Bosun’s - the vintage nautical-themed barber shop in Rawtenstall

The striking vintage interior at Bosuns Barbers

The striking vintage interior at Bosuns Barbers - Credit: Archant

Tony Winder almost didn’t become a barber but after a lifetime cutting hair he has set up a remarkable retro shop. Catherine Smyth reports.

An old hair cream advertisement

An old hair cream advertisement - Credit: Archant

WHEN Tony Winder left school he had high hopes of becoming an apprentice painter and decorator. Unfortunately, the poor lad was only five feet tall and he wouldn’t have been able to reach the ceilings.

This turned out to be a lucky break for the boy from Ramsbottom. ‘I returned to the careers office and was offered a barbering apprenticeship,’ he says. ‘Within the first year, I had grown not only my future career but my stature – I’d was ten inches taller and have never looked back.’

It was a career which took Tony on a remarkable worldwide journey and decades later, the 70-year-old has turned his shop in Bank Street, Rawtenstall, into a grand celebration of a lifetime cutting hair.

Above the door on the 1960s tiled frontage it announces ‘Antony and Patricia’. One of the large glass picture windows promotes the ladies’ salon while the second welcomes men to Bosun’s Barbers, complete with a traditional spinning red and white pole.

A display of Tonys scissors

A display of Tonys scissors - Credit: Archant

On entering, the hair straighteners and dye are left on the lower deck while the distressed staircase leads to the poop deck. Three ship’s windows have been cleverly converted into mirrors to reflect the vintage nautical-themed barber shop.

‘When I was 22 I wanted to go to sea,’ said Tony. ‘I wanted to see the world but I had never been abroad – that wasn’t an option for a family like mine.

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‘I applied to Steiners, a big London-based company, who held the concession for cruise ships. I was told I would have to work in the Midland Hotel in Manchester for 12 months to earn my stripes, but within four days I was given a boarding pass and suddenly I was all at sea.’

His life as an ocean-going hairdresser had begun. ‘In the Merchant Navy I sailed on the SS Southern Cross and first stamp on my passport is from when I berthed in Trinidad and Tobago on February 27 1969.’

Hairdressers in action

Hairdressers in action - Credit: Archant

He twice circumnavigated the world on that ship and, while on shore leave, he met his first wife, Patricia, who was an established hairdresser in Rossendale.

When he disembarked from SS Southern Cross he spent two seasons as camp barber at Butlin’s in Filey and Minehead before he got another passage on SS Oriana and the chance to explore more of the world.

‘I sailed through the Panama Canal, was in Tonga on Independence Day, we visited New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and all over the South Pacific and the Caribbean.

‘I docked at 56 ports in my time at sea and was lucky to have shore leave so I could sightsee. It was an amazing experience.’

Tony with one of the 1930s chairs

Tony with one of the 1930s chairs - Credit: Archant

Eventually, Tony and Patricia settled down back home, setting up a salon in their names in Rawtenstall – Antony and Patricia.

Tony, whose second wife Karina is a director and senior stylist in the business, decided to celebrate his 70th birthday by returning to his roots and developing Bosun’s Barbers.

Thanks to internet auctions and car boot sales, Tony has been able to source a variety of authentic memorabilia, complemented by his own collection that he started after training in 1962.

Hand clippers have been cleverly converted into coat hooks and, as Tony no longer cuts hair, every single pair of scissors he has used is mounted on the wall. A collection of clippers over the years hangs from shelves.

His first boss and mentor was Les Howarth whose shop was on Lower Deardengate, Haslingden, where Tony served his apprenticeship.

That premises is now a second hand shop but the original ‘Les Howarth’ sign was stored in the cellar and it has now been donated to Tony to be installed inside Bosun’s.

There is also a football theme. The spinning barber’s pole is known as a Dexter 1966 – chosen to mark England’s World Cup success. Inside, the dedicated Burnley fan has a special limited edition Wembley print complete with autographs of some of the team and other sporting heroes. It was donated by former Burnley FC player and chief executive Paul Fletcher, a close personal friend.

Tony said: ‘When I look round the shop and I see the map of the world on the wall I remember visiting all those locations.

‘I look at the mirrors and I see through the portholes to the sea that was my home for so many years.

‘When I sit in the 1930s barber chairs they take me back to cutting hair on the ocean waves and the newspaper cuttings on the wall in the waiting area capture my varied career. I am fortunate to have been given so many chances.’ Despite what the decorators said, Tony did hit the heights.

Cutting points

The word barber comes from the Latin barba meaning chin or beard.

The Ancient Greeks introduced barbers to the Romans and a daily visit to the tonsor was a routine place to socialise and gossip. A young man’s first shave was considered an essential part of his coming of age.

In the Middle Ages, barbers often served as surgeons and dentists. The barber’s pole, featuring red and white spiralling stripes, is said to reflect this role with the white representing bandages and the red symbolising blood.

The Worshipful Company of Barbers was founded in the early 1300s, when Richard le Barbour was elected by the Court of Aldermen to keep order among his fellows.

Barbers originally aided monks, who were at the time the traditional practitioners of medicine and surgery, because Papal decrees prohibited them from spilling blood.

Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, is a fictional character who first appeared as the villain of the Victorian story, The String of Pearls. Some claim it was based on fact.

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