CUSTOMERS of a popular Cork salon were getting their done up until late last night before returning home to ahead of the beginning of level 5 restrictions.
Joseph Byrne, who owns Joseph's Hair Salon in Glasheen, has been working around the clock to facilitate clients, many of whom plan to spend the next six weeks cocooning.
The entrepreneur gained the reputation of being Cork's kindest hairdresser during the last lockdown after delivering flowers and cards to the homes of cocooning clients.
His selfless gestures didn't stop there.
Joseph also phoned his older clients regularly to ensure that loneliness was kept at bay throughout the pandemic.
Many clients living alone recalled how he even spoke to them from the gates of their houses to keep their spirits up.
Lillian Lehane from the Lough recalled the bouquet he delivered to her home during a lonely time last Summer.
"His flowers came exactly when I needed them," she said. "I was having a very tough day and they just arrived out of the blue. It's very easy to cheer the women up, whether that's through a kind word or a bunch of flowers. Joseph has been my hairdresser for 25 years. When you're with him he makes you feel like you are the most important person in the salon. I'm going to miss him terribly and so will my hair!"
While Lillian never experienced a full return to normality in Joseph's salon she still enjoyed his conversation.
"Things had to change with the pandemic. Before, Joseph would burst into song while doing my hair. With the virus, he can't do that anymore but you'd still enjoy the conversation."
Lillian said that while she will miss Joseph dearly, another lockdown will be key to controlling the spread.
"The numbers are ridiculous. This seems to be the only way."
Another customer of Joseph's, Pauline Scanlan told of how he supported her during the last lockdown.
"During Easter he left me a beautiful bunch of flowers," Pauline said. "Joe does a lot of kind things for a lot of people. When he does he wouldn't tell a soul because that's the kind of person he is. I call him a hero."
Pauline added that she doesn't mind being restricted for six weeks if it means saving lives.
"My daughter had to talk to me through the gate during the last lockdown and here we are again. However hard this is we have to put up with it for the sake of our health."
Pauline, who had her hair styled for the last time before lockdown yesterday evening, said she will miss the salon's personal touch.
"When I go to the salon they'll spot me across the road and a member of staff will bring me over. They are all wonderful."
Modest Joseph said he was taken aback by the reaction to his good deeds which, up until now, had been kept under wraps.
"I didn't think it would mean as much to them as it did," he said. "I was the last person they expected to hear from. There were some who I called that said they couldn't believe I was speaking to them. It made me very aware of people who were on their own and those suffering with illness."
The entrepreneur said he feels most for the older community at this intensely difficult time.
"I am upset for the older generation. After the last lockdown, I was seeing elderly people coming in who could barely breathe through the mask. In many ways the older generation is the most compliant, yet they are the ones who are being bullied. Our salon is very much a community. People look out for each other."
One of the things Joseph will miss most over the next six weeks is the banter he has with his clients.
"One woman I brought flowers to remarked that I had got very heavy during lockdown. I joked that I would be keeping the flowers after that."
Joseph said that he had closed the doors of his salon last night with a heavy heart.
"This was expected but it still came as a shock," he added.