Irish Barbers Journal Interview
Originally featured in the Irish Barber’s Journal Volume 2
Ciaran Clarke a 5th generation barber of the Roche Family is the proud owner of two Kildare barbershops, one in Kildare town, the other in Monasterevin. With almost 140 years of successful family businesses under their belts, we were interested in speaking to Ciaran and learning more about the history of this barbering dynasty.
Ciaran, where did it all begin – how did the first ‘Roches Barbershop’ come about?
Born in 1838 in St. Stephens Green, Dublin Lucinda (Lucy) Byrne started her hairdressing career in 1850 aged just twelve years old. She carried out her hairdressing profession by visiting and attending to the grooming needs of the nobility of Dublin in their own homes. In 1860 she married John Roche, and so began the the Roche era in Hairdressing. Lucy and John had seven children, five sons and two daughters. Four sons became barbers and one of the daughters a hairdresser. It was their eldest son Thomas Roche that opened the first barber shop under the Roche name at 9 Haddington Road, Dublin in 1878. Lucy then opened a barber shop in 1879 at 60 North King Street, Dublin and then moving in 1889 to 31 Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin, Other family members had shops in Capel Street, Winetavern Street and Wood Quay.Nicholas another son worked as a ships barber on transatlantic routes before settling in America in 1911.
So it was Thomas Roche that founded the original shop. Could you tell us more about him?
Thomas Roche ran his business in Haddington Road for 9 years before moving it to 34 North Strand Road, Dublin in 1887. This 1890’s north city salon was reputed to be the most hygienic in Dublin, decorated extensively with marble and tile. It had seven hairdressing points to ensure efficient service. In 1880 Thomas had married Anne Foley, they had three sons and three daughters. The three sons became barbers. The youngest son Joseph married Eileen Keane in 1927, and they lived above the North Strand shop before moving southside in 1934.
A passion for barbering seems to have been inherited throughout the generations. How did Joseph Roche continue on his father’s tradition?
Joseph, or Joe as he was known, took over the family business in 1930. However, in 1941 a German bomb destroyed Roche & Sons 34 North Strand Road. Ten months later in March 1942 Joe reopened Roches at 153 Lower Kimmage Road, Dublin, and that is still in business today. Joe and Eileen had seven sons and a daughter, five of his sons and his daughter followed in the hairdressing tradition – working in the Kimmage establishment. The eldest son Brendan took over the business in 1956 and a ladies salon was established in 1957 at the rear of the barbershop. His son, Donal, now manages the Kimmage barbershop since Brendan retired. Brendan is a qualified Trichologist. The second son, Vincent, opened his barbershop on the Drimnagh Road in 1952 and is, the fourth son, Fergus, relocated the ladies salon upstairs along with his sister Maura in 1962. Maura worked there until 1973 . The fifth son, Kevin, established his barbershop in Churchtown in 1979 . The sixth son, Desmond, has his barbershop at 34 Baldoyle road, Sutton which opened in 1988 and is now being run by his two sons Colin and Conor.
With so much talent passing from generation to generation, have there been any stand out stars in the family?
In 1973 Maura Clarke (my mother) began teaching hairdressing at Crumlin College of Business and Technical Studies and went on to be head of the Hairdressing Department, Department of Eduacation Examiner for the National Hairdressing Trades Certificates and External Examiner for the National Council for Vocational Awards until her retirement in 2008. In 2005 Maura was one of the first people and indeed the first woman to be inducted into the the Irish Hairdressers Federation Hall of Leaders. Her brother, Brendan, was also inducted into the Hall of Leaders three years later in 2008. So we have two icons in the one family.
Maura had three sons with her husband Christopher William Clarke (Willie), two of them followed in the family tradition. Eoin is now the National Educator for a large Hairdressing chain ‘Hairhouse Warehouse’ in Australia, and then there’s myself, Ciaran, the owner of two barbershops.
How have you contributed towards this barbering legacy, Ciaran?
I served my apprenticeship with Kevin Roche (my Uncle) and then went on to work in various barber shops in the city, including the Green Dolphin. I then gained some valuable experience in Melbourne where I lived for 7 years and opened my first barber shop there in 1993. I decided to return to Dublin in 1996 and took up employment in the Waldorf Barbers in Dublin. In 2000, I then set up my own business in Clanbrassil Street, Dublin. One of my greatest moments in the industry to date was when myself and a member of my staff won first and second place in the 2001’ Irish Hairdressing Federation’s National Competition’ in the Men’s Freestyle Event. By this time I was living in Kildare Town and saw the need for a good quality barbers, that’s when Roches Barbers was opened in Kildare in August 2002 and then a second shop in Monasterevin in April 2007.
More recently, the staff of Roches Barbers in Kildare have had a great year so far with competitions. Amanda won the American Crew Irish All Star Challenge. Derek was a finalist in the Visionary Awards and Paul came third in the UK Barber Battle at Barber Connect in Wales, with Amanda and Derek being top ten finalists.
What are your hopes for the future of Roches Barbershops?
Roche’s Barbers have always strived to offer the highest standards in barbering throughout the generations and I will always strive to continue with this tradition handed down to me by my family. I plan to build on our brand over the coming years, my next project is expected to be up and running in January 2016. Going forward I would hope to see some of the next generation taking up the tools of the trade and becoming 6th generation barbers.