Fond memories of charismatic Clitheroe hairdresser Philippe

The late Philippe Toubart.
The late Philippe Toubart.
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Tributes have been paid to popular and charismatic hairdresser Philippe Toubart who has died aged 78.

Originally from France, Philippe, who had hairdressing salons in both Clitheroe and Burnley, was born in Le Mans, France, to Roland and Suzanne on May 23rd, 1940, in the week that France fell to the Germans in the Second World War.

Philippe with his wife Susan and their poodle Georgie.

Philippe with his wife Susan and their poodle Georgie.

When war broke out, Philippe’s mum picked up her baby son and his four-year-old brother Bernard and joined the exodus of people trying to flee only to be told by the French police to “go back” as the Germans, “aren’t here yet”!

During the war, Philippe used to sing to the German soldiers in local bars. They threw sweets at him for his efforts which the youngster promptly threw back at them shouting “it’s poison”!

The family subsequently survived the next five years in war torn France and one of Philippe’s first childhood memories was one of France being liberated when he was around five years old.

After the war, Philippe went to live in Paris with his family and, from the age of 15 to 18, studied at a school for hairdressing called Ecole D’Arboy Paris.

It was the Swinging Sixties and the time of Yves Saint Laurent and Mary Quant and as part of his training Philippe studied at L’Oreal in Paris which was famous for colouring.

However, keen to improve his English, Philippe was offered jobs at both Harrods in London and at a salon in King Street, Manchester, run by Frank Stevenson, and it was only because his work permit came through for the latter first that he ended up there.

And it was during the eight years that Philippe worked there, that he met his wife-to-be Susan.

Originally from Burnley, Susan was a client of Philippe’s and, following a whirlwind romance – the couple had only been on three dates when Philippe popped the question – the loved up pair were married within six weeks with a reception at The Stirk House Hotel, Gisburn, in 1965.

Philippe continued to work in Manchester for around a year before he decided to open a salon in Hall Street, Burnley, which was still going strong 25 years later.

The couple lived in Cliviger on Hollins Avenue and in 1970 had their son Sacha.

A distinctive trio, the family could often been seen out walking their black standard poodle “Georgie” who was named after one of Philippe’s footballing heroes George Best.

Originally a huge Manchester United fan, when he moved to Burnley, Philippe also supported the home side, who were at that time in the first division. Soon becoming a season ticket holder, he liked nothing better than taking his son to the games.

Another of Philippe’s passions was going to the pub and while living in Burnley, his local, The Kettledrum, became like a second home. This was a passion that his son Sacha would later inherit.

Attending St Mary's Hall prep school at Stonyhurst and then St Theodore’s secondary school in Burnley, despite having a British passport, Sacha was called up to serve in the French army and, wanting to improve his French – Philippe and Susan had brought him up speaking English – Sacha spent a year doing just that. Deciding to make a life for himself in France, Sacha currently runs the Cock and Bulldog bar in Paris to the delight of his father who could not have been more proud.

Philippe and Susan moved out to France, living in Provence for 18 months, while Sacha was in the army.

However, after attempting to set up a couple of different businesses, the draw of the English way of life was too much for Philippe and the couple returned to England in 1993 with Susan’s sister finding them a house to rent in Clitheroe.

Once in Clitheroe, they found a small shop in Swan Courtyard that would prove ideal due to its size and location. Close to the Swan and Royal Hotel in the centre of Clitheroe, Philippe’s clients from Burnley found the salon easily.

Philippe ran this salon until April 2014 when ill health forced him to retire and close the business.

A man who loved his work - Monday was his favourite day of the week according to his wife Susan - being forced to give up work was a hard pill to swallow.

Philippe’s other main passions were his family, socialising and his beloved dogs.

As well as Georgie the poodle, the family also had a Rottweiler called Bruno after the boxer Frank Bruno and a Labrador which they were given called Walter.

After retiring, Philippe and Susan enjoyed meals out at The Fence Gate and the Waddington Arms, however, due to his reduced mobility, Philippe found some of the things that he had loved to do such as walking his dog and going to the pub, particularly The White Lion and the Swan and Royal in Clitheroe, were now limited, with him having to rely on lifts there and back.

Described as the “life and soul of the party” and a generous and kind-hearted man, Philippe will be fondly remembered by many.