Hairdressing celebration cuts through the decades

Hairdressing celebration cuts through the decades

25th November 2013


A COLLEGE proved to have timeless beauty when it welcomed back one it its first ever students to celebrate 50 years of hairdressing.

Glenys Dowson made an emotional return to Darlington College 19 years after leaving her role as a tutor and 50 years since enrolling as one of its original hairdressing students.

The retired farmer’s wife, from Barnard Castle, also got the opportunity to meet up with many of her former students who now work at the college.

“I signed up for the first ever hairdressing course at Darlington College back in 1963 as a day release student while working at Norman Williams Salon on High Row,” said Glenys, 67.

“That was at the original college on Cleveland Avenue and for the first year we didn’t even have a salon we just studied theory from a book.

“Our teacher at the time was a lady called Norma Wise and she gave us deportment lessons, teaching us how to sit and stand correctly, and we studied art and science with a tutor called Alastair Begg.”

At grammar school Glenys’ teachers tried to persuade her to pursue a career in teaching but she insisted hairdressing was her passion.

“My parents agreed that I could become a hairdresser only if I stayed on at school to do my O levels,” she said.

“When I left in 1962 I did a one year apprenticeship at Norman Williams before the college course opened, so when I enrolled I was quite a bit older than some of the other girls there.

“And after my very first day I knew that what I really wanted to do was teach hairdressing.”

Glenys began her teaching career at the age of 22 at Durham Technical College where one of her first pupils was a 17-year-old Brenda Pearson.

Although now officially retired herself Brenda, 62, still teaches hair and beauty part time at Darlington College.

“Glenys was a brilliant teacher,” said Brenda, of Sunderland. “She was strict but fair and someone I always looked up to, a real lady.  In fact it was Glenys who inspired me to go into teaching myself.”

After having a family Glenys returned to Darlington College in 1975, teaching hundreds of hairdressing students including current college staff Carol Cook, Ellie Kattou-Smith, Sue Laycock, Barbara Hudson and head of service faculty Maria Harrop, before retiring in 1994.

“Glenys must have seen the potential in me at a young age and really encouraged me to get to where I am now,” said Maria, who has risen from college tutor to business manager, assistant director of hair and beauty and now heads up the service faculty at the college.

“She was the one who encouraged me to take my teaching qualifications and when a job became available at Darlington College it was Glenys who rang me and urged me to apply.

“She was always, and still is, very glamorous, very patient and professional and its wonderful to have her back at our new college to help us celebrate 50 years of hairdressing.”

Cutting a celebration hairdressing themed cake, made by tutors in the college’s catering department, Glenys added: “This is the first time I’ve been into the college building on Haughton Road to see the hair and beauty salons and they are absolutely wonderful.

“When I began teaching here in 1975 there were five full time hairdressing students and we didn’t start teaching beauty culture until 1978.

“Now Maria tells me that there are six full time groups of hairdressing students with 20 students in each group, seven full time beauty groups and six part time beauty therapy teams who are taught everything from nail technology to complimentary therapies – things have certainly changed.

“I had a wonderful career at Darlington College and its lovely to back to see all the old girls again to honour 50 years of hairdressing.”

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