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Barber Billy Brett: A Cut Above The Rest

by Jimmy Rhatigan

How’s she cuttin’, I would ask as our paths crossed on a busy Kilkenny City street.
Quiet but friendly city barber, tonsorial artist to those in the business, Billy Brett of Garden Villas, Kilkenny would simply smile and the chat would start.
He knew the score. My mouth was always motoring. He was discreet and considerate. He had a great sense of humour.
It was always a happy experience meeting Billy.
Hairdressing was at the heart of the Brett family right back to the days when some parents would put a bowl on a child’s head and cut around it.
The latter was hardly a fashion statement but it was practical.
Money was that scarce in the ago.
Billy and his family ran a very professional and welcoming Brett’s Barber Shop, Rose Inn Street and later Gaol Road, Kilkenny for generations.
Like other great men of the scissors and comb of another era, Seamie Bolger, Marty Bowe, Dick Brett, a relative of Billy’s, Jack McGrath, the Finn brothers of John Street and many more, Billy was a respected cornerstone of our city and a caring employer.
By all accounts, Brett’s the Barber’s was a lovely place to work and gave good employment and hairdressing training to many local girls over the years.

By day, Billy and his team looked after the short back and sides, crew cuts and whatever other fashion caught the imaginations of customers.
For years, at least two evenings a week, he gave his heart, mind and undoubted organizational ability to the Kilkenny CBS Past Pupils’ Union Bingo and many other activities of a then thriving association in the former Carlton Ballroom on Chapel Lane.
Along with many other great people like Liam Meighan, Michael O’Grady, Seán Breathnach and Donal Gibbons, Billy was so proud of ‘The Brothers’ local primary and secondary schools and worked tirelessly to raise funds to support upgrading of learning facilities for youngsters who like himself in earlier years were proud pupils.
Billy made many friends during his active life and it was a privilege to be among them.
He was a thorough gentleman and very kind person.
Billy is survived by his wife Maura; sons Conor, Kieran and Damien; daughter Aideen; brother Jim; son-in-law Ciarán; daughters-in-law Leisa and Lorraine; Conor’s fiancée Denise; grandchildren Finn, Niamh, Cillian, Fiadh, Ava and baby Cian; brothers-in-law, sister-in-law.

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