Continuing our series of profiles on Ballina people. Here we report on Ballina barber Cathy Walshe-Munro …
Back in the 1960s, Ballina kids got their short-back-and-sides haircut from Ballina barber Jack Walshe in his Wigmore Arcade shop — and they got a free packet of chewing gum thrown in to the deal.
These days kids can still get a free lolly or some gum with their haircut, but the barber doing the cutting is a woman — Jack’s daughter Cathy.
Cathy, pictured, took over Jack’s well-established business in 1985, and as far as familiar Ballina faces go, Cathy is one.
She’s been hairdresser to thousands of Ballina people during her 22 years in Wigmore Arcade. Her clientele includes men and boys, women and girls.
Hair styles come and go, but many of Cathy’s customers were Jack’s customers. Many are now in the seniors age bracket, and it’s not uncommon to see a gofer parked at the door.
Alternatively, you might see a young surfie type waiting his turn — such is the variety of Cathy’s customers.
Many of the kids who get their hair cut by Cathy are children of people who got their childhood haircuts from her.
Cathy, 48, is Ballina born-and-bred. She left school in 1974 and started an apprenticeship in 1975 with Gloria Carden.
She moved to Sydney in 1976, where she worked until 1980. The salon was next door to Easts Leagues Club, and the business offered a free haircut to the winner of the Roosters Tackle of the Week award — hence Cathy’s passion for the Roosters.
She returned to Ballina and worked with her father until 1982, when she left for a Top End adventure, living in Darwin until 1984.
Cathy took over the business in 1985. Jack had moved into the Wigmore Arcade premises in 1966, and Cathy says he was the first to start a business in the new arcade.
Taking over the clippers meant that Cathy was the only female barber on the North Coast at the time. She can’t make that claim these days — staff members are Joanne (15 years with Cathy) and Michelle (eight years).
Jack passed away in 1993 but there’s still a strong family link with the business — Cathy’s mum Peg still comes in to clean the shop every Saturday.
Cathy has been a supporter of sporting groups and schools, and is heavily involved in the surf scene. Her husband, Don Munro, owns the Triple:X wetsuit and surfwear business, and Cathy does the accounts for Don.
She’s even set up a barber’s chair in Don’s new warehouse/showroom and cuts hair there one day a week.
Not that she’s thinking of closing down the Wigmore Arcade shop — the sentimental attachment to her father’s business won’t allow that.
Nor would her customers, for that matter. After all, there is a Ballina tradition to uphold.