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Mirrors with memories: Belfast barber's lasting tribute to late brother

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Jason Millar standing beside the new mirrors

Jason Millar standing beside the new mirrors

Jason Millar standing beside the new mirrors

A Co Antrim barber has shared the tragic story behind new mirrors he built using part of the gates of a children's home that his younger brother died running away from 30 years ago.

The large mirrors in the newly-opened Jay's Barber Club in north Belfast have metal frames so heavy that it took three men to carry each one inside.

Owner Jason Millar (38) salvaged the frames from the gates of the now demolished Carnview Children's Home in Newtownabbey.

Jason and his younger brother Wayne had lived there after the death of their mother Sandra left them orphaned in 1990.

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The site of the former Carnview Children’s Home in Newtownabbey

The site of the former Carnview Children’s Home in Newtownabbey

The site of the former Carnview Children’s Home in Newtownabbey

Wayne had tagged along one day when Jason and friends ran away to catch the train to Carrickfergus, but was knocked down and killed while running across the North Road.

"These are the gates that we ran out of the night my brother was knocked down and killed in front of me," Jason said..

"Whenever I look at them it actually reminds me of a nice time. Our time in Carnview was happy, very mischievous. We were always running about on our BMX bikes and skateboards.

"Obviously it was bad my brother died but he's with me all the time. I actually feel blessed I've got them, when I tell people the story their jaw drops.

"I didn't know what to do with them at first but when this shop came about me and my uncle spent a long, long time refurbishing them."

After his brother's death, Jason went to live with his uncle before a stint in the Army when he was 17, but struggled at times with his loss over the years by turning to drink and drugs.

He now has two sons with his partner Orla, Jason and Wayne, who are around the same age as their father and uncle had been at Carnview.

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Jason (left) with Wayne as boys

Jason (left) with Wayne as boys

Jason (left) with Wayne as boys

Jason is planning to meet his primary care worker from the children's home for the first time in 30 years.

He said joining a new church in recent months has given him a new strength, and feels positive about building his business back up after losing months of trade to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I'm 38 and it's only now that I really feel my life is on track," he said. "I've struggled with depression, drug abuse, drinking and everything else. It was about being around the wrong people and the wrong circles.

"I do feel I'm away from all that now and that my brother has helped me. He's very much with us in spirit and I'm very grateful to have my shop now after working with some very talented barbers.

"I have a list of people in my pocket that I pray for every day. They hear what I've been through and ask me for advice.

"It is very hard, at the end of the day there's so much uncertainty out there. I think the people that do well during the pandemic are the ones that can adapt to it."

Belfast Telegraph