Image courtesy of www.princevallar.co.uk
The tattoo artist Prince Vallar is said to have been born Patrick Henson in Ireland in 1888, the son of Stephen Henson and Henrietta Rosine, although he seemed to believe that he was born in Woolwich, England, according to the 1911 census. In the early 1900s Patrick’s father worked professionally as an entertainer under the name Stephen Vallar. Stephen’s father was called John Valler, so it was natural for Patrick to adopt the Vallar / Valler surname used by his father and grandfather. By 1911, at the age of 22 he was working in Glasgow as ‘Prince Vallar’, a ‘society tattooist’, and lodging at 65 Shamrock Street.
Prince Vallar’s occupation reflected changing fashion in Edwardian Britain and the growing appeal of tattooing amongst the upper class. Even members of the British Royal Family had tattoos; in 1862 the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VII) had a Jerusalem Cross tattooed on his arm during his visit to the Holy Land . In 1913 Prince Vallar opened a ‘pop-up’ tattoo studio in Falkirk for one month. Advertising himself as ‘society tattooist of Glasgow’ he wrote that by using ‘Scientific Electric Machines’ he could create thousands of designs and even correct mistakes made by previous artists.
Prince Vallar’s advertisement from the Falkirk Herald, Saturday 13 December 1913
Image courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive
In September 1915 he opened another ‘pop-up’ tattoo shop in vacant premises on Leith Walk, Edinburgh. An advert was placed in the Edinburgh Evening News that he would be appearing at 169 Leith Walk between the weekday hours of 11am and 10 pm and 11am and 1pm on a Wednesday (a traditional half day for shops).
On 15 December of the same year, 1915, Prince Vallar married Margaret Collis, a spinster. They were married by declaration in Glasgow in the presence of his father Stephen and V B Rendell, a photographer. He signed his name Prince Vallar.
Marriage entry of Prince Vallar and Margaret Collis, 15th December 1915
National Records of Scotland, Statutory Register of Marriages, 644/18/420
The couple soon had their first child, a boy they named Stephen, in 1916. Sadly, just before Stephen’s second birthday, he contracted the whooping cough and broncho-pneumonia and died on 3 December 1918 at Ruchill Hospital in Glasgow. The register of deaths reveals that Prince Vallar was then serving as a private in the 6th Battalian, Royal Sussex Regiment; his civilian occupation is recorded as ‘Tattooer’.
After his army service, Prince Vallar returned to tattooing full time. He has yet to be located in the 1920 valuation rolls, but the 1925 rolls list him as a ‘tattooer’ working from a rented flat at 63 Stewart Street in the east end of Glasgow. His flat was modest, with a rateable value of £11. 15s.
Detail of the 1925 Valuation Roll listing ‘Prince Valler, tattooer’
National Records of Scotland, Valuation Roll, VR102/1370 page 61
In 1934 he opened premises at 404 Argyle Street, Glasgow. By then, tattoos were mainly favoured by the working class and Prince Vallar’s shop became a popular establishment. Its proximity to the River Clyde and dockyards led him to cater for sailors and others in search of personalised body art. Prince Vallar, ‘Tattoo Artist’, died in 1947, aged 59 years old, and the business continued until 1965, run by his son Stephen and latterly his other son Robert.