A Slice of Barbershop History..
Kiss me, Hardy
The battle of Trafalgar took place in Cape Trafalgar, Spain on 21st October 1805; it was a naval engagement between Britain and French/ Spanish navies. The British Royal Navy was commanded by Horatio Nelson, who despite being wounded in several battles, went on to claim numerous victories. Eventually he met his demise in Cadiz, after being shot through the backbone from a firing range of 15 metres. When Nelson was staggering along the deck of HMS Victory, having been fatally shot in the battle of Trafalgar, he fell into the arms of a loyal man and began drawing his last breaths. Among these exhalations were various exhortations, the final one being ‘kiss me, Hardy’, for he was in the laps of Captain Thomas Hardy. Some argue that it was in fact, ‘kismet, Hardy’ which was uttered; kismet means fate and it is fate which brings us to write this article for you today.
Richard Marshall, the owner of Pall Mall Barbers, spent over a decade plying his trade and perming his way through the London hairdressing industry. Having started by sweeping floors and making tea in a humble salon by his hometown of Bedford, he found himself with a golden opportunity to be his own boss around 18 years later. Just 6 months shy of his 30th birthday, Richard came across a decaying barbershop with a long history, boasting a delicate charm which caught his entrepreneurial eye. His instinct told him all he needed to know; it was going to belong to him before the year was out, and so it was.
The second encounter with fate came on the same day Richard laid eyes on the premises. Among the dusty floorboards and old barbering equipment, he stumbled upon a piece of rectangular card. Picking it up, he observed that it was a business card with the words ‘Pall Mall Toilet Saloon’. The business card was over 50 years old and Pall Mall Toilet Saloon was the name of the business which stood there before. This chance encounter was significant enough to give Richard an idea in terms of the christening the store. Richard purchased the shop and renamed it Pall Mall Barbers; a brand which could rapidly expand throughout London and internationally to New York, taking the gentleman’s grooming world by storm.
The location of this debut shop? Mere steps away from Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. Nelson’s Column was constructed between 1840 and 1843 for a fee of £47,000 (approximately, £4.2 million in modern money). It reaches just over 169 feet in height and the base is decorated with 4 bronze panels which were cast from captured French guns. In 1844, Trafalgar Square itself was unveiled and named after the famous battle which cost Admiral Nelson his life but etched him forever in a nation’s heart and history. The square itself was designed by Sir Charles Barry who also designed the clock tower we know as Big Ben.
In June 2018, Richard was invited up to the boardroom of legendary men’s tailor, Gieves and Hawkes. Within this private area was a miniature museum with garments of generations gone by, with some famous ones in the collection too. A particular uniform caught his eye and it was hung up next to Winston Churchill’s jacket. It was, of course, Admiral Nelson’s naval jacket – yes, the real one. Richard immediately felt a tingle and later told his father about the moment, who informed his son that the family might be related to Thomas Hardy, Nelson’s prized, loyal friend and captain.
Who was Thomas Hardy?
Born in 1769, Thomas Masterman Hardy’s full title became Vice-Admiral Sir Thomas Masterman Hardy, 1st Baronet by the time of his death in 1839. He served as flag captain to Admiral Nelson and commanded HMS Victory during the Napoleonic Wars. He famously held Nelson as he died from a fatal gunshot wound and was on the receiving end of the Admiral’s final words which consisted of, “Kiss Me, Hardy”. Hardy also carried one of Nelson’s banners at his funeral procession on January 9th 1806.
Richard then began tracing his heritage by collating family trees and what he discovered was truly remarkable. There were clear signs that his family are in fact descendants of the great Sir Thomas Hardy, 1st Baronet. This finding was astonishing as the significance of his first store in Trafalgar (which sparked ultimate transcendence and fortune into Richard’s life) now grew stronger, with a heavier, more emotive emphasis. It was as fate had compelled him to that shoddy shop when he was 29 years old, perhaps it was kismet that he would become the captain of his own life just paces from a famous monument of a man who immortalised his own ancestor.