TATTOO – JOCK, 287 Pentonville Road, Kings Cross, London

From Sue Clowes Bio:

In 1980 I had a small rose and the ace of spades tattooed on my arm.

I took about an hour to sketch it and in my excitement to have it done immediately I recklessly flicked through the yellow pages and found the nearest tattoo parlour to The Angel Islington. TATTO-JOCK, 287 Pentonville Road, Kings Cross. I got the bus that very afternoon.

Jock had the biggest hands I’ve ever seen in my life. The electric needle seemed like a Barbie accessory between his sausage like fingers and my arm nothing more than a twig.

He took a brief glace at my sketch, sniffed, took a biro from behind his ear and proceeded to copy a vague outline resembling the sketch onto my left bicep. He held the design up in front of his face then stared down at the tip of the pen as if trying to focus on his drawing skills. There was a delicate undercurrent of whiskey fumes, metal and electric as he recounted stories of unusual parts of the anatomy he had tattooed onto the prostitutes who worked around Kings Cross. He also described parts of the great wrester Jacob Van Dys gave a hand at tattooing.

 Jock also told stories of how he had witnessed grown men burst into tears with the pain. I shrugged in a somewhat cavalier attitude at their cowardice, myself on the edge of blacking out. I gazed around at the walls covered in Jocks portfolio of readily available designs of pin-up girls and anchors. All of a sudden they seemed extraordinary works of art compared to the tattoo of what appeared to be a Savoy cabbage taking shape on my arm. I suddenly regretted being so hasty and wished I’d researched tattoo application more thoroughly. I’ve since watched those L.A and London ink programmes on TV where a lot of soul searching and bonding goes on between the tattooist and client before the big day. They are filmed casually discussing imagery from meaningful moments of the punter’s life where the tattoo artists wax poetic about the creative sentiments they will communicate through the power of their work. With Jock it was “Which f****n’ arm do ya wannit on?”. It cost ten quid and turned out to be beautiful. I used the rose and card in many of my silk screen prints including the rose skirt now in The Victoria and Albert museum textile archives London.

Tattoo Jock. R.I.P.

Photo taken in the window of The Foundry by Iain McKell.

Read the history of London Tattoo artists: WordPress

Read interview with Tattoo Jock (Lydel) by Paul Sayce