Corrie ‘could write a book’ about her life in West Cork

February 22nd, 2020 8:22 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Hairdresser Corrie Karelse, who's had a salon in Drimoleague for 37 years, retired on Saturday last. She's pictured cutting the hair of a customer on her last day. (Photo: Andy Gibson)

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Kieran O’Mahony meets a woman who has hung up her scissors after 37 years of hairdressing in Drimoleague

WITH her red hair, Corrie Karelse was almost destined to find herself in Ireland.

The daughter of a barber in Utrecht in the Netherlands, she has been cutting hair in Drimoleague for the past 37 years until she recently retired.

There was plenty of cheers and some tears shed as family, friends and loyal customers gathered for her last day of business at her ladies and gents hair salon on Saturday January 25th.

‘I grew up in Utrecht as a daughter of a barber and always stood out for my red hair with customers saying that I belong to Ireland as my red hair was so unusual in the Netherlands,’ Corrie told The Southern Star.

‘When I was 21 I decided to come here to see Ireland with my sister and we were mistaken for being Irish. I felt so happy here and then decided to live here until I eventually found a house in Durrus – when houses were affordable – and then met my husband, Francis Humphrys and moved in with him back in 1982. This was frowned upon at the time but I was a blow in so that was tolerated.’

Corrie has the distinction of being the first female in the Netherlands to receive a barber’s diploma back in 1966 and later became a hairdresser for women.

‘I opened the salon in Drimoleague on December 9th 1982 after a customer’s husband found a premises for me. My last day there was very emotional. There were lots of presents and flowers from friends and customers. I did say to them that if they want to still get their hair cut by me they can come to my house, and some of my male customers might just do that.’

Corrie joked that men are more faithful to their barbers than to their wives!

‘I had four generations coming to my salon and I really loved it and I will miss meeting the customers and the chat. When I came home on my last day a few tears were shed alright.’

She added she could write a book about her experience of being a hairdresser here in West Cork and even has a title in her head if she ever decided to do that.‘Things that they would tell me they would tell nobody else – as they were thinking I’m from Holland and she’s fine, so I was there to listen to them and treat them with respect and I loved to listen.’

‘I had one little boy who would refuse to get his hair cut and if you put him on the chair he’d scream like hell, but if you put him down flat on his stomach on the floor, he wouldn’t move and I was then able to cut his hair!’

Despite retiring and having to get used to lie-ins at the weekend, Corrie has plenty to occupy herself and she is a well-known face at Bantry Hospital, where she has volunteered there for the past 19 years.

‘That will keep me busy and I love being with the elderly patients there and taking them out for walks and reading books for them.’

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