TATTOOING IN SCOTLAND

When Prince Vallar opened his parlour at 404 Argyle Street, Glasgow in 1935 he was not the only professional tattoo artist operating a shop in Scotland.

There had already been a long list of tattooists that worked in Scotland since 1892. There were several travelling tattooists (described as 'being on tramp) that worked the ports and docks and those that visited with travelling fairs and shows. Some were anonymous but they all paved the way for modern tattooing in Scotland today!

 The first publicised electric tattooing was undertaken by Professor John Williams and his assistant Madame Ondena. They appeared at Bostock's and Woomwell's Show at New City Road, Glasgow as early as 1872. Williams was an early adopter of electric tattooing which was being pioneered in America due to the introduction of electrical appliances and motors being available to the general public. They were from Chicago but travelled in England and Scotland in the early part of last century appearing at Hippodromes and World fairs showing off the new tattooing process by electric needle.

Prof Tom Riley tattooed at Fell's waxworks, Trongate Glasgow in 1896. The celebrated Society Tattoo Artist had visited the City several times and appeared again in 1899 just before he signed up for military service during The Boer War. When he left the Army he returned to tattooing and worked in London, Liverpool and Glasgow. For further reading on Tom Riley please click here

Robert Leckie - professional tattooist 37 West College Street, Glasgow. Leckie tattooed around the Broomielaw (Docks areas) in Glasgow. He was the only tattooist listed in the Scottish 1901 Census but died suddenly a few months later from alcohol poisoning.

Jim Wilson tattooed at E. H. Bostock's Glasgow Zoo representing his mentor Tom Riley the celebrated Society Tattooist. Wilson learned to tattoo from Riley and worked with him for several years before branching out on his own. He tattooed in a few English locations before teaming up with Jack (John) Bowman and Leopold Heath in Plymouth. He later spent his career tattooing in America.

Jack Bowman was born in Scotland in 1881. He was a professional tattooist who worked in Union Street, Plymouth, Devon. Bowman tattooed alongside Jim Wilson and also with Leopold Heath.

Professor Balerno was a waxwork's tattooist and promoter who worked in Stewart's Waxworks in Edinburgh and latterly at Humber's Waxworks in 112 George Street, Aberdeen in 1904.

Professor Albert. E Lloyd was a London tattooist from Polar, London. He tattooed at Humber's Waxworks 112 George street, Aberdeen in 1905.

Henri C Swiftt Scottish born tattooist. Worked in 88 Queen Street, Leamington Spa and also tattooed at 186 Riley Street, Sydney, Australia. He then  moved onto New Zealand, tattooing at Cuba Street in Wellington. He later moved onto San Fransisco tattooing until his death.

Joe Kitteridge. Pioneer tattooist from Acton Middlesex. Began tattooing in Woolwich around 1903 and later relocated to Aberdeen, Scotland around 1906.

Click here for more info on Joe Kitteridge

Charles Smith Sheffield born tattoo artist who came to Scotland in 1904. It's believed he worked in Glasgow (waxworks/zoo) and built up his tattooing skills here before taking a stance at The Marine Gardens in Edinburgh in 1909. Also tattooed in Dundee and latterly Aberdeen until his death in 1925.

Click here for more info on Charles Smith

Professor Whittingham tattooed at Humber's Waxworks 112 George Street, Aberdeen in 1908.

Ben Louvre was a traveling tattooist who worked in the Jedburgh area of the Scottish borders around 1908.

W. Thomas from Poplar, London tattooed at 88 Overgate, Dundee. He was a prolific traveller and tattooed in various locations in Scotland, England and Wales. He tattooed at 26 West India Dock Road, London in 1905 and also tattooed in Wales and in Pewsey, Wiltshire. He was a real journeyman tattoo artist who managed to make a living from his art and was still tattooing in 1927.

Professor George Norton. Legendary character in English and Scottish tattooing history. He tattooed in Dundee in 1910 and also worked in Aberdeen alongside his friend Joe Kitteridge.

Click here for more info on George Norton

Charles Briley tattooed in New Market Gallery Aberdeen. He moved to the city when Joe Kitteridge left to return to Woolwich, London in 1915.

William MacKinlay tattooing at 45 Overgate Dundee. Also tattooed in Kirkcaldy. Also may have tattooed in Edinburgh in a studio called Abelone or Abelones.

Jimmy Todd was a real character. He began his tattooing career in Falkirk in the early sixties and later moved to the capital city of Edinburgh where he worked from a small shop in Chapel Lane.and also from shops in Jane street and Gordon Street.  In the mid seventies he moved his operation back to Falkirk, where he tattooed from a run down tenement building in the town centre. 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 flash, using transfers and had an egg cup to hold the black Indian Ink. He has the unfortunate honour of being the first ever Scottish tattooist to be charged under the Tattooing of Minors Act 1969 when he tattooed some under age clients.

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.

Terry Wrigley 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 below, the shop is to the right of the General Wolfe Pub) and began tattooing.

terry wrigley

After a while Jimmy decided that Glasgow was not for him and he headed back to Blackpool, where he tattooed until his death in December 2004. 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.

Terry's arrival shook up the world of tattooing in Scotland and particularly Glasgow. After 6 decades of fine line, 3 colour tattooing by the Vallar's, the city was now introduced to a  bold, strong style of tattooing with a whole new world of colour and designs. Terry's style of tattooing was the total opposite of Bert Vallar's style and his tattooing went on to influence every tattooist of that era in Scotland. It is still evident in the work of the old school tattooists that work in Scotland today and is a lasting legacy to his part in tattooing history.

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 and 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 Basil Jarvis and 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. In recent years Wrigley's granddaughters have taken up the flame that Terry lit all those years ago and are now tattooing in the Trongate shop. He would be proud! For further reading on Terry Wrigley please visit Les Quinn's page.

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. Retired from tattooing.

Bill Hooper operated a part-time parlour in Campbell Street, Hamilton around 1967. He worked there at the weekends supplementing his other 'job' in the Steelworks as a crane driver. 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 in 1977 when Jimmy Todd left the city to return to Falkirk and Bill 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. He is Scotland's longest serving tattooist being in the business for over 50 years.

Gil McLaren tattooist Aberdeen.

Douglas Stewart tattooist Aberdeen.

Danny O'Brien was a young apprentice sign writer working for Fay Stewart Studios, a commercial artist in Campbell Street, Hamilton when he left school in 1971. A naturally talented artist, Danny was fascinated by the tattooist’s studio upstairs which was run by Bill Hooper. Danny would hang around asking questions and showing an interest in the trade. Hooper gave nothing away to  Danny and any request for information was met with silence from Bill as this 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. He sent away for a catalogue and was soon the proud owner of a tattooing kit. He opened a small shop on Glasgow Road, Wishaw around 1976 with hundreds of hand-drawn designs to choose from and worked the shop part-time on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday while continuing to work with Fay Stewart as a sign writer through the week. He stayed in Wishaw for a couple of years, starting off really well and built up a good custom but in the years that followed he moved many times from shop to shop, never recapturing the glory years at Glasgow Road. His tattooing 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 promising 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 nearly 40 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 22 years, he has tattooed thousands of satisfied customers who all appreciate good freehand tattooing.

There were few bigger or more colourful characters in tattooing in Scotland today than ‘Big’ Alex Field who owned a studio in Paisley's Well Street for over 30 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 still 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 established himself as a solid tattooist and true gentleman of the profession. Alex is now retired from Tattooing.

Steve carradice tattooing in Annan

Guido tattooing in Ayr

Graham Latto tattooing in Dundee

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: tattooed in Ayr and then moved to Aberdeen. Worked in Aberdeen in the 1980s and eventually moved to Skegness.

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).

This list is not exhaustive. If you know of any tattooists who should be featured on this page please let us know. All information on these tattooists is subjective and any corrections should be emailed to us.

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