Richie Tattoo Artist
Richard Cosgrove-Bray, or Richie Tattoo Artist as he is professionally known, began learning the traditional art of tattooing when he was only eleven years old. His is the fourth generation in his family's trade, which was started by Richard's great-grandfather, Jack The Tattooist (Christopher Golly) in Liverpool.
Richard's great-grandfather left his native Sierra Leone to study Law in England. His African name is unknown. He called himself Christopher, after Christ. His surname of Golly was lifted off the brand of jam as he thought it sounded amusingly English, as with the old-fashioned phrase "by golly!" The racist connotation was unknown to him before he came to England.
Christopher already spoke English fluently before leaving Africa. His family's wealth had its origins in slavery. His had been one of the black African families who sold fellow Africans to the European slave merchants. He was an elderly man when Richard was just a small boy, and Richard remembers him as being a very tall, powerfully-built man with huge hands and a deep, booming laugh. He married an Irish lady with flame-red hair.
Richard can remember his childhood home being decorated with carved African masks, spears and shields, and objects relating to voodoo, which his great-grandfather and grandfather allegedly practised. His grandfather, Seamus Cosgrove, was known professionally as Sailor Jack.
Sailor Jack allegedly married three times, and was reputedly a bigamist who sired around 300 children to various women - though it is impossible to verify how true this is. This is simply the tale which Richard grew up hearing.
Seamus Cosgrove AKA Sailor Jack
Sailor Jack's Tattoo Studio on Boaler Street, Liverpool.
Sailor Jack's Tattoo Studio.
Sailor Jack was good friends with Sailor Bill, another Liverpool tattoo artist. They often used to pretend to be related but this was more of an in-joke which most clients took at face value. Like Sailor Jack, he was reputed to be a father of many children. One of Sailor Bill's sons allegedly set up his own tatttoo studio somewhere in southern Eire.
c.1950; in the shadow of the railway bridge is the small newsagent and tobacconist's shop
which became Sailor Jack's tattoo studio in West Derby, Liverpool.
Later, the same premises was run by Tattoo Jack.
Richard with his older brothers, Chris and Ron.
Richard was born in Walton Hospital and grew up in Tower Hill, Kirkby, where he attended Brookfield Comprehensive School. Richard began learning the art of tattooing when aged only eleven, and was taught by his grandfather, Sailor Jack, and his uncle Tattoo Jack. He worked alongside Tattoo Jack at his studio on West Derby Road in Liverpool, where Jack continued to tattoo until he retired in 2012.
Richard was unemployed for eleven years during the Thatcher era which anihilated the area's economy, and during this period he studied photography, joinery and continued creating art both on human skin and on paper.
Richard on his joinery course.
Richard helping to raise funds for the Hillsborough Appeal.
Richard on the Krypton Factor's assault course
Photography remains a major interest of Richard's. He originally hoped to become a professional photographer rather than a tattoo artist, but has never regretted running his own successful business and he enjoys the independence and self-reliance that self-employment brings.
His other interests include history, films, many kinds of music - classical, blues, jazz, rock, folk - graphic novels, Dr Who and Everton Football Club. Richard has lived happily with his wife Adele in West Kirby, Wirral, since 2000 where he enjoys walking his dogs on the beach and in the ancient woodlands.
Richard opened his own studio in 1993, right in the heart of Liverpool, where he remains to this day.
Richie Tattoo Artist's Studio:
1st Floor, 24 Newington, Liverpool, L1 4ED.
Tel: 0151 709 1422.
Learn about the history of tattooing, and about Liverpool's famous tattooing family, of which Richie Tattoo Artist is a member, in this interview with Richie Tattoo Artist and his mother Letitia Curran, which was broadcast on Radio Merseyside in 1996.
Richie Tattoo Artist
Richard and his two Jack Russells at Red Rocks in Hoylake, 2013.