Robert Hely Obituary – The Herald, Scotland

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14th February 2018

Obituary – Robert Hely, innovative Glaswegian hair stylist

Innovative Glaswegian hair stylist

Born: October 7, 1930;

Died: January 24, 2018

ROBERT Hely, a Glaswegian who has died aged 87, helped turn hairdressing into something of an art form, particularly during the Swinging Sixties when hair styles became as much of a fashion statement as clothes. He was to Scotland what Vidal Sassoon was to London, and he himself counted UK titles among his 75 awards. Some of his creations, such as his Pink Cockatoo style and his French Carina Line quickly found their way down south to be seen along King’s Road, London, atop many a young lady wearing mini-skirts and kinky boots.

With his pencil moustache (resembling that of the first TV celebrity hairstylist Mr Teasy-Weasy), the flamboyant and mirthful Mr Hely was a creative force in hair-styling for much of his 70-years active in the business, first on Sauchiehall Street and ultimately on Clarence Drive, Hyndland.

He became “crimper” to countless celebs – both men and women – from far and wide. He was Mr Cool during some of the coolest eras, exemplified by the shocking pink American Ford Galaxie Sunliner convertible (registration RH 777) he’d park outside his salon or use to take his kids for an Italian ice cream. Among the “hair” he styled was the famous ginger wig worn by the comedian Jack Milroy (Francie of Francie and Josie) to go with his ultra-tight red teddy-boy suit.

A big Celtic fan, Mr Hely cut the hair of many a player over the years, not least centre-forward Billy McPhail, a legend at Parkhead after scoring a hat-trick in Celtic’s record 7-1 over Rangers in the 1957 Scottish League Cup final – a day known to Celtic fans as “Hampden in the Sun.” Mr Hely was best man to McPhail when the footballer married Mr Hely’s sister-in-law. (Mr McPhail had been nicknamed “Teazy Weazy” by the fans because of his own pencil moustache).

Mr Hely’s only problem while styling was keeping his clients’ heads steady while they were laughing at his endless one-liners.

Once, during a hairdressing conference in Cardiff, he found himself in a lift with a beautiful woman. “Your lipstick is a beautiful colour … pause … do you mind if I taste it?” In the bar later, an enormous man approached him and said in an American accent: “I gotta buy you a drink, you just made my lady’s night.”

Robert Henry Joseph Ogilvie Hely was born on October 7, 1930, on Renfrew Street in the family home which later gave way to the site of what is now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. His father, also Robert, was Irish and his mother Rina (Giannotti) Italian. Robert Sr had started a barber shop at 259 Sauchiehall Street in 1924.

Young Robert went to St John’s primary school in the Gorbals until the 1941 start of the Clydebank blitz when his parents sent him and his sisters Stella, Rina and Delia to the cotton mill village of Katrine in Ayrshire to attend the local Burnie school. In his spare time, Robert helped out at Thompsons farm where he enjoyed milking the cows. On return to Glasgow, he attended St Mungo’s Academy in Bridgeton until the end of the war when he left to work in his dad’s salon, by that time located at 25 Clarence Drive. One of his dad’s clients at that time was the American actress and sex symbol Mae West who was living in the Central Hotel while appearing in her play Diamond Lil at the Alhambra in 1947. Mr Hely Sr created the star’s elaborate platinum blonde hairpieces for the role.

Young Robert then moved south to study at the renowned London hairdressing school of Alfred Morris, a friend of his father, just off Piccadilly Circus in London, where the emphasis was on waves and curls. Back in Scotland, Mr Hely helped briefly in the family salon on West Clyde Street, Helensburgh, directly opposite the pier, before returning to salons on Sauchiehall Street (first at No. 949, later at No. 342).

He was only 16 when he met Dolores Defazio at the Saint Aloysius Chapel Youth Club on Rose Street, Garnethill and they married on February 4, 1952. They first lived with his parents and his grandmother Angelina at Clifton Place, off Sauchiehall Street, where he became known as “nonna’s tesoro” (grannie’s darling). The couple later moved to Hyndland Road and eventually Victoria Park Gardens, Broomhill.

In 2013, Mr Hely set up a new salon in Hyndland, which happened to be at 25 Clarence Drive, site of one of his father’s first salons. He retired only two years ago and the salon, Hely Hair Studio, is now run by his son Gary and daughter Sindy.

Mr Hely loved golf and was a lifelong member of Cawder Golf Club, where he got his handicap down to 7 and won many club trophies, including the Seniors Championship in 1998 when he was 67. He was also a three-time winner of the OWL (Oor Winter League) trophy. He loved his cigars, his pipe, his Glenfiddich and the horses, and was a regular in his local bookie’s on Sauchiehall Street. He was also no mean dancer and once came home from a trip to Miami with an Irish Dancing trophy to add to his hairdressing collection. He also once danced in the ballet Swan Lake wearing football boots and a tutu.

“His wish for each and every one was crystal clear,” his son Alan said in his eulogy. “’I want you to have a party when I die.’” Let’s go have that party,” Alan concluded.

Robert Hely died in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow. His wife Dolores died in 2000. He is survived by his sons Gary, Paul and Alan, daughters Donna, Carina and Sindy, his sister Rina (Moscardini), six grandchildren, five great grandchildren and his latest treasure, great great granddaughter Emily.