Bourne barber retires after 49 years

Keith Neal Photo: by Lee Hellwing
Keith Neal Photo: by Lee Hellwing

A Bourne barber is hanging up his scissors after 49 years of cutting gents hair.

Keith Neal, 64, has clocked up more than 235,000 haircuts in his long and illustrious career at his shop in South Street, but ill health means he will be stepping down to enjoy a well-earned retirement.

Keith worked alongside his father Denis, a barber and tobacconist, for 26 years.

Keith said: “I do 20 cuts a day, which equates to 100 every week. I sat down and worked out the total the other day, and I’ve done 235,000 in my time here. But it might actually be even more – I also cut my family’s hair, including my wife’s.”

Keith has seen many changes during his near half decade behind the chair.

He said: “There’s always been a barber’s here, ever since the building was built in the 1890s. Mr Barnatt had the shop, an appropriate name really, and when he passed away his family wanted someone to run the salon, so my father stepped in and invited me to join him.

“The shop was divided by a partition, so I worked one side with two chairs, and my father ran a tobacconist’s from the other side. When my father retired I took over the premises and expanded the barbers.

“I started off in the 1960s with haircuts, wet shaves with cut-throat razors, shampoos and the likes. Back then I was charging half a crown. But everything changed in the 1980s with the Aids epidemic.

“There was so much red tape you had to jump through with cut throat razors that I decided to focus solely on haircuts.”

Problems with his back and hip have forced Keith to call time on his cutting career, and he will be sad when the times comes to finally shut to shut up shop for good.

He said: “I’d say that 90 per cent of my customers are regulars and I have made some incredible friends. In some cases I’m now cutting the hair of the third generation from the same family, and it’s nice to know people trust me to do a good job.

“Of course it will be a very sad day when the time comes to shut up shop for the final time, but the time is right for me to put myself 
first.”

Keith is keen for the shop to remain true to its roots as a barber’s and is selling the premises, which includes a three-bedroom flat, as a going concern.

He said: “This place has always been a barbers and I’m keen for it to stay that way. It holds many good memories for me. I’d love someone to come in and carry on the mantle.”