A Day in the Life: John Kelly


CLEAN CUT John Kelly pictured at his barber’s on Castle Street in Castlebar. Mayo football is a regular talking point there. Pic: Michael McLaughlin


Name: John Kelly
Age: 54
Lives: Castlebar
Occupation: Barber

I work six days a week, it doesn’t bother me at all. We’re up at 7/7.30 in the morning, I hope into the shower, then we get the breakfast and off we go. Our first appointment is at 9am and the last appointment is 6.30/7pm. That’s our routine every day and Sunday is our day off.
I grew up in the barber shop. It’s a fourth generation family business and we’ll be 90 years in business next year. It started off with my grandfather, who started it up in 1932. Then there’s my father – Lord rest him – who took the business over when his father passed away at a very young age, and I took it over in 1997. My son is involved in the business so I’m sure the day is going to come very soon where he’ll be taking it over.
We’re hugely passionate about the business and we put a huge amount of effort into it. Four years ago, I decided to open a second shop in Castle Street and, funnily enough, people were asking me: “Which town are you opening it in?” We opened the other shop as strictly appointment only and a lot of people said: “You’re absolutely mad.”
Knowing the business all my life, people had huge constraints before coronavirus came along. I opened up a second shop just to accommodate people that wanted to go straight into the chair without waiting 30-40 minutes. People are over the moon about that.
I’m looking to expand into other areas of Mayo at the moment. We were off for 41 weeks over three lockdowns, so I decided I needed to do something. The first thing I did was to revamp the old walk-in shop. I then decided to get my degree to become a qualified barbering teacher. Our next move is to open an academy in 2022. I know barbers out there are very much struggling for staff, so we’re going to get them out there and train them for employment.
My wife Cathriona is my main receptionist and runs the whole show when it comes to the appointments. I’d be lost without her. We like to work on an appointment basis. If a walk-in comes, it’s not an issue at all. We’ll accommodate them to the best of our ability.
My daughter gives us a hand as well. She does all our social media work and does the whole running of the shop. She’s unbelievable.
The most talked about thing in the shop in the last seven or eight days is the All-Ireland Football Final. You hear all sorts of angles from that. Some people are critical, and some people are positive, saying: “We won’t go away.” I believe that too.
When it comes to coronavirus, people are looking at it for the long-term.  I don’t think we’ll have another lockdown, and I hope that we don’t.
I’m positive about the whole thing. We’re on the verge of 90 percent of people being vaccinated but we can’t afford as a nation to close down again.
I think an awful lot of people missed us during the lockdown. People realised five or six weeks into lockdown: “Where can I get a haircut?” They never realised how important we were until we were gone.
What I like most about the job is meeting people. You meet so many different people. Every customer is different. I really missed that interaction during the lockdown. It was a culture shock for myself as much as it was other people. If you love what you do every day of the week you don’t really call it hard work.
It is a physically hard job. You are standing a lot every single day in the week. We start at 9am and finish at 7pm and you’re standing all day long. I have nine absolutely fantastic staff with me, and I couldn’t thank any of them enough. I make sure that the people I employ are passionate, and the service and the customer is the priority.
Outside of the business, my passion is golf and I’m involved big-time in Castlebar Golf Club. If I’m not in the shop or on the golf course, I’m in the garden - you won’t find me anywhere else!

In conversation with Oisín McGovern

Quickfire questions

If money was no object, what would you do all day?
I’d try to help as many people who cannot help themselves, why are we all here in the first place?
Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I have a passion for gardening and growing vegetables, but I’m only an amateur at it yet.
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
Frogs legs (a once off).

Where’s your favourite place in the world?
I live here, it’s Mayo.

What makes you angry?
The waste of taxpayers’ money!

Your first hero?
My wife Cathriona, she’s some woman, what a hero.

Name three things that are always in your fridge?
Butter, tomatoes and, since lockdown, a few cans of Guinness.

What makes you nervous?
Standing over a three foot putt that hasn’t been given ( it’s a golf thing).
Favourite TV show?
Yes Minister.
Most famous person you’ve met?
Played six holes of golf with Shane Lowry in 2017, what a gentleman and he loves Mayo GAA!
What do you miss most about being a kid?
Having no responsibilities, you learn that as you grow up.

What’s your most prized possession?
I’m not a materialistic person but I would struggle without my phone for obvious reasons.
Best advice you ever got?
Life, it’s not a dress rehearsal, enjoy it.
Describe yourself in three words?
Workaholic (but love it), lighthearted, charitable.
How do you unwind?
A few days break with my family now and again and a good fourball!