hung up her trusted scissors for the last time having perfected her final hairstyle in a 48-year strong career.

Fittingly, local woman Patricia Moloney was her very last customer.

“Patricia is coming to me all my years in Kilmallock. I actually did her mother’s hair in Charleville and her family. She was our last today and I started off in Kilmallock with her as well,” remarked Mary from her salon on Emmet Street.

“She got a blow-dry. She has beautiful hair, Patricia.”

Located under the shadow of the medieval Blossom Gate, Mary’s salon had no name over the door for many years - you found it by word of mouth.

If the walls could talk, they would tell stories of children giggling behind their hands at ladies with blue rinses, reveal details of local deaths, births and marriages, and, perhaps, whisper the odd juicy secret shared between customer and confidant.

Mary, however, is much more discreet – “something small will do” she smiles, referring to the article.

Had she stayed on another three working weeks, Mary – better known by her maiden name Mary Maguire - would, on March 9, be 41 years hairdressing in the town. Prior to setting up shop in Kilmallock, she worked for seven years in Charleville having trained with Teresa Dick.

“It is time,” admits the Effin native of the big decision. “It was a hard one to make.”

“I was actually OK today, but yesterday it was like a funeral - they were all crying. One triggered another. We were just reminiscing. I got married. I had my family. I grew up with them. They advised me. I will miss their company, very, very much.”

When Mary started out on her career in 1966, Mirror, Mirror by British pop-band Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours was climbing the charts, four Liverpudlians were singing about a barber in Penny Lane, and it cost seven shillings and sixpence (7s6d) for a wash, cut and set.

“There was no blow-dry,” Mary recalls.

“The razor cut was half a crown. We used a razor back then and you would finish off with a scissors. It was a short back and sides with maybe six or eight rollers to get a bit of height on the top. It would be tapered in at the nape of the neck.”

With the advent of television came the influence of soap and sitcom characters.

Blue-rinsed pensioners such as Mrs Slocombe from Are You Being Served? and Phyllis Pearce of Coronation Street fame, prompted local ladies to take the plunge.

“Will I ever forget it,” Mary smiles.

“The blue rinse was very, very popular. It is gone now, with a certain age group passed on,” she points out.

And so too is the perm – gone but not forgotten. “I used to do a few alright,” she recalls.

“The big thing in today’s world is colour and hair extensions. I wouldn’t have done hair extensions but they are big. Hair colour now and cutting are very important.”

Having been first based on Sarsfield Street – where the Credit Union is now located – Mary made to move to the Emmet Street premises 39 years ago. “Geraldine and William Chawke were super to me and Geraldine’s parents before her,” she points out.

With thousands of hair appointments clocked up after over close on half a century, Mary is looking forward to letting her own hair down, putting her feet up and enjoying family life.

She is married to Jack and they have three children Sean, Brian and Lorraine

“If I had a euro for every head I did it would be great,” she laughs.

“My sons were worried because they knew I loved going to work but it’s time to enjoy the next part of life. I have been blessed in that I had a career which I loved - and I loved it.”