jock and george and omi and jacob

The history of London tattoo artists is a fascinating one

image found here

Jock Liddel  first began tattooing in his native Scotland at a time when there were only a couple of tattoo artists working there. After Jock moved to London in 1948 he took to visiting George Burchett at his Waterloo Road studio. George tattooed the famous showman ‘The Great Omi‘ and told a funny story how his name came about. He was in Burchett’s studio one day and asked if it would be ok to pay for his latest tattoo the next week – and with that Burchett was supposed to have said as the Omi walked out ‘There goes the great omi (owe me) and he will be owing me until the day he dies’.

The Great Omi sculpture found here

Jock spent his first years in London working alone – until he struck up what was to be a lifetime friendship with two of the great characters of the British tattoo scene. ‘I tattooed for years in my house – and one day out of the blue I met Jack Zeek and Charlie (Cash) Cooper and we became known as the ‘Crazy Threesome’ – because I was a drinker and Jack was a drinker but Cash was a better drinker than both me and Jack put together.’

Jack Zeek found here

‘One of the funniest things I remember was when I was out walking with my father one day and this bicycle came towards us with old Jacob Van Dyn riding it – with blood streaming down his face – as he had just been to Burchett’s place and had a red love heart tattooed on his nose’.

image found here

‘In the old days you never saw a book or a magazine advertising tattooing gear as it was a very secret organisation. The way we used to do it…the way to buy equipment… was from another tattooist…and you had to prove to them that you really wanted to come into the business for all the right reasons.’

image found here

Jock once appeared on British TV’s quiz show ‘The Sale Of The Century’ where not only did he win…he also took all the prizes home with him. He tattooed part of the design on (at the time – the world’s most tattooed man) Tom Wooldridge ‘The Leopard Man’ and he also appeared in many newspaper and magazine articles…including clippings on how Jock had the rights to the tattooed head of Jacob Van Dyn upon his death. Saying that of course…Ben Gunn, Cash Cooper, Jack Ringo, Ron Ackers and Micky Bloor also paid Van Dyn £5.00 pounds for the privilege of buying his tattooed head and face after his demise (no one ever got the head of course).

Leopard Man found here

Jacob van Dyn was rumoured to have been a bootlegger and a gunman for Al Capone. Whenever he was short of money he borrowed from London’s tattooists. The whole of his body was adorned but he was especially proud of the tattoos on his head which included the signs of the zodiac. His penis was also heavily tattooed. He was well known at Speaker’s Corner, Marble Arch and claimed to have been in every famous prison in the world, including Sing Sing and Devil’s Island.

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46 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Tattooing penises sums up all the right reasons to get into the business.

    • And here I was wondering if leopard man had his junk tattooed

      • Not all of it 😉

  2. Ouch !!!

    My penis would shrivel with fear if someone approached it with a needle in their hand 😯

    • I don’t even have a penis, and I feel pretty much the same way.

      • My clitoris agrees

  3. Interesting link there, Nursie to the interview. It sounds like tattooing was a bit of a closed shop at one point and they basically apprenticed people. He takes a dim view of interlopers. =)

    Leopard Man … holy cow. That defies description.

    • I’m glad you took the time to read the whole interview Melbo

  4. “…We became known as the ‘Crazy Threesome’ – because I was a drinker and Jack was a drinker but Cash was a better drinker than both me and Jack put together…”

    Ummm…. I’m trying to see the upside of letting one of three paralytic drunks loose on a project to permanently alter my skin…

    • Ummm…. maybe they shared the booze with their tattooees

  5. You’d have to somehow make the pattern very compressed, so that it was only revealed in its proper scale when the member assumed its recreational size.

    • Like the fellow from Barbados? (Old joke)

      • What’s the rest of it dinah?

    • A chap had his girlfriend’s name, Wendy, tattooed on his willie. One day, at a urinal next to a West Indian man he noticed a similar tattoo. “Oh! My girlfriend’s called Wendy, too.”
      WI chap looked puzzled, then roared with laughter.
      “Hell, no, mon! Dat say ‘welcome to Barbados an’ have a nice day.’ “

    • I remember seeing him on an episode of the X files. Jim Rose was in that one too

      • I took my younger son to see The Jim Rose Circus years ago. It was fantastic!

  6. Oh, Lydia, Oh, Lydia! Say, have you met Lydia?

    • I was out to lunch the day she came

  7. When I was younger, I thought I’d get a tattoo when I’m older. Now when I’m already ‘older’, I’m not interested in tatts anymore.

    • What are you interested in Terra?

  8. Have never been enamoured of or understood the appeal of tattoos but seeing these pictures has got me thinking. As the aging process begins to kick in, I’m wondering if tattoos might improve (or distract from) the appearance of my face! 😉

    • No! don’t go there

  9. I would have thought there would have been many more tattoo artists before that era even in Scotland – the enigmatic factor I suppose.

    • Penfold has tattoos doesn’t he daddyp?

  10. Tattoos don’t seem to age well do they, I mean poor old leopard man looks like a really sad old sack of spuds these days…

    The King

    • He was living a pretty tragic life until he moved into the retirement home wasn’t he?

  11. Tatts are so not me! I’m so saggy now that it is just as well I didn’t get any when younger.

    • but they’d go so well with your biker beard 😉

  12. I am surprised at the number of tattoo parlours that have sprung up locally. When I got mine done 10 years ago there were only two parlours in the area. Now there are a couple just a few minutes from my house.

    I stuck to getting tats on my upper arm. No way would I get one on my membrum virilis!

    • Some areas in New York have four or five in a single street

  13. Part of tattoo’s history is with the Royal Navy. I understand that different marks had meanings much like rank and campaign medals, showing where the sailors had served and fought. If found with an unearned tattoo, one was usually beaten to near unconsciousness and had the tattoo removed – along with a sizable portion of the surrounding skin!
    On a lighter note, I have been repeatedly told I get funnier the more drunk my companions are. On the other hand, I am a morose philosophical drunk. Hence many laugh-filled Friday nights, my fellow Dungeons and Dragons gamers both drunk and stoned, me cold sober, and a hilarious time had by all. I should be proud …. shouldn’t I?

    • “along with a sizable portion of the surrounding skin!”

      ouch ouch ouch

  14. They’re all the rage now aren’t they? I’m not a fan, but I do like body painting

  15. Nothing says “I want to be stuck in dead end jobs my whole life” like a bunch of tattoos. 😉

  16. I love this post! Tattoo artists fascinate me. I can’t imagine being that talented that I would permanently ink another person’s body.

    Maybe if it was the penis I’d consider doing one of my infamous stick figures. But otherwise, no way.

  17. I’d rather use a magic marker. Quicker and less painful.

  18. I wonder what they thought “all the right reasons” for becoming a tattoo artist would be…

  19. While i appreciate art, tattoes are not for me – they’re creepy no matter how sweet they are.

  20. Each to their own and all that, but I can’t see the attraction of tattoos myself. I prefer my flesh the way nature intended it rather than adorned with ink. And yes, I also wonder what “all the right reasons” might be. Surely not just filthy lucre?

  21. Watched a fascinating show just the other day on the relevance/meaning of the tattoos of Russia’s incarcerated. I just LOVE stuff like this…


  22. Brings to mind Irving Stone’s book “Until I Find You”

  23. “Until I Find You” isn’t by Irving Stone, it’s by John Irving. But yes, a fabulous book in which tattooing and tattooists feature heavily.

  24. Colourful!!!!!!!!!

  25. I’m not too fond of tattoos. In fact, I’m not all too fond of permanent and irreversible changes.

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