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Monday, 15 November 2021 | 11.1°C Belfast
It’s a family affair for five siblings with a flair for hair
CLOSE-KNIT: The family in front of Gillian’s salon in Newtownabbey
November 14 2021 05:00 AM
Meet the scissor-happy siblings who together with their children form one of the biggest hairdressing families in Northern Ireland. All five of them — Gillian Walker (54), Beverley Martin (51), Debbie Lamont (49), Victoria Hughes (37) and Richard Lamont (42) — as well as four of their offspring have followed the same career path. And no one has got more joy — or good haircuts — from the family’s crimping skills than their proud mum Jennifer (73), who dreamt as a young girl of becoming a hair stylist but could not afford to pay for the training. Jennifer, who was sadly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in March 2020, shares her joy about her children’s success with her husband of 56 years Winston (77), who also encouraged each of his children into the profession.
Winston with Jennifer
Between them, the family run four salons across Belfast and now because of their mum’s diagnosis, each of her children is introducing a new dementia-friendly service.
Victoria, who works at her brother Richard’s Knock Road salon, Hair Ritz, says: “When mum was young you had to pay to train as a hairdresser as there were no free courses.
“She couldn’t afford it and then she married dad quite young and had her children and the opportunity just passed her by.
“Mum said she really could have seen herself as a hairdresser but had to make do with playing with our hair. She had four girls and she loved doing our hair for us.”
As well as the five siblings, some of their children are now also following in their footsteps.
Beverley’s daughter Stacey Moore (31) is a senior stylist in The Salon in Cavehill run by her mum.
Gillian’s daughter Molly Johnston (25) is also a stylist in her salon, Lamont Hairdressing in Whiteabbey, where her son Darcy Walker (21) is the resident barber.
JOB SATISFACTION: Victoria loves what she does for a living
Richard’s wife Lesley (43) is also a hairdresser, and their son Lucas (17) helps out in their business Hair Ritz part-time while studying.
Debbie owns her own salon, also called Hair Ritz, on the Woodstock Road.
Vicky explains how having a close family sharing the same profession has enhanced the enjoyment of her career.
She says: “It is really good as every October we all go away together to the London Salon International Trade Show and look at what’s new and we are able to bounce ideas off each other.
“We also attend courses together as a family and anything new that one of us gets into the salon, we immediately share with the others.
“It wasn’t just mum, but dad was also keen on us all being hairdressers.
“He saw it as a good trade. I was maybe the only one not sure. At first, I didn’t know what I wanted to do and had considered studying for a business degree after my A-levels.
“Dad encouraged me to take a year out first and I spent it in the salon and never looked back.
“There is 17 years between me and my oldest sister and I saw her passion for it and I’m really glad I went for it. It has been really good for us all to do it.
“As the youngest too I had the advantage of having professional hairdressers doing my hair every day before I went to school.”
Their mum has also got used to having her hair washed and blow-dried everyday thanks to being surrounded by a gang of stylists.
There was sadness for the family when just as Covid-19 struck in March 2020, Jennifer was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
A carer all her life, she is now being well looked after by her husband Winston and children who still ensure she gets her daily wash and blow-dry.
Jennifer, who is from Coleraine, left school at 14 to work in a linen factory when she met Winston, originally from Ballymoney.
The childhood sweethearts married on Winston’s 21st birthday in September 1965 and settled in Glengormley where they still live today in their first home together.
YOUNG LOVE: Jennifer and Winston on their wedding day
Winston remembers Jennifer as an ambitious teenager wishing for a career as a hairdresser.
He recalls: “She was working in a linen mill and got the ‘Colleen of the Week’ award, and the local paper did a piece on her. In it she said her ambition was to be a hairdresser.
“Back then you had to pay for the apprenticeship and Jennifer looked at a couple of courses. It was probably only around £1 a week but it was too hard for her to give up her wages to study.
“She has really enjoyed seeing how the children have gone on to live her dream and really love their careers.
“One of them comes round every day and does her hair and leaves her sitting like a peacock.”
Winston, who worked for a long time on the railways as a relief signal man and later in telephone sales, also served in the Territorial Army through which he got to meet both the Queen and the Queen Mother.
Completely bald now, he has no need of the skills of his children.
He jokes: “I have all these hairdressers in the family and not a hair on my head. It fell out because they practised on me so much.
“I always said there were two professions we couldn’t live without — hairdressing and undertakers so I encouraged them all to get the trade behind them.”
Jennifer reveals her ambitions to the local newspaper
Jennifer worked as a domiciliary care worker in the community before she retired. Her caring nature is something her children have inherited and introduced to their salons.
Vicky explains: “Mum would have looked after people with Alzheimer’s and now sadly it has happened to her. If someone she was looking after was housebound, mum would have said, ‘I will get one of my children up to do your hair’ as she knew that would give them a lift and one of us would have gladly gone.
“Now with her Alzheimer’s sometimes when you go in to see her, she is a wee bit down and not talking much. She never forgets about her blow-dry and once she gets it, it is the first thing that picks her up. One of us will make sure she gets her hair done every day.
“Mum always said that once you get your hair done and your lipstick on, you will feel great.
“It has made us all think about introducing a service for people with dementia and looking at booking them in when the salon is less busy so that we can spend that extra time with them.
“In the past, each of us has gone out to clients’ homes when they couldn’t get into the salon because of health issues and that is something we got from mum and which we are all happy to try and accommodate.”
And as for the in-laws, family get-togethers usually end up with one hot topic of conversation: the hair business.
“Sitting at the table with my brothers-in-law the conversation tends to be hair or salon-related,” adds Vicky. “We’ve had to promise to ban work talk at the Christmas table which is fair enough. We are lucky to be a close family, we are all different, but we are all very close to each other.”
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