Professor Vallar

Stephen Vallar Partnership

Miner, Soldier, Magician, Inventor and Tattoo artist??

Prince Vallar’s father was an interesting character.

Stephen Vallar was born in Borrowash in Derbyshire on 19 May 1859.

His early life was spent working as a coal miner and he also spent some time enlisted as a Private in the Army. In his later life he carved out a successful career performing as a stage magic and illusionist under the name Professor Vallar.

He worked constantly on the variety circuit throughout England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. He was assisted in his act by Madame Rosene and also ‘Tiny, the educated dog!’

Madame Rosene was actually Henrietta Pucelle Billey and although Stephen Vallar was already married, he and Henrietta had 3 sons together.

Prince Vallar was born while Stephen and Henrietta were performing in Derry, Ireland. For the next 15 years Prince was brought up accompanying his parents around the country as they performed in Theatres and shows.

Stephen Vallar was a man with great aspirations. He strived to make a good life for his young family and sought out any business opportunities that came his way. One such opportunity caught his eye when he spotted an advert placed in the Belfast Telegraph in August 1903 by Professor Joe Kilbride.

kilbride advert for apprentice

Kilbride was an already established tattooist and was looking to teach someone the tattooing trade. Stephen Vallar approached Kilbride and put forward his young son Prince for the position. A small fee was paid and Prince became Joe Kilbride’s apprentice.

Stephen continued to tour and perform all over England, Ireland, Wales and Scotland while Prince remained in Belfast with Joe Kilbride. In 1902 Stephen had remarried (he never divorced his first wife) and replaced Henrietta in the stage act with his new bride Miss Ethel Stewart.

He continued to tour and perform but seems to have lost his canine partner ‘Tiny’ around 1906. He placed an advert in the local paper offering a reward for his return. It’s not thought that Tiny was found as he’s never mentioned in Stephen’s stage show adverts after this period.

Stephen was also a keen inventor and in 1906 applied for a patent for a hair Clip with Patent experts Messrs Johnston, Chartered Patent Agents, 37 West Nile Street, Glasgow. He even went onto advertise for a manufacturer for his product in The Birmingham Daily Mail in April 1906.. It’s thought that the new product may not have been the success he hoped for as in the next few years records show that he’s still performing and looking out for new opportunities.

stephen vallar hairpin advert smaller

In the 1911 Census Stephen Vallar listed his occupation as a sewing machine mechanic. There’s no real proof that this was his real occupation. Many people invented false occupations to confuse or hide from their past or from a pursuant. Stephen had also used the alias George Fisher at various points in his life and again the reason for this is unclear.

stephen census entry

The census that year also records the occupation of his son Prince Vallar as a 'Society Tattooist.

princes census entry

Since 1905 Prince Vallar had enjoyed a successful 9 year career in Scotland. He’d modelled himself on the great tattooists of the era who were pursuing a higher class of clientele (and higher money!)

In 1914, with the threat of WW1 looming, Stephen Vallar realised that his young son Prince (aged 26) would be called up for military service. Stephen decided to form a partnership with Prince and asked him to teach him the fundamentals of tattooing in preparation for his inevitable departure.

Stephen saw the potential in keeping Prince’s business going while he was in the Military. This would allow him to work on his own account and would give Prince something to pick up when (if) he returned home after the War.

In a newspaper article in December 1914 a journalist from The Dundee Journal travelled to Glasgow and interviews a tattooist named Professor Vallar. If you read the newspaper interview below you’ll see that the tattooist who is answering the questions is Stephen Vallar.

vallar prof vallar interview 2 columns 50

The reason we now know Stephen Vallar was tattooing in Glasgow are as follows:

  1. Professor Vallar announces that he’s been in the business for 30 years. This cannot be Prince as he’d only been tattooing for around 10 years at most. Stephen was an creative personality and was used to performing illusions and fooling people! He knows how to paint a vista and put on a performance when the occasion calls for it.
  2. Professor Vallar says that he once heard Orton speak when he was released from jail. Again, this could not have been Prince Vallar as Orton was released in 1884 and Prince was not even born yet. Stephen was brought up in that area and would have definitely have seen this event.

There’s no doubt that Stephen Vallar had a working knowledge of tattooing. It’s certain that he’d have been around tattooists in his showbusiness days and would definitely have witnessed tattooing many times while in the Military.

He could certainly ‘talk the talk’ but it’s unclear if he could ‘walk the walk’  What is clear is that he managed to hold the fort until his son returned from active service.

Prince Vallar returned from the war in 1919 and once again took up his profession as a tattoo artist. Stephen Vallar decided to try his luck elsewhere and emigrated to Canada in 1920. He continued his stage career and lived there until his death in Toronto in 1947 aged 88.

Stephen Vallar played no small part in the tattooing history of Scotland. He identified tattooing as a suitable career for his son Prince who became one of Scotland’s most famous tattooist. Prince went on to have a 47 year career in the tattoo business and his son Bert had a 30 year association with the art.

If Stephen did tattoo for that short period from 1914 to 1919 he contributed 5 good years of an incredible life to this artform and to Scotland’s tattoo history!