Thursday, 12 September 2013

Characterful barbers are an essential part of the community and in Silsden they have an incredible long-stay record. Gino Familio, pictured above, who runs Cut Italia with his son Alex, is nearing his 25th year as a hairdresser at No. 88 Kirkgate. He came to England from Naples in 1969 and opened Cut Italia in 1989. Previous uses of the shop on the corner with Wesley Place (pictured below) included the water-works office where household bills could be paid. In those days all the utility bills could be paid locally in person and in cash.

In the early years of the 20th century, the shop at 82 Kirkgate, now a dog-grooming parlour, belonged to barber Harry Foster, who lived above the premises with his family. Pictured above at the shop, around 1912, is one of Harry's assistants, Wilf Naylor, an ex-soldier, who had moved to Silsden from Leeds to learn the trade. On the outbreak of the First World War, Wilf volunteered to serve, despite being in his late 30s. In a trench in France in 1917, Wilf was hit by shrapnel, which shattered his right arm. He died aged 42 in a military hospital in Leeds in 1920. In the 1950s, 82 Kirkgate was well-known as Mr Sanderson's sweet shop. Another barber who had fought in the 1914-18 war was Tom Lowis. He retired in 1964 after 44 years here, having opened his first Silsden shop in Aire View in 1920 and then moving to Kirkgate in the premises which a few years ago flourished as Bonapartes restaurant but which are presently unoccupied. Tom was also a booking agent for local coach firms and customers, well lathered for shaving, often had to wait while he arranged day trips to Morecambe and Bridlington for families who had called in.  
The barber pictured above in 1908 at his shop on Clog Bridge is Jonas Gill Wilson, who retired in 1935 after 55 years as a local hairdresser. Known as Joany Barber, he shaved 100 villagers on his first day in business in 1880. The busiest time was the hour before midnight. The pubs closed at 11pm and drinkers would then dash to the barber's shop for their weekly shave. For 35 years he lived at Farnhill and walked along the canal towpath to and from the shop, which was a large wooden hut once used as a nail-maker's smithy at Brunthwaite. The hut was pulled down when Joany retired in 1935. Silsden's first barber was Morecambe-born John Nixon, of Caleb Street, who came here as a child and was a nail-maker until becoming a  hairdresser in premises in Kirkgate in the mid-1870s. Before that, men had cut each other's hair or their own. John continued as a barber virtually until his death aged 77 in 1908.  
Another long-serving barber is, of course, Jeff Walbank, pictured above at his Bradley Road shop (featured in my October 2012 post), who is still going strong after 44 years as a local hairdresser. Arthur Wade, John Lyth and Geoff Whitley are also among well-remembered barbers from yesteryear.