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.


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 a double door leading inside. The hand-painted sign above the door read 'P. VALLAR & SONS'.

Prince Vallar had already been tattooing in various locations in Scotland for 30 years by this point.  The reason for opening the Argyle Street shop would have been to have a place to train his eldest son Bert who was expected to follow his father into the tattoo trade.  At 15 years old it would have been a strange occupation for a young man, working in a world full of drunken sailors and people from all walks of life and nationalities coming through the shop door.  Prince Vallar had not been much older when he'd learned to tattoo from Joe KIlbride in Belfast in 1903 so the expectation on Bert was high.

In these early days the shop was devoted entirely to tattooing. 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. The Vallar's always drew all their own designs and never used commercially available flash.

Camera Repairs and Photographic Services

Prince and Bert tattooed together for approx 9 years until they were joined in the shop by Steve Vallar, Prince's youngest son. Steve Vallar did not enter the family tattoo business. Instead, he'd tained as a scientific Instrument Maker and, once his apprenticeship was completed, he joined Prince and Bert at 404 Argyle Street where he would offer camera repairs and photographic advice.

The old tattoo shop was now modified to make way for Steve's new business and the tattooing operation was moved further into the back of the shop.

Now as you entered the shop it was divided in two. On the right hand side was a long shop counter behind which all the photographic accessories were displayed. This area of the shop was controlled by Steve Vallar and he was the first point of contact for anyone coming in to be tattooed.

The tattoo area was seperated off from the main shop by a curtain. Potential customers were asked to wait behind this area until they would be summoned by Prince or Bert to come through to the back shop to be tattooed.

Many people remember their visit to Prince Vallar's parlour clearly, probably due to the fact that most of them would have left with a permanent reminder of their time there. The only point of confusion is how each customer remembers the shop and the tattooist who worked on them. Some people clearly 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. This would depend on the timeline of when you were tattooed.

Memories of Prince and Bert

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 had wanted a tattoo ever since dabbities began to lose their appeal.  There was a tattooist called Prince Vallar in Anderston, very close to Billy's 
birthplace. On his childhood Sunday walks, Billy would often stop outside and peer in at the human body-art. Brilliantly illustrated sailors lurked outside
the parlour, waiting to have "S-c-o-t-l-a-n-d' tattooed above their knuckles, or swallows etched on their thumbs like the ones they'd seen at sea, migrating
to South Africa. Billy always fancied having a great fanged serpent wrapped around a rampant lion covering his entire chest.
In truth, what he really craved was to be incredibly exotic, and that desire has never left him'

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) as well as a Maori  design and on both feet (flowers).

The end of an Era

In 1964 Glasgow Corporation served a compulsory purchase notice on the Vallar's to make way for the forthcoming Anderson Shopping Centre. The old shop at 404 Argyle Street was demolished and Bert and Steve moved the business across the road to York Street. The new venture did not last long as Bert wanted to move more into Picture framing and Steve wanted to go in a different direction.

This was the end of an era in Scottish tattooing. Prince and Bert Vallar had enjoyed a 60 year dominance on tattooing in Scotland. They were known all around the world and their parlour was visited by hundeds of thousands of patrons from around the globe.