Hairdressing legend Margaret, still working at 91, celebrates 65 years in her Chorley salon

It will be business as usual for Margaret, 91, when she opens up her hairdressing business today - just like she has for the past 65 years.

By Fiona Finch
Monday, 21st June 2021, 10:44 am

It's always been a case of hair today and hair tomorrow for Margaret Sherlock - and she wouldn't have it any other way!

The signs of her lifelong passion for hairdressing were evident at an early age. At five she decided to give herself a haircut with a cut throat razor. As a teenager she cycled daily to her post as a hairdressing apprentice in Aughnacloy in Northern Ireland, earning her fees by scrubbing and polishing floors. Then, as a new mum in Chorley Lancashire, she decided to set up her own business.

This weekend marks a milestone in that career - for it was 65 years ago, on June 19, 1956, that she opened her salon in the front room of her terraced home on Stratford Road in Chorley. The pandemic means plans for a salon party are on hold. Instead customers are booked in one at a time- including her first ever customer, Jean, who is due in for a perm.

Margaret, pictured outside her salon with children Adrian and Linda celebrating the publication of her biography. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Daughter Linda Sherlock has just written a book about her mum's remarkable life entitled Shampoo and Set: 75 Years as a Hairdresser.

From finger waves and clip curls to a Purdey cut, a Princess Diana flip and the enduringly popular shampoo and set Margaret has kept apace with changing hair fashions.

She said: "My customers keep coming and I love it. It's company. I like the idea of going to work - you've a sense of purpose in life haven't you? There have been all different styles from the first day I opened. When I opened they (customers) were younger ones, now they're coming after 60 odd years."

Her salon is now called Hair by Margaret but is still known simply as Margaret’s.

Margaret pictured at work in her salon this week. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Linda, who was deputy head teacher at St Joseph's school, Anderton, near Chorley, before becoming an educational adviser at Lancashire County Council ,assists her mum in the salon and said: “I have always enjoyed writing . Talking to my mum I realised that she had lots of stories to tell. There are so many characters too who are varied and interesting. This book gives first-hand accounts of times long gone such as the Lancashire Wakes Weeks holidays, working in the Lancashire mills and Walking Days as well as what hairdressing was like long before the glamour of the present day. It is also a story of how adversity can be overcome to fulfil your dreams and that hard work and determination can bring its own rewards."

She continued: "It always fascinated me how she got the idea to be a hairdresser - some local girls had gone and she just saw it as an opportunity to better herself. She had never been to a hairdressers ever when she started. The nearest town was 12 miles away.

"She has had so many ups and downs in her life. She grew up in a thatched cottage in Monaghan in rural Ireland, one of six sisters. Her mum died when she was five and she was brought up by her eldest sister who was only 18 - her father worked in bars in New York to earn money to feed and clothe his daughters. Mum has persevered and kept going and doesn't let anything get her down."

Margaret arrived in Chorley in the early 1950s with her sister at a time when there was not much work in Ireland. Frank, whom she had met at a dance in Ireland, and who was to become her husband, was already settled in Chorley and the couple married in 1954 at the Sacred Heart Church in the town.

Margaret pictures outside her salon, happy to be hairdressing at 91. Photo: Kelvin Stuttard

Margaret worked as a nurse at Eaves Lane Hospital until Linda was born. Linda said: "While she was nursing she still practised her hairdressing. She did the patients' hair and the staff's, all for free, just to keep in practise . When I was born she took me from hospital when I was 10 days old and that afternoon she opened the shop properly and has been there ever since."

The business grew and Margaret needed more staff so husband Frank decided to retrain as a hairdresser too and joined Margaret as her apprentice in the business. Frank died in May, 2008.

In turn Linda's younger brother Adrian, a retired solicitor, also helps run the business.

Linda said: "Mum is still working 25 hours a week ,Wednesday to Saturday. She is the sole hairdresser. I help her. Some people find it hard to believe she's 91. It's strenuous work, standing on her feet and quite physically demanding."

Part of the cover of Shampoo and Set: 75 years as a hairdresser. The cover shows Margaret styling hair in 1975.

Linda, who was a pupil at Lark Hill Convent School in Preston, is an accomplished writer. Her monologue The Exile’s Child was performed and recorded by the Green Curtain Theatre Company, London and she is a member of the Chorley Writers Circle. Adrian, a retired solicitor, was born over the shop and while waiting for the birth Margarert did the midwife's hair to pass the time. Linda said: "It was like a scene from (TV's) Call The Midwife. "

The Coronavirus lockdowns and the necessary closures for many months last year and this were testing for both Maragret and her clients. When the salon reopened one customer was in tears. Margaret said: "I said what's to do? She said I'm crying with joy because you're back and I get my hair done every week."

Linda added: "At home she (mum) was just longing to get back to her clients and chatting with them. A lot of her clients are more mature and when we reopened on July 4 (last year) they were just so delighted. She has some that have been coming 65 years. Some of them she did their hair for weddings and she did their golden weddings as well. They are like family.""

Margaret's fame had already spread before the book - she was the overall winner of a commuity hero award from BBC Radio Lancashire in 2018. The Book Guild said: "It is proof that if you find a job that you like then you never feel that your work is done even at the age of ninety in the midst of a pandemic."

* Shampoo and Set: 75 Years as a Hairdresser by Linda Sherlock will be published by The Book Guild on June 28 at £9.99 and will be available to order from bookshops or online.

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Husband Frank pictured cutting Margaret's hair during a visit back to Ireland in the 1980s.
Linda, Margaret and Adrian take a well deserved break in the salon Photo: Kelvin Stuttard
Margaret as a hairdressing apprentice in Northern Ireland
Margaret and Adrian pictured outside the salon, known as "the shop", in 1964