KEITH Melling, the former barber from Wilf’s Hairdressers in Spray Street retired last year after turning 80.

It brought to an end a family business which was set up by his dad Wilf back in 1927.

The hairdressers started on Milk Street, where Keith began as a teenager, before moving on to Lowe Street, then Cooper Street before ending up at its current premises in 1986.

"I've had customers follow me around all over the place as the shop moved,” said Keith. “The business itself had been going for 93 years, it must have been the longest lasting hairdressers in the town, you would think."

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The shop itself was a real Saints’ shrine, festooned with rugby league related memorabilia that meant that the Greatest Game was inevitably the main topic of conversation for Keith and his loyal customers.

"I have lots of memories, former club captain Geoff Pimblett was a great customer.

"He used to come in as a boy to my dad and he kept coming all the way through. Peter Harvey was another regular and in more recent times, James Roby and Paul Wellens came in the shop in their younger days,” he recalls.

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Keith says he is sorry that he has not been able to say goodbye to his customers in person ahead of closing, but unfortunately Coronavirus issues took prominence. "It's a sad time for me in many ways," he added.

"I didn't just want to disappear without saying thank you."

However, the rugby league memorabilia will be sold as one of the main features of the annual Programme Fair on 20 November in the Red Vee Bar at the Totally Wicked Stadium, from 10-am to 2pm.

“It’s a chance to raise money for the Steve Prescott Foundation,” says Keith “and I would love to meet any of my former regulars to chat about old times. I’m really looking forward to it!”

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Amongst the cornucopia of memorabilia on offer are a series of paintings of Saints’ stars George Nicholls, Harry Pinner and Neil Holding, by local artist Chris Brady.

“They were the first things to go up on the walls,“ adds Keith “and gradually the shop became filled with other rugby league ephemera. It would be great if all these found a good home after all these years.”

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Organiser Alex Service, of Saints Heritage Society is delighted that the club is able to host the Fair after last year’s event was a non-starter as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“It’s the only such rugby league event in the North West this year,” he said.

“Everyone is welcome and there is the opportunity to pop into the Club Superstore too, where all the season’s trophies will be on display in the Heritage Alcove – an ideal photo opportunity.

Throughout the duration of the event, appropriate protocols will be observed.