Currently reading : MR KILBY
Glen Kilby is the father of Jordan and Caleb Kilby, better known as Thomas Hooper’s identically tattooed brothers. Tattooing has existed in the Kilby family for over three generations as sort of family tradition. Glen, his cousin and brother collected tattoos in their youth and now in the last couple of years Glen has gone on to embrace it in a whole new way. Here he tells us about his love and experiences of tattooing over the last thirty years.
Can you tell me about the first tattoo you got, where you got it and how old you were?
I got my first tattoo when I was fifteen years old in a little house in Saint Leonard’s which is in the other end of Hastings in East Sussex. This place was in a tiny little room in the tattooers home, me and my friends would all go on a Saturday afternoon. His name was Derrick Dellar and he tattooed all of my tattoos from my younger days.
My first tattoo was of a shark, and it was about the size of a goldfish and that’s just above the back of my hand. This was roughly about 1968. I would go with my cousin, and he would get the same as me. The style of tattoos I was getting then were traditional flash style. It’s all I ever knew about so I didn’t have anything to compare them too.
Tell me about the tattoos your Father had.
He has something similar to me and my cousin which was a flying serpent. He had a couple of others but the one I remember the best was of a half naked woman tied up to a stump of a tree with her arms behind her, underneath it was written ‘Daphne’. None of us ever found out who Daphne was. She must have been a woman he met before my Mother. He got all of these tattoos while he was serving in the Navy during World War Two. Him and my uncle were in the Navy together and they both got the flying serpent there.
My mother in law, Marlene had tattoos I can remember that she had a rose. She also had a memorial tattoo for her brother with a cross on her arm which she would have got in the early 1950’s. She lived in Hull around that time so she would have got them there.
How many tattoos did you roughly get when you were younger?
About eight… I did tattoo myself once though. Myself, my brother, my cousin and friend one night bought some Indian ink and pins and scratched the word love into our knuckles and rubbed the ink in on our left hands. We were all sitting around the table doing it and by the end of the night out fingers looked like sausages. Most of it stayed in and you could make out what it said up to twenty years later. So I suppose I got nine tattoos then. I recently had that covered up with HOLD FAST though.
After that you stopped for thirty years or so. Then started again when your sons Jordan and Caleb started to get tattooed. What made you want to start getting tattooed again?
Since I stopped getting tattooed in the late 60’s tattooing has changed completely. There was a lot more detail within designs and there seemed to be a lot more variety in subjects. How it’s all changed is quite amazing really but I suppose those styles never really interested me.
The boys dared me to get a tattoo and when I said I would I think they were very surprised. So they took me off to London to get tattooed by Thomas Hooper. I got a pair of shaking hands on my forearm with ‘Pals Forever‘ written around it. My sons have the same piece on their elbow, its a lovely tattoo. After that its become addictive, that was five or six years ago.
What did you think when your sons started to get tattoos?
At first I was shocked at how many they were getting. But I could never deny how excellent they were, I mean Thomas Hooper has done them all! If you are going to get tattooed you are going to want to get good ones so I think Jordan and Caleb are very lucky in that respect.
Since you have started getting tattooed again can you tell me who has tattooed you?
I started going to Frith Street and the first person who tattooed me there was Thomas Hooper. I went from him to Emiliano Liberatori he did a few of tattoos on me. Valerie Vargas gave me Ben Corday’s Annie Oakley on my back as well as the snake around my neck and others. Tim Hendricks had a guest spot a Frith a put a diving woman down the inside of my arm. Since then my son Caleb graduated from art school and has been tattooing. So now I have the luxury of being tattooed at my own home and I absolutely love it.
Flash tattooing to me is ageless. It can’t go in or out of fashion, they all tell stories and have meanings. Although I admire and respect a lot of modern tattooing I couldn’t say it was timeless. Where traditional flash tattooing has proved the test of time and will continue to.
Is there any apparent reason behind the fact that sets of brothers in your family have matching tattoos?
My Dad and his brother had matching tattoos because of them serving in the war together. So it seemed natural for me and my brother to do the same as we were close friends. As for Jordan and Caleb how they have gone about it is far more extreme but it was never planned as that deliberate outcome. Since childhood they were all ways very close and I think they both just loved the tattoos that either of them got! I have my Grandfathers name tattooed on me and the boys have their Grandfathers name tattooed on them. I also have my sons name’s tattooed above my hands. As for my son’s they have the words ‘Mother’, ‘Father’ and ‘Sister‘ tattooed on them as well as their Grandmother’s initials.
Do you think you’ll keep on getting tattooed?
I’m going to cover up any space that I have left. I keep on spotting new spaces that can be filled. I find myself looking through my son’s tattoo books and putting aside ones that I want. I do love them and I really do feel privileged by the people who have tattooed me. As far as I’m concerned as long as I’m around I’m going to carry on getting tattooed.
Images by Reba Maybury