jock and george and omi and jacob

The history of London tattoo artists is a fascinating one

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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’.

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‘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.’

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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.