Bert Vallar


Robert Vallar learned the art of tattooing from his father. He apprenticed under Prince Vallar and became a master at the art. 

When his Father died in 1949 Bert was 29 years old and had been tattooing for around 15 years.

He had learned to execute each design with fantastic detail, and combined with hisnatural artistic ability, he perfected the single needle style of tattooing down to an exact science.

bert.jpg largerHe was a freehand tattooist who only worked with 3 colours: Black, Green and Red (other tattooers were boasting of 10 or more) and he could put a tattoo on really fast. He drew all his own flash and his designs stood out a mile as they were described as ‘sketch-like’ in their appearance. He is remembered by his contemporaries for his fine line work and shading.

Woolwich tattooist Jack Ringo remembers he was influenced by Bert’s work: 

“One time when I was in the Navy, in Glasgow for the weekend, we went to see Bert Vallar, down Argyle Street. I’d never seen water shading like that before.

When we went in, he was tattooing a rose on someone and it looked like a photograph. It was beautiful work. That turned my head around. I realised I had to get experimenting but I didn’t get very far, because I was old school. I liked heavy shading and bold colour. But it stuck in my mind. The next time I saw anything like that was with Ron Ackers”

Bert’s work is still evident today on thousands of men throughout Scotland.

Although time has taken its toll on these tattoos the quality of the work is still there for all to see.

Each design has to be admired for its detail alone and without actually seeing an example in the flesh, the reader will find it hard to see from photographs what all the fuss was about. Anyone who has tattooed will know that it’s a skilled artist that can tattoo ‘single needle’ and Bert had this down to an exact science.

Today many people mistakenly attribute tattoos done by Bert as done ‘by Prince Vallar’ but this is an honest mistake.

Bert never removed his father’s name from the sign above the shop. It still read P. Vallar & Sons’ after his death in 1947 and remained that way up until 1965. Many customers visiting the parlour after 1947 were still under the impression that Prince was tattooing them. The reality was that it was now Bert that was actually doing their tattoos. Throughout his 30 years in Argyle Street Bert had earned a solid reputation as a great tattoo artist and a worthy successor to his father’s legacy.

Unfortunately he had grown tired of the profession and the sometimes rough clientele that patronised tattoo shops. Glasgow was a rough place to be in the 1940/50/60's and anyone who operated a tattoo shop during that period will tell you that wasn’t the easiest of jobs to be in at times. He later explained to me that he had only learned his father's trade because it was what was expected of the eldest Son in those days.

In the end, he had simply had enough and did not even wish to even reminisce about the old days at the tattoo parlour.

Steve Vallar

Steve Vallar had not followed the family into the tattoo business.

Instead he had trained as a Scientific Instrument Maker and was in charge of the photographic side of the business that operated from the tattoo parlour.

Steve's side of the business offered express photo developing, camera film, darkroom equipment, camera repairs and general photographic technical advice.
The business also offered engraving but it's not known if this was pantograph engraving or if Bert actually engraved freehand.
As the years passed the photography business evolved and around 1964 the tattooing business was slowly wound down. The shop was closed and demolished to make way for the proposed new Anderson Shopping Centre development. 
The Vallar brothers moved across the road to new premises in York Street but the tattooing side of the business was discontinued at the new premises.
In later years Bert and Steve went their seperate ways as their business interests took them in different directions.