THIS is history in the making. This is Jennie Heseltine going for a world record in her front room in the County Durham mining village of Evenwood in the early 1950s.

The record for a complete cut-throat chin clearance was held by an Austrian at 30 seconds, but the picture shows Jennie skating across the skin of Adam Cree in just 28 seconds – yes, she shaved two seconds off the world shaving record and so brought the title home to Evenwood.

Jennie is something of a legend in south Durham. This picture appeared in Memories 409 with a request for information, and lots of people got in touch, naming her a “Jinny Tab”. Some even remembered having a short back and sides from her, because she was cutting hair practically up to her death in 1999 at the age of 87.

“She never retired because people kept coming, even when she was in a wheelchair,” says Robert, her son.

Jennie was the daughter of Charlie Turnbull, an Evenwood entrepreneur, who was twice leader of Teesdale council and a county councillor. In 1921, he created a kind of leisure centre for miners in the middle of the village, diagonally opposite the church. It was a wooden hall which had a cellar, where he made ice cream, and a full size billiards table – the only other one was in the working men’s club. To complete the entertainment, there was a sweet shop and a hairdresser’s room.

It was nicknamed “the tabernacle”, which was shortened to “tab”.

“Jinny Tab”, as our correspondents referred to her, was so often at the tab as a young girl that she became an extremely good billiards player. It is said that she was the first woman ever to be offered a professional billiard playing contract, but her family turned it down.

Instead, she concentrated on hairdressing.

She married Nelson Heseltine of Evenwood in 1942, who fought in the Royal Artillery in North Africa and Italy during the Second World War, and they had three children.

“When the tab was sold in 1948, she moved to 30, Swan Street, and continued hairdressing for more than 60 years,” says Robert, who was a physics teacher at the grammar school and Bishop Barrington school in Bishop Auckland. “Her customers were very loyal – they would come every week, even if they didn’t need a trim, just for a chat.”

The chat was a major part of the haircut experience, and Jennie even learned sign language so she could chat with a deaf customer.

She didn’t mind who her customers were – she was often called by the Co-op undertakers to give someone a final short back and sides.

In the early 1950s, a hairdressing magazine seems to have run a world shaving record contest (as the Memories facts at the top of each page show, the Guinness Book of Records was not published until 1955).

Jennie was up for the challenge. She had a razor which she prepared herself. She had a timekeeper – Harry Neasham, who lived next door. And she had tactics.

“It was all about long continuous strokes – if someone had wrinkles or a mole, it would slow her down, and so Adam Cree, who lived nearby in Swan Street, was chosen,” says Robert. “And her razor was incredibly sharp. It was so thin, it didn’t appear to touch the skin – it was actually invisible.”

With it, she not only cut the bristles on Adam’s chin but also two seconds off the world record – and the Northern Despatch (the Echo’s evening sister paper) was on hand to capture the moment.

“She was very proud of it, and kept that photograph on her mantelpiece,” says Robert.