404 ARGYLE STREET

Prince Vallar opened his shop at 404 Argyle Street, Glasgow in 1935. The area was known as Anderson and its close proximity to the River Clyde, the dockyards and Glasgow's thriving shipbuilding yards made it an excellent location for a tattoo parlour.

argyle street

The shop had formerly been occupied by W.M. Wylie Tobacconists and was situated alongside a variety of small businesses offering confectionery, cameras, flowers and tailoring. The tattoo parlour was a small shop by any standards with a single window and door leading inside. The hand-painted sign above the door read 'P. VALLAR & SONS'. There were designs of various tattoos in the window and hundreds of other beautifully illustrated designs along the walls inside.

Snakes, hearts, swallows, ships, daggers, thistles, pirates and devils. Parrots, butterflies, detailed crests and flags were all displayed alongside various designs of animals, religious figures and exotic females.

Inside there was a row of seats for waiting customers and a separate room where you went in to be tattooed. On busy days you would be given a ticket by a female assistant with a time written on it when you would come back to be tattooed.

Many people remember their visit to Prince Vallar's parlour vividly, probably due to the fact that most of them would have left with a permanent reminder of their time there. Each person has a story of their own. The only point of confusion is how each customer remembers the shop and the tattooist who worked on them. Some people remember that the tattooing was done at the rear of the shop, as the front of the shop was devoted to the selling of cameras and photographic equipment. Others say that there was no camera shop and that the parlour was entirely devoted to tattooing. The Vallars are often remembered as quiet, distinguished men who were always smartly dressed. Conversation was not considered a strong point and many remember the artist would just leave the room without explanation and return later without excuse or reason. Others disagree and offer the view that the Vallars were open and friendly people who took an interest in their customers.

In general, human memory tends to invent when it fails to remember the actual facts. One thing for sure is that any visit to Prince Vallar’s tattoo parlour would leave the visitor with an indelible mark on the skin and an unique memory of their visit.

Scottish comedian and actor Billy Connolly grew up in the Anderson area, near the world-famous parlour and remembers standing outside the shop looking inside the window at all the exotic tattoos on the walls and the groups of customers anxiously waiting to be decorated. Billy never actually received a tattoo from the Vallars but those visits left an indelible longing to be exotic and interesting in his mind. In later years Billy realised those ambitions and on his many travels around the world he was tattooed on the hand (a banjo), upper arm (a swallow, heart and ribbon) and on both feet (flowers).