Valerie Vargas

Scottish tattoo history

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my friend soap owns a shop called lab monkey in Stirling, Scotland. I learned to tatto in the shop round the corner from his but thankfully he never hated on me for that ;).

anyway reading his blog i came across a good link to a website documenting some of scotland's history of tattooing. ive visited it before many years ago but forgot completely about it, thought some of you might enjoy reading info on it

Prince Vallar - Tattoo Artist

TATTOOING IN SCOTLAND

When Prince Vallar opened his parlour at 404 Argyle Street, Glasgow in 1935 he would have been the only professional tattoo artist operating a shop in Scotland. This was a position that he would retain for many years.

Circus and travelling fairground tattoo artists would have plied their trade to those unable to make it to the City of Glasgow. Many such tattooists existed, travelling to the various towns and cities around Scotland.

Since then there have been several tattooists operating shops in Scotland. Much of what is known about these artists is urban myth and legend. The following is an honest attempt to document what is known about those artists who tattooed in Scotland from 1935 to 1985.

Around the 1950's there was part-time tattooist who worked in Glasgow's famous Barras market called 'Dirty Dick'. Very little is known about him other that the fact that he worked in the back of a shop in the Spoutmouth area of the market that also sold pornographic magazines. It is this line of merchandise that earned him his nickname and not the fact that he worked under filthy conditions when tattooing as previously thought.

Jimmy Todd was a real character. He began his tattooing career in Falkirk in the early sixties where he worked from a small shop in Chapel Lane. In 1970 he relocated to the Leith area of Edinburgh and remained here until the mid seventies when he moved his operation back to Falkirk, where he operated from a run down tenement building. He was a real old-timer with plenty of character, sporting a large, hooped, gold earring and wore a bandana long before it was fashionable. He worked from old WW2 transfers and used an egg cup to hold the black Indian Ink. He has the unfortunate honour of being the first ever tattooist to be charged under the Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 when he tattooed some under age clients.

Back in Glasgow in 1965, when Bert Vallar finally closed his shop there were no other professional tattoo artists working in the city.

However, two tattoo artists who had been working in the seaside resort of Blackpool, England heard the news that Bert Vallar had closed down his parlour and decided that they would move up north to Glasgow for a month and try out the city.

Jimmy Gould and Terry Wrigley found a shop at 793 Gallowgate (pictured on the left, the shop is to the right of the General Wolfe Pub) and began tattooing.

After a month Jimmy decided that Glasgow was not for him and he headed back to Blackpool, where he still operates a tattoo studio today. Terry however, stayed on in the city and carried on where Bert Vallar had left off. According to Terry's friend Lionel Titchoner, tattooist and founder of the Tattoo International Magazine, Terry received a visit from Bert Vallar shortly after his arrival in Glasgow with an offer to sell him his equipment. It is not known if Terry purchased anything from Bert or if they had any further contact through the years but Terry went on to established himself in the city and worked in his studio in Glasgow's Gallowgate for 20 years before moving to Chisholm Street, Trongate, Glasgow.

No story on tattooing in Scotland would be complete without a couple of further paragraphs on Terry Wrigley. A true character and ambassador for Scottish tattooing. A legend throughout the tattooing world.

Although born in Mossley, England in 1937 he made Glasgow his home when he moved to the city in 1965. He had previously tattooed in Ashton, Southend and Blackpool where he worked alongside a Black tattoo artist named Prince Eugene (who was a great admirer of Prince Vallar) but eventually settled in Glasgow for over 30 years, tattooing thousands of men and women in his Gallowgate and Trongate studios. He passed the trade onto his two sons and they continue a tradition in the city that was started by Prince Vallar all those years ago - a tattooing dynasty.

Terry had held the rank as President of the National Tattoo Association and was the founder of many tattoo associations, clubs and newsletters. He was a correspondent and friend to many in the tattooing world.

Although he died in 1999 his name is still revered wherever tattooist or enthusiasts gather. He is survived by his two sons Stuart and Stephen Wrigley who are both excellent tattoo artists and who both operate tattoo studios in Glasgow. For further reading on Terry Wrigley please visit Les Quinn's page.

In the early 1970's Bill Hooper operated a part-time parlour in Campbell Street, Hamilton. He worked there at the weekends supplementing his other 'job' as a debt-collector during the week. His Father had done some tattooing in the Army while serving in Burma and had brought home some colours and designs which fascinated Billy. Terry Wrigley was a big influence on Billy in those days and the two became lifelong friends. He moved from Hamilton to Leith Walk in Edinburgh around 1977 and still has a studio there which, by all accounts, is extremely busy. His style has evolved from the traditional hearts, flowers and panthers of Campbell Street and he now creates award-winning artwork with a unique style of his own.

Around 1974 Danny O'Brien was a young apprentice sign writer working for Fay Stewart Studios, a commercial artist in Campbell Street, Hamilton. A talented artist, Danny was fascinated by the tattooist’s studio upstairs run by Bill Hooper and would hang around asking questions and showing an interest in the trade. Hooper gave nothing away to young Danny and any request for information was met with silence from Billy as was the code and ethics of tattooists at that time. Danny took his own initiative and raked through Hooper's trash until he found the address of a supply company that Billy was using... 'Davis Supplies of----------'. He sent away for a catalogue and was soon the proud owner of a starter kit for tattooing. He opened a neat little shop on Glasgow Road, Wishaw around 1976 with hundreds of hand-drawn designs to choose from and worked the shop part-time while continuing to work with Fay Stewart as a sign writer through the week. He stayed in Wishaw for a couple of years, building a good reputation and custom but in the years that followed he moved many times from shop to shop, never recapturing the glory years at Glasgow Road. His work had been suffering for many years due to alcoholism and in 1992, at the age of 36, he was found dead lying in the street. He had been a talented tattooist, artist and sign writer with a great future but had ended up with nothing in his final years.

Johnny McNeillie is probably one of the best technical tattooists in Scotland today. He has been tattooing for over 20 years in Glasgow and has established himself as a no-nonsense artist who lets his artwork speak for itself. His first shop in Mount Florida was destroyed by fire in 1985 and he relocated to the Calton area of Glasgow across from the World Famous Barrowland Concert venue. Here, for the past 17 years, he has tattooed thousands of satisfied customers who all appreciate good freehand tattooing.

There are few bigger or more colourful characters in tattooing in Scotland today than ‘Big’ Alex Field who has owned and operated his studio in Paisley's Well Street for over 20 years. Alex's interest in tattooing started in the early 1960's. His father had been a PT instructor in the Royal Navy and had collected several tattoos on his travels. Alex was fascinated by them and when aged 15 he asked his father's permission to obtain one for himself, his father agreed to his request on the agreement that he would get no more than 2 done on his arms. Alex soon found himself inside the parlour of Bert Vallar in Argyle Street and got his first couple of tattoos as instructed. The only problem was that he didn't stop here and went on to obtain a further 14 tattoos from Bert on his back, legs, chest and arms. His father got a shock early one morning when he went into young Alex's bedroom to wake him for his work (apprentice electrician) and was greeted by the sight of a human canvas. A sound thrashing was issued by Mr. Field senior but this did not deter or dampen Alex's enthusiasm for tattooing. When he was approaching his 21st birthday Alex's mother had asked him what he would like for a present. Without hesitation he informed her that he would like a tattooing kit. In 1965 the tattoo trade was a closed shop as far as information was concerned. Tattooists closely guarded their supplier’s addresses and there were few, if any, apprenticeships available to those outside the immediate family. By pure luck and coincidence for Alex's Mother, the Scottish Sunday Mail newspaper had recently received a letter from a reader asking for the address of a tattoo supply company. The newspaper published a reply and the address of Davis Tattooing Supplies was duly obtained by Mrs. Field. She purchased a starter kit for Alex and he began tattooing friends, work colleagues and anyone who would let him. After many years tattooing at home he opened his studio in Well Street and has established himself as a solid tattooist and true gentleman of the profession.

Stuart Wrigley: Oldest son of the late Terry Wrigley. Served his apprenticeship in his Father's Gallowgate shop and also with 'Painless Jeff Baker' in Deal, Kent. Currently owner of Terry's Tattoo Studio in Glasgow. www.terrystattoostudio.co.uk

Johnny Silver: Based in Perth. Tattooist/Sign Writer.

Jimmy Johnstone: Old timer who was based in Dunfermline. Jaggy Jim as he was known to his loyal customers. He had a fierce temper and was known to throw everyone out of the shop at a moments notice. Done some solid colouring work with freehand designs. It is commonly believed that Jim has left this world.

Carl Lockyer: Based in Aberdeen.

Ted Manton was based in Airdrie. Tattooist/Sign Writer.

Steven Wrigley: Son of the late Terry Wrigley. Served his apprenticeship under his father and currently runs his own shop in Partick, Glasgow called Irizumi.

George Stevens: Tattooist in Greenock for many years. Still tattooing in Ayrshire.

Davie Thompson: East coast tattooist (deseased).

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Awesome! Didn't know about that. I wish I had seen Terry Wrigley's old shop when I was there. I saw a lot of old timers in Dumbarton with swallows, etc. they were most likely done in Glasgow.

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great article! I just moved to Glasgow from the Bay Area and I was having a hard time finding a place to get tattooed. I think that I have been spoiled having friends at Blackheart & Temple! Is there a place you would recommend in Scotland?

thanks..j

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Not to answer for Valerie-

I spend a fair bit of time in Glasgow (my girlfriend is from there), and you might check out Red, Hot and Blue for trad style.

Red Hot + Blue Tattoo

Richard Pinch in Aberdeen does some really nice japanese style. He has a bodysuit by Filip Leu, if you ever meet him, worth taking a look at!

Richard's Tattoo Studio - Scotland UK

Lastly- the 2nd Scottish Tattoo Convention is on next April-

Scottish Tattoo Convention

Last year there were some great tattooists there... Robert Hernandez, the crew from King Carlos in Sweden...

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Rory , Richard Pinch is in Aberdeen (only does walk ins and by all accounts is a very "difficult" guy to deal with) and Red , hot and blue is in edinburgh. To get top quality work in Glasgow , you dont need to go any further than Custom Inc and see Billy Hay or Marcus Maguire, Steven Wrigley at Irezumi, the guys at Hepcat, The guys at Forevermore, or you could go and see Soap thru in Stirling.

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Richard Pinch is a great tattooer. I think he's a nice man.

Strange how people talk of him being 'difficult' or whatever without having tattoos from him. If you want to book your appointment months in advance and have someone draw you 3 coloured versions before you pay a deposit, Richard isn't for you. I imagine most tattooers aren't for you.

If you don't mind getting up early and waiting in the shop for a world-class tattoo, Richard Pinch is perfect for you.

I second Steven Wrigley at Irezumi in Glasgow, particularly if you are interested in the lineage of european tattooing. Steven's father was Terry Wrigley.

Soap is a super-nice guy and would be stoked to tattoo you.

Although it's not uncommon for people to travel from Scotland to London to get tattooed...

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I know 3 people who have had work from Richard all of them saying they felt like a piece of meat , and would not go back. But your right , I havent been tattood by him so maybe i shouldnt have said that. I have been tattood by mr Wrigley tho and he was a Grumpy Bastard !!! :p (I would definitely go back and moreso to his colleague at Irezumi - Stephen Kelly who is going from strength to strength )

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Thank you ! That was really interesting-- having had no knowlege of Scotland's tattoo history.

When I was a young woman - a man i worked for, Fast Freddie Fahs- who "socialized " with Terry Wrigley, annually at the National Tattoo Convention.

I had the pleasure of dining with Terry, along with i think his wife, Bob Shaw and The Funks.

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Gregor-

I thought Red, Hot & Blue was in Glasgow for some reason- my bad... Gives the lie to the notion that I spend 'that' much time in the city after all. I knew Richard Pinch was in Aberdeen, but I figure travelling there from Glasgow for that kind of work isn't that much of a stretch. I can't comment on his personality at all but his work, IMO, speaks for itself.

The good thing about the UK is that there's such a good travel system, compared to here, I can see how people would travel down to London for work.

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i find that certain older tattooers who behave like men get tarred with the 'grumpy' and 'difficult' brush. ive met him several times and really, he's never been anything other than polite, just not overly chatty (untill you mention miele hoovers!). i guess thats usually mistaken for being grumpy, when in effect he's probably smelling people's bullshit a mile off and saving himself the hassle, understandable after the years he's put into the business.

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I have been an observer of this forum for a few months now but this thread compelled me to register and actually post. I too have heard and read many time about how difficult Richard Pinch is supposed to be but my experience of him could not be further from that. I found him friendly and I could not be happier with the work he did on me. So much so that I will be back imminently for several more hours of his company as he he has drawn me an awesome fu dog that is soon to be on my back.

I also think it is brilliant that if you really want to get tattooed by him you don't need to make an appointment months in advance. All you have to do is get up early...really early. I was outside his shop at about 7.15am the other day and went home as there was already so many people there waiting.

Overly chatty he is not, but bloody good tattoos he does do!

I know whats more important to me.

Good forum by the way...

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Someone should post the backpiece that Richard did. I think it was a Virgin Mary or something. I couldn't find it in his website (it WAS there), even if I used waybackmachine, and it is driving me crazy that I cant find it! He was one of the first guys whos work I saw in the internet, that got me interested in Japanese style work.

edit. Apparently the tattoo in question belongs to one David Young

http://www.bigtattooplanet.com/forums/chit-chat/3894-richard-pinch

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Hey, everyone. I wanted to see if anyone here might be able to help with something. My Dad got tattooed in Glasgow, around 1962. He was USAF. He doesn't remember the name of the shop OR tattooer...probably because it's been 50 years AND he was drunk as hell. ;) Anyways...I was wondering if anyone knew who might have done his tattoo? I'll post a pic...as soon as I figure out how on this forum.

Some "Mr. Lucky" action from 1962(ish)

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vallarsm2_thumb.jpg

Barnett - your Dad's tattoo was done by Bert Vallar at 404 Argyle street, Glasgow, Scotland.

Bert was the son of Prince Vallar who tattooed in Glasgow from 1911 until his death in 1949. Bert served his apprenticeship under his father and also ran the shop until around 1964. He was world famous - long before the internet, TV or and print exposure - and was revered for his fine line single-needle and freehand style.

I have a picture of the exact same tattoo that was also done by Bert around the same time.

Prince Vallar was a society tattooist who modeled himself on the great tattooists of the early 1900's such as George Burchett, Sutherland MacDonald and Prof. Tom Riley.

For further reading on Prince Vallar or Scottish Tattooing please visit www.princevallar.co.uk

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vallarsm2_thumb.jpg

Barnett - your Dad's tattoo was done by Bert Vallar at 404 Argyle street, Glasgow, Scotland.

Bert was the son of Prince Vallar who tattooed in Glasgow from 1911 until his death in 1949. Bert served his apprenticeship under his father and also ran the shop until around 1964. He was world famous - long before the internet, TV or and print exposure - and was revered for his fine line single-needle and freehand style.

I have a picture of the exact same tattoo that was also done by Bert around the same time.

Prince Vallar was a society tattooist who modeled himself on the great tattooists of the early 1900's such as George Burchett, Sutherland MacDonald and Prof. Tom Riley.

For further reading on Prince Vallar or Scottish Tattooing please visit www.princevallar.co.uk

Thats something else.

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