CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Muzzy, the barber with the budgies, dies after ‘falling ill with virus’

Peter O'Toole would come in for a cut and some Metaxa

05 June, 2020 — By Dan Carrier

Mustafa Shukri cut hair in Royal College Street

A BARBER behind thousands of short back and sides during two decades of haircuts has passed away.

Friends said Mustafa “Muzzy” Shukri, 69, had fallen ill with the coronavirus.

The popular barber had operated from a shop in Royal College Street, Camden Town, which was famous for its warm hospitality and was almost like a social club. Regulars became friends, and customers loved to spot his pet budgerigars flying around, and perching on the vines he grew from pots in the window.

Eric Watson, who knew Mr Shukri well, said he would often receive a call telling him to pop in.

The invitation would mean actor Peter O’Toole was coming in for a trim and then a drinking session – he was partial to a spot of Cypriot brandy called Metaxa of which Mr Shukri would keep a bottle or two in readiness. Mr Shukri was born in Turkey but later moved to northern Cyprus where he still had family.

He was employed by the RAF in the late 1960s and later moved to London.

He lived in Enfield with his wife and son – and after closing his place in Royal College Street, three years ago he helped out at Headlines barbers in Camden Road.

He retired at Christmas with the idea he would go on more sea cruises. As well as brandy, he would also offer a strong cup of Turkish coffee and a stack of newspapers for customers to read – which would invariably begin a long conversation where he and his friends attempted to put the world to rights.

Regular customer Lester May told the New Journal: “It was more like a Mediterranean barber’s, insofar as local old men would sit around and gossip over coffee in his shop – customers once a month, perhaps, but visitors most days.

“He had two budgerigars that would fly around in the shop. And what fun it was to sit in a chair next to Lawrence of Arabia, when Peter O’Toole was a customer.”

Mr Watson added: “He was a patient man, which came over in how he approached life and work. He was sad about the divisions in Cyprus between Turkish and Greek people – he had a lot of Greek friends.

“After the barbers closed, I had been unwell and he would call me and say he’d come over and tidy me up. He was kind and a good friend to many.”

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