February 24, 2024

South West News

South West News from Gloucestershire to Cornwall

From Sandbags to Scissors: Devon Builder ‘Cuts’ New Career Path After Tragic Loss

At 52, Paul Delany is a testament to human resilience, bravely sharing his journey from builder to barber following a devastating personal loss and mental health struggles through to an unexpected career change as a barber.

Following the crumbling of his once-thriving construction business, he is now using his experience as the foundation for a brand-new career.

Paul, who lives in Devon, traded in his builder’s trowel for a barber’s comb after spiralling into a debilitating mental health crisis in his 40s. The repercussions were grave, costing him his business and landing him in debt.

But the turning point in Paul’s life was not just personal; it was punctuated by a tragic loss. “A friend of mine committed suicide,” he said. This sad event spurred Paul into action, prompting a life-changing decision that was as surprising as it was transformative.

Deciding to turn his life around, he traded carrying sandbags for scissors. He embarked on a journey that would see him leaving behind the world of construction.

“It’s a funny thing to do at my age. But it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “I’m good with my hands, good with chatting to people. Plus, I’m not getting any younger,” he added, sharing the secret sauce to his fresh career path.

With a successful business, family and a comfortable home, Paul’s life seemed perfect from the outside. But, inside, he was battling demons, which he attributes to unresolved issues from his childhood.

Paul, however, refused to let his struggles bring him down. Instead, he turned to counselling, facing his demons head-on and embarking on a healing journey. It was during this period of self-reflection that he discovered his talent for hairdressing.

“I was doing haircuts for people, and I really enjoyed it. So I started to look into doing the Level 2 Barbering course at South Devon College,” he said. Paul’s passion for hairdressing really ignited a spark within him, leading him to the gates of retraining, he’s since completed the Level 3 Barbering course (A-level equivalent).

Despite being a taxpayer his whole life, Paul humbly admitted to relying on Universal Credits during his rough patch. He discovered helpful support systems, much to his surprise. “It was a bit humbling, but really helpful. If you are honest, and you ask people, ‘What’s out there?’ There is support, and funding.”

Paul’s story is a testament to the power of resilience and the capacity to overcome life’s obstacles. As he says, “If you want to change something in life, you’ve got to start pushing doors.”

“I don’t know what the future holds, but it’s definitely positive. That’s the main thing.” And Paul is spreading that positivity around, he’s been volunteering at a homeless shelter, he said: “I’ve been working with people in recovery, homeless people and people with addictions, on Fridays I go and cut their hair for free, style it and just make them feel a bit of self-worth. It’s really nice.

“They come in a little bit down or whatever, and I give them a good haircut, spray some nice smells on them, and they just go out feeling fresh and really good.”

This former builder is now laying the foundation for a remarkable career change, he’s already started working towards a higher-level hairdressing qualification at South Devon College, he said, laughing: “I need to learn more about long hair in case Thor walks in my shop.”