Robert Hely Obituary – The Times, Scotland

Robert Hely

Distinguished hairdresser, beloved by stars and his Glaswegian clients, who excelled on the golf course

February 14 2018

The Times

By the 1960s Glasgow was in thrall to Hely’s skillsAnybody walking into the basement of Robert Hely’s hairdressing salon in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow, in 1969 would have wondered what on earth was happening. There was a model surrounded by chickens and an enthusiastic fellow with a camera, snapping away in the search for some new source of inspiration to enhance his business.

And it was that quixotic pursuit of the quirky in crimping that made Hely, who has died aged 87, one of the most distinguished figures in his profession throughout the past 60 years. From the second generation of a large Glaswegian hairdressing family, he enjoyed such a multifaceted life it would probably transfer well to celluloid.

Robert Henry Joseph Ogilvie Hely was born in October 1930 at the family home in Renfrew Street in the city centre, the son of Robert and his wife Rina (née Giannotti). The family business was founded in Sauchiehall Street six years earlier by his father who, in 1947, was recruited by Mae West as her personal stylist when she brought her play Diamond Lil to the Alhambra Theatre. Young Robert attended St John’s Primary in the Gorbals but he was moved to Ayrshire with his sisters, Stella, Rina and Delia, while bombs rained down on Clydeside during the war. After leaving school at 15, he moved to London where he studied under the tutelage of Albert Morris in Piccadilly and rapidly became one of the most talented snippers of his generation as he mingled with stars of stage and screen.

On returning to Glasgow he soon enjoyed the trappings of the success that came as his popularity grew and he opened a string of salons. By the 1960s he was the best-known hairdresser in Glasgow. Hely bought a Ford Galaxie Sunliner with a soft top and RH 777 as the registration, and used to delight in driving with his children in the back as he took them to buy Italian ice cream.

Eventually his extensive client list included footballers, Clare Grogan, the Altered Images singer who acted in Gregory’s Girl, and other familiar TV faces. The public also flocked to the premises as Hely amassed a string of awards; he won more than 75 accolades between 1949 and 1960, including the National Hairdressers’ Championship and was as fêted in Paris as he was at home.

He never lost the common touch, though, nor forgot that his main priority was his family, on whom he doted, and his wife, Dolores Defazio. They first met at Saint Aloysius Youth Club when he was just 16. The couple had three sons, Gary, Alan and Paul, and three daughters, Sindy, Donna and Carina. Dolores died in 2000 after they had been married for 48 years.

Although Hely was relentlessly professional in his day job, there was never any shortage of laughs whenever he organised a party, or took an increasing interest in another of his great passions — golf. The spirit of these occasions was one of raucous revelry. At one of his dinner parties, with 14 people seated around a large table, a friend, Erni Risi, pretended he was Russian, picked up his glass and threw it into the marble fireplace. That was the cue for the others to follow suit as jokes were interspersed with the sound of breaking glass. Eventually, a restaurateur friend said: “I admire you, Robert, laughing at all your glasses being smashed.” Whereupon Hely replied that the joke was on his guest as the glasses came from his restaurant.

It wasn’t until 2015 that Hely finally retired. His final official appearance was to collect the Glasgow Retail Business Awards lifetime achievement award in 2016. He left behind a rich legacy and countless stories, such as the time he returned from a trip to Miami with a new trophy — in Irish dancing. Away from the salon, he was in thrall to Celtic FC, the music of Stan Getz, cigars, his pipe, malt whisky and life on the golf course. He played off a seven handicap and was a long-standing member of Cawder Golf Club, winning the winter league trophy three times and becoming seniors’ club champion in 1998.

A loving grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather, he is survived by his six children, two of whom, Gary and Sindy, still work in the family hairdressing business. Paul runs his own fashion company, Muse, Carina works for Glasgow’s largest registered social landlord, Donna is a child development officer and Alan runs marketing for Apple across Europe.

Robert Hely, hairdresser, was born on October 7, 1930. He died on January 24, 2018, aged 87