The Devon Tattoo

The Devon Tattoo

TODAY you can be tattooed in more than 62 different places in Devon – locations that is, rather than parts of the body.

The art is perhaps five thousand years old but the rebirth of the practise in modern times can probably be traced back to the return of Captain Cook’s sailors from the South Pacific in the mid-1700s.

Many of these old salts set up tattoo parlours behind grog shops in seaside towns, from whence they tattooed other sailors and, er, sailors’ girlfriends.

Came World Wars One and Two – when many thousands of young men were called-up for the army before they had time to find a sweetheart back home – and the popularity of designs like ‘crowns and anchors’ faded.

Pushed into tattoo parlours by their mates, the most popular tattoos amongst conscripts at those times became “Mother” or the cheaper version “Mum”.

Devonshire magazine’s dedicated tattoo research team can reveal that the most popular ‘first time’ tattoo adorning the bodies of Devonians in this day and age, (male and female alike) is – wait for it – ‘a small dolphin’.

Following what is clearly a unisex icebreaker for the previously un-tattooed, second choice with ladies is revealed to be ‘stars and flowers’ intertwining with initials. A chap’s choice on the other hand – from the extensive a la carte menu on offer at all parlours – are bicep-encircling gothic barbed wire motifs, albeit needled-in just a tad above the t-shirt sleeve line.

Tattoo removal in Devon is also possible. “It costs about £50 a session”, one tattooist told us. Further enquiries reveal that removing a ‘large tattoo’ (dinner-plate size) can take eight and more laser treatment sessions and cost nearly £2,000.

The old adage, “tattoo in haste, regret at leisure” still seems to hold good after 5,000 years.

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This article was written by
John Fisher

Writer, author, script and sketch-writer, cartoonist, public speaker, Visitor Engagement Volunteer (National Trust) and would-be ukelele virtuoso.