A cut above the rest

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ALL SMILES Pictured celebrating the opening of Flatley’s Barbers are, from left: Caroline Flatley, Bridget Burke, Peggy Flatley and Caobhlin Flatley.


Feature
Michael Gallagher

Friday morning in Belmullet and the place was buzzing. Footfall was heavy on Barrack Street at the entrance to the town as excitement danced in the breeze. Halfway up the street, balloons and streamers drew eyes to the town’s newest business, Flatley’s Barbers.
These days, the opening of a barber shop is a regular occurrence, but there’s nothing ordinary about Flatley’s.
The shop is a joint-venture between a son and his mother; the male half of the duo is still studying for his Leaving Cert and his mother is returning to full-time employment after helping raise a family. Throw in the fact that the family relocated to Belmullet from Ballintubber in the past year and one began to grasp what a special day was unfolding in the historic town.
“We’re so excited. People have been calling in all morning, wishing us luck and that’s so nice,” Caroline Flatley told The Mayo News as family and friends continued to come through the doors.
Caroline’s parents, Bridget and Martin Burke had been in-situ all morning, dispensing oodles of their renowned hospitality. Caoblin’s other granny, Peggy Flatley was en-route from Ballintubber and the afternoon promised to be brilliant as talk of DJs and decks and a party atmosphere bounced off the walls.
Damien Flatley, husband and father of the dynamic duo and the back-up crew, Fionnán, Clódagh and Féilim, watched proudly as the business burst into life.
“They’ve worked very hard to get it ready for today and we’ve had great help from family and friends. Caroline has a way of getting things done. She might ask you to hang a mirror somewhere and you might end up painting the place or putting on a new roof,” he explained.
The family moved to Belmullet some months ago from Damien’s native Ballintubber. Caroline is an Erris native and the long-term plan had always been to relocate to the barony, but they never realised it would be such an immediate success.
“We love it. We had a great life in Ballintubber, but this is special. We were always up and down anyway, but being here is even better,” added Damien, who is the well-known face of Lyndon Reilly Motors in Ballyheane and commutes daily from Belmullet. The journey is worth it, according to the former Ballintubber GAA underage coach.
“The community has welcomed us with open arms and it’s like we were always here. That’s what made opening the barbers even easier and the response we’re had this morning backs that up,” he added as another customer came through the door.
Caroline and Caobhlin will run the business together. It promises to be a hugely interesting venture.

Back at work
“I’m so delighted to be back at work. I trained in hairdressing and barbering and then worked for my sister Fiona in Chameleon (Hair Salon) here in town before moving away. Now, I’m getting the chance to get back to work again and I’m so looking forward to meeting people.
“Caobhlin is in Leaving Cert in St Brendan’s and that’s his priority right now. I’ll work every day until he’s finished school; he’ll work a few hours in the evenings and on Saturdays and we’ll enjoy it. Then, when he has the exams finished he’ll be here more permanently,” she added with a smile and it was hard to avoid the sense that Flatley’s Barbers will be a very happy place.
So, how did a mother and her teenage son arrive at the point where they opened a barber shop together?
“I knew Caobhlin had a flair for it since he was a little lad. When he started secondary school in St Gerald’s he saw how talented one of the lads there was, Conrad Kelly, and he came home and asked me could I give him a few tips.
“Some of his friends started coming to the house for cuts then and it developed from there, but there were a few bumps in the road,” Caroline explained as laughter bubbled to the surface.
“Not everything went right at first. He wasn’t a great fan of constructive criticism, but he had a flair for it and was soon going well,” she added before Caobhlin took up the story.
“When I was 14, the Turkish Barbers opened up in Castlebar and put up a Facebook post looking for trainees. I asked Mam was it okay to get in touch with them and she agreed as long as schoolwork remained the priority.
“I started cutting in the shop at the end of Second Year and all through Third Year I was cutting away. Then for TY, I took the year out from school and trained there every day. I loved it. They wanted to take me on as an employee after that, but I wanted to finish school and we were getting ready to move to Belmullet anyway, so that wasn’t really a runner.
“Now, we’re here and I love it. I have brilliant friends and am involved in sport here and now we have the business, so it’s a busy but great life,” the young barber added before attending to another customer.

Flatley’s Barbers are open from Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10am to 6pm and Friday and Saturday from 10am to 7pm.