Michael was a cut above the rest!
Michael Spiers became an Isle of Wight personality, and something of a local hero, for two very different reasons.
For five years he was the best athlete the Island had ever produced. He won 22 Island titles, including clocking 4mins 27secs for a mile on a grass track in Cowes.
Then, after hanging up his spikes, he raced on to become the Island’s most famous ladies hairdresser, Michael Jon. Recently I caught up with him in St Helens, but I didn’t challenge him to a race around the village green!
He came to the Island when his father was posted to Nodes Fort, now a local holiday centre. Before his Army national service he’d won cross country races at Ryde’s Upper Grade, played football for the Island Boys Clubs and both cricket and soccer for St Helens. When Michael left school he took a job at Jack’s hairdressing salon in Ryde.
“At that time it was just a job for me. I was not particularly enamoured with it and had no ambition to become a hairdresser,” he said.
His two years in the Army changed his life completely. “Some of us were resentful that we had to join up for two years. Later in life, I realised how important it had been. I got promoted and the responsibilities I was given gave me great confidence. The Army really made me.”
He won London Command titles at one and three miles, and in a field of top British athletes, all on national service, he came fifth in an 880-yard race at the Army championships.
He returned to win many races for Ryde Harriers, one year lifting the Island 100 yards, 220, 440, 880, mile, three miles and the IW cross country titles.
After national service he returned to Jack’s salon, but keen to further his career, he took a job in Haute Savoir, near the French and Swiss border. He then went to Monte Carlo, and during his stay there he made headlines in the French press, coming second in a South of France cross country. The Monaco club were delighted and he won his colours.
After retiring from athletics he worked in London before eventually opening his Michael Jon shop in Newport High Street. He was there for 32 years and, at one stage, when his Sandown shop was open, Michael and his wife, Stella, employed a staff of 33. He was a trendsetter in Island ladies’ hairdressing.
For a few years he was used by L’Oreal, as a guest stylist and appeared at the Albert Hall, in front of 6,000 people. As a demonstrator he worked for them all over Britain. Once he judged a major national competition at the Albert Hall. Michael was so proud to be made a fellow of the Fellowship of Hair Stylists of Great Britain. When he retired so many of his staff, past and present, turned up for a surprise party.
Some 30 years ago he bought some land at Knighton, near Newchurch, and planted trees. Despite problems, following the 1987 hurricane, they have flourished into a wonderful wood.
I decided not to bring him out of retirement just to cut my hair. It wouldn’t have been worth it for a couple of minutes!
‘At that time it was just a job for me. I was not particularly enamoured with it and had no ambition to become a hairdresser’