‘Exhausted’ hairdresser working until midnight ahead of lockdown

Joseph Byrne hands out vouchers to homeless as Cork salon faces ‘disastrous’ closure

Joseph Byrne with staff at his  Cork city hair salon in 2018. File photograph: Olivia Kelleher

Joseph Byrne with staff at his Cork city hair salon in 2018. File photograph: Olivia Kelleher

 

Cork hairdresser Joseph Byrne normally fits in a special day of appointments for the long-term homeless during Christmas week.

Instead he is handing out vouchers which now may not be used until closer to spring.

Byrne, who runs a salon on Glasheen Road in Cork city, says he is exhausted from stop-start restrictions as he faces into another lockdown on Christmas Eve.

He says another closure is “a disastrous” outcome for the industry.

“People who can’t get in for Christmas were calling us about New Year’s Eve appointments.

“Our book is full. I am working until 12am tonight and again tomorrow clearing appointments trying to fit everybody in. We started here at 8.15am today.

“We would have people who are [medically] vulnerable so that is why they are coming late at night so that they have the salon to themselves.

“We are exhausted from it. Christmas is a stressful time in any salon because you are trying to fit people in. But this really stressful.”

Byrne says that the year has been particularly tough on elderly clientele who used to sit around chatting after they got their hair cut.

Joseph and his husband Darren collected items of clothing and selection boxes as is the tradition at the salon over Christmas. They donated the goods to Penny Dinners and to women’s shelters Cuan Lee and Edel House.

Joseph and the team at the salon helped out a lot of their elderly clients during lockdown.

“I am dying to offer the older ladies a minced pie and a cup of tea in the salon at Christmas because we would always have done that. We always had the bit of craic. You can’t do that anymore. The banter is gone.”

In recent years, Joseph has spent a day every Christmas cutting the hair of the homeless.

He has seen people get visibly upset during the cutting process. Many times they are living a life devoid of touch.

“I had an experience with a man last year where he got very emotional because he got his hair shampooed. It wasn’t the fact that he was getting his hair cut. It was the physical contact. He was saying, ‘I haven’t had this for so long.’ The warmth of the place and the girl washing his hair. I didn’t comprehend all that before.”

Byrne says ultimately in life, we all crave “a bit of TLC”.

“When you are doing hair it is therapeutic. I am chatting away. People often tell their story. I get lost with them. They get lost with me and we forget everything for 20 to 25 minutes. It is important for me that people feel safe.”