ENOCH WILLIAMS aged 80
HAIR TODAY, GONE TOMORROW
Born Enoch Elijah Jehoshaphat Williams in the small village of Swetes in Antigua, his parents were Sarah Andrew, a cook, and Ernest Williams, a trade union leader.
Enoch came to Britain in 1958 as part of the Windrush Generation. His first job was working in a factory, but he then became a postman.
He married Jenny Boyles and they were to have four sons, Emile, Cordell, Karl and Duncan.
He had an intense drive and determination to succeed. He took evening classes after work to further his education and friends commented that he never took any leisure time, working all possible hours.
He always intended to go to university but changed his plans after reading that it was nearly impossible to get an Afro haircut in the UK. He decided to go into ‘hair’.
He then went to the Morris School of Hairdressing in London in 1970 but saved his money carefully so that he could then go on to further training in New York. This meant he was away from his wife and young sons for a whole year.
He returned to the UK in 1973 and opened his first hairdressing salon in Hackney in East London. It was called ‘Glamourland’.
It was so successful that within a year he could afford to buy the premises next door and it grew to become one of the biggest salons in London – and definitely the biggest that specialised in black hairdressing.
Enoch was constantly getting requests to teach other hairdressers, from around the world, so in 1978 he created the ‘Ebony School of Hairdressing’. This offered the first accredited afro hairdressing qualification in the UK.
By now, Jenny and Enoch had divorced. He got remarried, to Fiona Bartels-Ellis. They had two children, Sholah and Uche.
After the Brixton Riots of 1981, Enoch decided to set up a large state of the art salon called ‘Ultimate’, above Brixton tube station. He intended to put the profits into community support – but he was refused planning permission.
He got it at his second attempt, but only because his bid was fronted by a white friend who posed as the owner.
His business empire continued to expand. He opened a factory dedicated to making hair care products specifically for black people – the first of its kind in Britain. Each product was carefully tested in his kitchen.
He was able to open a further salon in Brooklyn, New York, and was noted for bringing American hair trends to the UK.
His half brother was Maurice Hope, who became world boxing champion. Enoch himself did Maurice’s hair before each fight, and in return Maurice advertised for him.
Everybody who worked for him commented on his kindness and respect – the perfect boss. He was always known as ‘Mr Wills’. He believed in creating opportunities for other people to succeed in the way he had. He never lost his work ethic and was endlessly optimistic and always seemed jovial.
On one occasion he stopped 15-year old Alison Albert in the streets of Brixton. She had just had her hair done in a rival salon, but Enoch assumed she had done it herself. “I love your hair – can you do that?” He gave her his card and asked her to come to his salon. She rushed home and practised on her Mum’s hair for hours. When she had mastered the style, she went to see Enoch and he gave her a job immediately.
On another occasion a young hairdresser named Glynis was cutting hair in his salon and she started singing. Enoch was so impressed with her voice he asked her to come to his church on Sunday and sing. She did – and there she met the Rev John Weekes who was to become her husband.
His niece Tessa took a gamble in buying a flat in London, but soon realised the mortgage payments were crippling her. She mentioned to Enoch that she had made a mistake. He disagreed saying she had made a major step forward by getting onto the property ladder– “keep one foot in front of the other.” He immediately paid her shortfall and continued to support her financially.
Any person who arrived in Britain from Africa or the Caribbean and who needed a job, was always given one by Enoch. He greeted them with the word “Ebusua”, which means ‘welcome’ in Ghanaian.
In private he was a superb baker, specialising in cakes enjoyed by his friends and family. He and Fiona would also cook meals for the poor and homeless around Brixton. His chicken in a black bean sauce dish and his spareribs, built up a great reputation.
In later life he took piano lessons and started to learn Spanish – always believing in education.
He was thrilled that two of his sons became hairdressers as well.
He was also a very active member of Hornsey Moravian Church.
Enoch developed cancer and died in a hospice, surrounded by his family.
On 29th March 2023, his sons took his salon Russian-made radio to the TV Repair Shop where it was repaired by electronics expert Mark Stuckey – and Enoch’s story was told.
RIP – Researching Innovative Product