From Taoiseach to bishops, All-Ireland winning GAA captains to mayors, barber Tom Nally, who this week celebrates 40 years in business at High Street, has cut the hairs of them all.
The list of clients, who frequented Tom’s city centre barbers over the years, is a ‘who’s who’ of Irish and Galway society, with politics and sports personalities regularly dropping in.
Among them, Joe McDonagh, former President of the GAA, Bishop of Galway, Martin Drennan and several Mayors of Galway City over the past four decades.
Kerry football legend, six times All-Ireland winner, Darragh Ó Sé is a regular when in Galway; and Gary Fahey, Galway’s All-Ireland winning captain in 2001 even popped in for a cut the Friday before the final in Croke Park.
The arrival of the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern in the noughties, while on an election campaign whistle-stop tour of Galway, was perhaps the ‘celebrity’ visit that generated the most interest among the general public. “It was amazing after that visit,” recalls Tom.
“All of the people that came in, who I’d never seen before or since, and they asked: ‘What seat did he sit in and did he pay for the haircut?’. That’s the truth, there were so many asking that. The answer always was: ‘This is the seat he sat on and Frank Fahey (FF Galway West TD at the time) paid for it!’ One lad said – ‘Sure that fella never paid for a thing in his life!”
Like Bertie, who chatted to Tom about the Dublin footballers and about being a referee, clients pop in as much for the chat as they do for a hair-cut.
“I enjoy going in there every single day – it’s very socially oriented. Coming in for a chat is a big part of it.”
The relationship between a man and his barber is unique – regulars tell Tom all sorts of things. “Some things I don’t want to hear,” he chuckles.
Though Tom’s shop on High Street is in a prime location to attract passersby, the majority of his clientele is repeat business.
“There’s passing trade but 80% of my customers would be regulars. A lot of them would be sportsmen, particularly GAA . . . I have people coming into me from all corners of the county – and I can tell you, the country guys now are just as trendy as any townie! I remember a barber saying to me when I started, ‘Tom, you won’t get the people you expect you’ll get and you’ll get the people you don’t expect to get, but as long as you get enough of them at the end of the day you’ll be happy enough’.
“I’ve lots of customers whose hair I cut 40 years ago. The last person whose hair I cut today was Noel Elwood (Elle’s café, Shop Street) and I cut his hair 40 years ago. There’d be quite a few like him. The customer that has been coming here the longest is a fella called Ronnie Ward, a retired postman, from Shantalla. He’s still going, and more importantly he still has hair!”
For another regular, a hair-cut at Tom’s has become a pre-wedding ritual. “He got married three times and I cut his hair each time before the wedding. The third time I said to him: ‘If this doesn’t work out, change your barber!’ But it has worked.”
A well-known and accomplished club football referee, Tom, a Shantalla native, has a lifetime association with St Michael’s football club and Rahoon/Newcastle hurling club.
Tom started as an apprentice to John Nestor when he was just 14 or 15 and fresh out of ‘The Tech’ on Fr Griffin Road. Nestor opened up the barbers in the 1960s, and took over the drapery that was known as Small Gleeson’s.
“Someone once said to me: ‘You scrub floors first and then you scrub heads’. There was nothing formal about the apprenticeship. You were judged on the progress you made,” he says.
Tom’s progress was steady, and in 1974 he took over the lease, firstly downstairs in the basement – it was 25 years ago when he returned to the ground floor of High Street where he originally started.
During those 40 years, haircut styles have changed, and come full circle.
“It’s changed big time. When I started it was very short hair. Then it went to long hair, which was in the late 1970s. And then through the years you had the flat-tops, undercuts, steps, mullets . . . we’ve done them all at this stage, and I intend doing a lot more.”
The business environment has changed, too. “There’re more barber shops now than ever. It’s got more competitive than ever.”
Tom is not content at looking back: he’s preparing for the future and constantly evolving the business.
The shop itself has a fresh new look, styled by La Maison Chic, a local interior design business; and he’s added new lines of affordable luxury products, and even a Facebook page.
His trusty lieutenant is Jacqueline Byrnes, who has been working with Tom for 25 years and trade is so good at the minute, they’re looking to recruit new barbers.
Tom’s thirst for cutting hair, and his barber business, is as strong today as it was when he started.
“I absolutely love it. I love coming into that shop every day. I keep fit. I do a daily swim in Galway Bay and referee matches. I’ve no intention of retiring. As long as my health continues, retirement doesn’t come into it.”
Galway City Council turns down Mad Yolk Farm site
An application to retain farming-related development on a site in Roscam has been turned down by Galway City Council.
The local authority has refused to grant retention permission to applicant Brian Dilleen for subsurface piping to be used for agricultural irrigation at ‘Mad Yolk Farm’ on Rosshill Road.
It also refused permission for the retention of a bore-hole well, water pump and concrete plinth; and two water holding tanks for 6,500 litres; and other associated site works.
In its written decision, the Planning Department at City Hall said: “The proposed development, would if permitted, facilitate the use of the site for the provision of sixty 15.5m high seed beds, which have been deemed by the planning authority not to be exempted development.
“Therefore a grant of permission for the proposed development would facilitate the unauthorised development and usage on the site, contrary to the proper planning and sustainable development of the area.”
The site has been the subject of enforcement action by the local authority.
A lengthy Appropriate Assessment Screening report, submitted with the planning application, concluded “beyond reasonable scientific doubt, in view of the best scientific knowledge, on the basis of objective information and in light of the conservation objectives of the relevant European sites, that the proposed retention and development, individually or in combination with other plans and projects, has not and will not have a significant effect on any European site”.
A borehole Impact Assessment Report concluded that the proposed retention development “on the hydraulic properties of the aquifer is considered negligible”.
It said that there was “no potential for significant effects on water quality, groundwater dependent habitats or species associated with any European site”.
Six objections were lodged by neighbours, including one from the Roshill/Roscam Residents Association, which argued the Further Information submitted by the applicant did “little to allay our concerns” about the impact of the development on an “extremely sensitive site”.
The applicant has until June 29 to appeal the decision to An Bórd Pleanála.
NUIG student accommodation firm records loss
The property company which operates student accommodation on behalf of NUI Galway recorded a €3.4 million increase in turnover in 2019.
However, Atalia Student Residences DAC (Designated Activity Company), which is owned by the university, recorded a loss for the year of €6,300.
Accounts for the company for the year ended August 31, 2019, show that while there was a loss, retained profits are at more than €1.6 million. The accounts are the most up to date available from the Companies Registration Office.
The previous year, the company made a profit of more than €460,000.
Atalia Student Residences operates the 764-bed Corrib Village apartment complex and the 429-bed Goldcrest Village.
The figures show that the company’s overall turnover jumped by 52% – from €6.4m to €9.8m.
Turnover for accommodation services was up from €5.2m to €8.4m; and from conferences and events was up from €850,000 to €1.1m. Turnover from shops was down from almost €328,000 to €290,000.
Outside of the academic year, both complexes are used as accommodation for conference delegates, while Corrib Village is also used for short-term holiday lets.
The accounts show fixed assets – including fixtures and fittings, plant and machinery and office equipment – valued at €1.5m. Its current assets were valued at more than €7m, including ‘cash at bank and in hand’ of almost €6.9m (up from €5.6m last year).
The company owed creditors €6.9m, including €5.2m in deferred income.
It employed 38 people (which includes its five directors) last year, up from 31 the previous year.
As well as operating the student accommodation complexes, the company also markets conference facilities and services on behalf of the university.
It pays rent to NUIG but the figure is not included in the company accounts. In 2018, the rent figure was just over €2.25m.
In Corrib Village, a single bedroom with a private en suite for the academic year costs €5,950. For Goldcrest Village, the figure is €6,760.
Call for two-way cycling under Galway City outdoor dining plan
Bike users want the local authority to examine the introduction of two-way cycling on one-way city centre streets.
Galway Cycling Campaign has again called for cycling to be allowed both ways. It comes as Galway City Council prepares to cordon-off parts of city centre streets to traffic, and make Dominick Street Lower one-way, to facilitate outdoor dining.
The cycling organisation said that the proposed pedestrianisation plan at the Small Crane, and the one-way system on Dominick Street, will result in lengthy diversions for people on bikes.
It has pointed out that school children and their guardians who cycle along Raleigh Row, and turn right towards Sea Road, will probably continue to do so even when the Small Crane is cordoned off to traffic, because the alternative route – via Henry Street – is too long a detour.
Similarly, it has been suggested that food-delivery services on bikes are unlikely to go the ‘long way round’ via Mill Street and New Road to get from Bridge Mills to restaurants on Dominick Street and would be tempted to cycle the ‘wrong way’ down the proposed one-way street or on the footpath.
Shane Foran, committee member of Galway Cycling Campaign, said now would be an ideal time to introduce two-way cycling on some one-way streets.
“It’s not controversial,” insisted Mr Foran. “It’s a general principle in other countries, if you are putting in new traffic arrangements, you would try and keep access for people on bikes.”
The regulation is contained in the National Cycle Policy Framework 2009; and a specific objective was contained in two of the most recent previous City Development Plans.
He said a former minister and Galway West TD, the late Bobby Molloy, had the vision to change the legislation in the late 1990s – but it hasn’t yet been embraced here.
“Bobby Molloy, who couldn’t be classed as an eco warrior, changed the law in 1998, so that it is available to local authorities to put up a sign granting an exemption from restrictions for people cycling on one-way streets.
“The road stays one-way for cars, and two ways for bicycles. Clearly that’s not going to be a sensible to do everywhere, like Merchants’ Road. In those situations, you might need a cycle track or lane to segregate people from traffic.
“But if it’s a low traffic street, with low speeds or relatively lower volumes of cars, then it should be possible for people on bicycles to cycle in both directions and still have it one-way for cars, without it being a major safety issue. It works in other countries,” said Mr Foran.