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Harry’s still got his tattoo magic at 80
HE may share the name of the boy wizard – but at 80 years of age, tattoo master Harry Potter relies on a needle rather than a wand to weave his magic. Harry started out “inking up” his pals in the Royal Navy more than 60 years ago, and could quite possibly be the oldest working tattoo artist in the county.
Harry, who set up shop in Market Road, Wickford in 1987, said: “I’ll be 81 soon, but my hand is still as steady as it was 30 years ago.
“I’ll keep going until I think I’m not good enough any more.
“I’ve seen it all over the years – people in tears, passing out with the pain. “The funniest one was a couple who came in and wanted each other’s names in a heart on their arms.
“The girl had hers done no problem, but when it came to the bloke – who was a big guy – he passed out cold on the floor.”
Harry’s love for tattooing started while working as a stoker on HMS Cleopatra.
His first body adornment was carried out in the early Fifties when a fellow seaman asked Harry to tattoo his girlfriend’s name, Esther, on his arm.
In those days, Harry had to use his own homemade tattoo equipment with little more than needles and whatever he could cobble together as ink.
After leaving the Navy, Harry went on to open his first tattoo parlour in Gravesend, Kent, before moving to Tilbury Docks and then later Wickford.
Harry, who was raised in Timberlog Lane, Vange, has tattooed thousands of people over the years, including himself and even a notorious murderer called Edwin Simms.
Simms went into Harry’s Gravesend shop in 1960, wanting an eagle inked onto his chest – a design which cost about £4 in those days.
Not long afterwards Simms, 28, gunned down and killed a courting couple in Gravesend and was jailed for 21 years.
Harry recalled: “He was a very quiet man – it just goes to show how impressions can be wrong.”
Although the industry sometimes gets painted with a negative brush, Harry has a gentlemanly streak when it comes to his designs and refuses to tattoo women under 20 with any designs on their arms.
He also won’t do what he calls “chavvy” designs and often refuses to ink hands and faces.
Harry credits a teacher with discovering his artistic talent. He recalled: “One day, I drew a funny cartoon of my teacher, Mr James, and he saw it. He called me up and opened the drawer where he kept his cane.
“I thought I was in for it, but instead he pulled out a wad of paper and pencils and told me, ‘go and do something with you art’.
“I hope I’ve done him proud.”
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