Limerick barber, 80, not ready for the chop just yet

A cut above:  Dyed in the wool barbers

Donal O'Regan


Donal O'Regan

Limerick barber, 80, not ready for the chop just yet

Peter Kenny, Kilmallock, with daughter Marie and grandson Nicky Picture: Michael Cowhey

AFTER turning 80 and spending 66 of those years as a barber – Peter Kenny isn’t ready for the chop just yet.

His father, Thomas Kenny, started the business on Kilmallock’s Sarsfield Street in 1932. Peter’s daughter Marie Wall now runs it with her son Nicky – making it four generations to make their living from a comb and scissors.

Peter still comes in for an hour and a half every Saturday morning at 7am and has no intention of stopping any time soon.

“I’ll keep going until I go into the box! I’ve been doing it since I was 14, I love the craic and I am very lucky to have had a job that I was happy doing,” said Peter, who is very proud to see his daughter and grandson continue the family business. Being a barber now is a “doddle” compared to decades ago, he says.

“A typical day didn't end until 7 or 8 o’clock and on Saturdays you started at 9 in the morning and finished at midnight. I’d be eating a sandwich with one hand and cutting with the other! On Saturdays it was all shaves and no haircuts as people were getting ready for Mass on Sunday so they had to have their faces nicely shaved,” said Peter.

Hair styles have changed dramatically over the years but Peter was always more of a “short back and sides man”.

“Different strokes for different folks,” he says. The first time a customer asked for his head to be shaved Peter got a fright as he thought he was joking.

“On another occasion when a man with long, bedraggled hair sat in his chair, Peter asked him, ‘What kind of cut would you like if you were getting married tomorrow?”“I am getting married tomorrow,” was the reply. 

Another funny story was after a drunk gentleman got a wash, cut and blow dry, he said he didn't have any money, and would pay him the following day. Peter went to the local pub that evening for a charity shave with an open cut razor. By chance he met the very same newly coiffed customer who had the money to buy him a drink!

Following on from Peter’s 80th birthday there has been a second celebration as his grandson Nicky got engaged to Charlotte Ryan, Oola, at the weekend. The pressure is on to produce the fifth generation of barbers but whatever happens it will always remain Kenny’s.

“That will never change,” said Marie.

“My married name is Wall, I have taken over and it has stayed Kenny’s. When Nicky takes over it will stay the same. It will always be Kenny’s,” she said.