Ben Francis, Dentist and Eric the Barber

There’s a programme on RTE Radio 1 in Ireland called ‘Queuing For a Living’. The whole programme consists of interviews with people who are waiting for something: to visit a relative in prison, to collect a social security payment, to catch a train…

As I listened to Saturday’s edition, I remembered some of the queuing and waiting I did as a child in Abergele in the sixties …

… There was the dentist’s in Alexandra Road. Mr Ben Francis was our dentist. He was a skilful and kind dentist. He knew I hated injections and, although I was only eight, he cared enough about what I felt to drill without novocaine. He loved golf and this love was reflected in the pile of golfing magazines in his waiting room. The walls were covered with burgundy-coloured, paisley-patterned, furry wallpaper – the kind you find in Indian restaurants. And there was a print of a painting of Venetian gondolas by Canaletto hanging above the fireplace.

Another place we had to queue was at the chippie. (The chip shop next door to the chemists that used to be Boots and is now Lloyds in Market Street.) What I remember most about that chippie was the fact that the stainless steel counter was so high. As children, we couldn’t understand why anyone would want to erect such a high counter. Anyone would think they didn’t want you leaning over the boiling fat to watch the chips frying!

The third place we had to queue – and I remember queuing for many hours here – was at Eric the Barber’s in Chapel Street. It used to be upstairs, above the betting office – sorry, Turf Accountants’. As we walked in to take a seat at the end of the queue, our Tuf Shoes – the ones with the compass hidden in the heel – patted a Riverdance beat on Eric’s lino floor. Oh those sounds and smells … the buzz of the infra-red steriliser, the talk of politics and scandals, the sting of the Bay Rum sprinkled salt and vinegar style on our heads …

I went back there for a haircut two months ago. He’s moved shop downstairs now, but it’s as if time’s stood still. Eric and his shop haven’t changed one bit.

Eric the Barber's shop closed in 2001

Eric the Barber's shop in Chapel St. Abergele closed in 2001

13 Responses to Ben Francis, Dentist and Eric the Barber

  1. Richard Francis says:

    Ben Francis was my dad. Your memories of that waiting room are good, but you could add that it had oak panelling below the wallpaper, up to about 5 feet in height. With the wood flooring and heavy doors it was a very nice room, but you probably didn’t feel that way while waiting for treatment!

    • Welcome Richard. Yes, I do remember that lovely oak panelling. It was a lovely big house.
      And as I recall your father worked with Gareth Parry’s father, Mr Parry.

  2. Mr J A Smith (St Asaph) says:

    Firstly, I would love to mention that I went to Mr Francis’s surgery as a small boy in Dundonald Ave, then from here moved to Alexandra Rd.

    I also remember , Eric the barber working for Mr Roberts, on the corner opposite the Gwindy pub, the building is now gone and a bench has been put there for the community to admire the traffic passing by.

  3. Jeannie Gardiner says:

    Only just found this site. Ben Francis bought Mor Awel Alexander Road from my grandparents Mr and Mrs Maitland Watt. I loved that house and have many happy memories it would be great if anyone has any pictures before or after it became a dental surgery. My maiden name was Jeannie Goodwin and I attended Abergele Grammar School from 1953 – 1958. I still keep in touch with Julie Scollen (now JulieWade ) not as often as I should.

    Lovely to hear from anyone who might remember me.

    • Kenneth Davies says:

      Hello Jeannie,
      My name is Ken Davies, I attended Abergele Grammar School between 1951 and 1959. I remember you well, I think I delivered your milk when working at Bowden House dairy. I have a younger brother, Cliff who still lives in Rhyl.

      • Albert Roberts says:

        Hello Ken

        Just found your comments – really interesting; also pleased to read that Clifford is still OK. I think that we last met when we were travelling to London in December 1967!

        You may remember me, I lived in Clwyd Avenue and we worked together at Bowden House for several years. Please pass my regards to Clifford.

        Cheers

        Albert

        • Kenneth Davies says:

          Hello Albert,
          I remember you well, also your mum & dad.
          I will pass on your regards to Cliff.
          I left Abergele in 1966 ,spent almost 40 years
          in Middlesex with a London gunmaker,retired
          10 years ago and moved to Bangor Co Down
          which is just like Abergele was 60 years ago.
          Best regards ,
          Ken

  4. mike jones says:

    Mr. Francis was a very nice dentist, can anyone remember the name of the lady that used to work in the practice for many years, I think she lived in High Street, but could be wrong, very stern but had a kind side too, always worried about time and appointments running to them.

    • Albert Roberts says:

      Hello Mike

      Really good to see all these comments about Mr Francis the dentist. I was a frequent visitor from 1953 to 1961 when I left Abergele to go to Uni. Going to the dentist was never a pleasant experience but it was always very interesting to visit Mr Francis – we always had interesting conversations. He was an excellent dentist and had qualified at Liverpool, his assistant was a lovely lady Mrs O R Owen, she lived up High St, just beyond the play area. I believe that she was originally from the Llanrwst area and had very saddly been widowed early in the war.

      Keep up the good work !

      Albert Roberts

      • Jeannie Gardiner says:

        Hi Ken great to hear from you especially how you remember me and especially Mor Awel. I have few links with Abergele now but extremely fond memories of that house. I have driven past a few times and it does seem to have changed and I expect inside it is quite different. I do remember Bowden House Diary.

        Thank you for your reply it is such a long time ago.

        Jeannie

  5. Norman Burslem says:

    I lived in Abergele from 1954 to 1959 (Sydenham Avenue). In the school holidays I worked part time for Billy Mustard at the dairy with Ken Davies. Ken and I were at the Grammar School together. I can remember Harold Turnbull, Clive Roberts and Janet Seabrook among others. I was pleased to read the news about Ken.

    • Kenneth Davies says:

      Hello Norman, the Grammar School & dairy seem a very long time ago
      but many memories are luckily still vivid. I remember the names you mentioned and I keep in touch with Terry Bell Hughes(Ding), Pete Smith,
      Robin Stuart-Jones & Zara (nee Blackwell) now in Canada, along with one or two others on an occasional basis.
      Good to hear from you, best wishes,
      Ken

  6. Joyce jackson says:

    Hi Ken
    Your sister ruby was my best friend.
    I married gordon Jackson in 1964. He lived in berth glad sand was very well known. Any news of Ruby would be appreciated thank you

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