Sixty-five years of barnets and banter

By Roger Moroney -
1 comment
Brian McFlynn, 80, has been cutting hair for 65 years, including Fred Lancaster's. Photo / Warren Buckland
Brian McFlynn, 80, has been cutting hair for 65 years, including Fred Lancaster's. Photo / Warren Buckland

As a rule, 65 years is the retirement age but no one ever told Hastings barber Brian McFlynn that.

Although that figure of 65 year has been reached today, for that is how long it has been since Mr McFlynn, as an apprentice barber, took up the comb and scissors after turning 15.

At the age of 80 he is still wielding them, although he has cut the hours back a bit. He was quick to point out he works "just the mornings ... but still six days a week".

He pretty well has to, as he has about 400 customers still on his books and they wouldn't have their locks looked after anywhere else but at the traditional barber shop he has set up at the back of his house.

Among them is the very first customer he attended when he was learning the trade under the direction of barber and tobacconist Des Rae, who steered him through his apprenticeship.

An equally young chap by the name of Morris Elliott wandered into the barber shop and asked for a short back and sides.

Mr Rae pointed him in young Brian's direction and told his young assistant: "It's all yours ... you're on your own".

It was a barber-customer relationship that has run through the decades.

"Yes I'm still cutting Morris' hair ... he hasn't woken up yet," Mr McFlynn said with a laugh.

Mr Elliott said he would not go anywhere else for a trim now.

On the wall of the barber shop Mr McFlynn has a photographic line-up of the long-time customers who come under the "40 Years" and "50 Years" titles.

He said once he embarked on his four-year, 10,000-hour apprenticeship he never wanted to do anything else, but laughed at what it was that first nudged him in the direction of the comb and scissors.

"I wanted to get the hell out of school," he recalls.

The barbershop scene had, like everyone else, changed a lot through the years.

"There were 17 barbershops back then when I started. There's not many now."

One thing that had not changed, and its the one thing he relishes when opening for another morning stint, is the social side.

The natters and chats.

The conversations and the laughter.

"It's amazing ... we talk about everything and anything," he said.

However, there's one subject that is not welcome, and he has made that clear on one of the many colourful pieces of signage which adorn the walls.

At the foot of the prices chart there is a bold footnote which reads "Talk politics ... $50 surcharge".

Humour plays a big part.

Mr McFlynn enjoys a good laugh and when he noted that he actually had a customer at the time he was called for a chat, he said: "Oh it might cost him a bit more this time ... the meter's running".

He has no thoughts of retirement, whatsoever, despite having put in a working life thus far equal to the retirement age.

"I tried to retire once but it didn't work out," Mr McFlynn said.

"Still plenty of work to do."

And still plenty of scissors to wear out.

"Oh I've gone through a few of them all right."

He said while the old fingers were good as gold, he had a few issues with his knees and back, but a bit of medication now and then does the trick.

As for today, it will simply be another day in the shop.

"No, I won't be celebrating the occasion. I can get by without celebrations, but maybe in another five years I might."

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