Tattooing A to Z #1: Ron Ackers by Pepe and Mina Von B.

The English tattooist Ron Ackers was born at Ellesmere Port on February 21, 1932. Thanks to his uncles who were tattooed, Ron developed a love for tattooing: by the early 1940s Ackers was drawing designs on his school chums and in 1946, at the age of 14, he got his first tattoo from “Professor” William Stokes in Chester.

The Professor, a grand old master of the art in Britain, gave him over 30 skin engravings. Each time Ron begged him for lessons in the art, and Stokes finally agreed when he decided to retire at age 92 in the late 1940s: Ackers got some of his tattooing equipment and started tattooing himself and his friends. In 1952 Ackers set up his first tattoo shop in the city of Chester.

Ron Ackers at Work, Bristol, Great Britain, 1950s, via
Ron Ackers at Work, Bristol, Great Britain, 1950s, via

Ron Ackers built pre-fab machines for several years, tattooing evenings and Saturdays and working in a local factory during the day. Chester was too small to contain the talents of Ackers and, thinking that a seaport town would bring him more customers, he relocated to an arcade in the city of Rhyl on the Irish Sea. It was there that he came into contact with many other European tattooists and where he first heard of Les Skuse.

Ackers contacted Les Skuse and was invited to his shop in Bristol: he described Skuse’s shop as a palace compared to his small arcade shop in Rhyl. Through Skuse, Ackers started making connections with American suppliers who were selling superior tattooing equipment to what was available in the UK at that time. In his biography, Ron Ackers, Tattoo-Artist, he said that he spent 12 contented years working out of his tattoo booth in the arcade and in the winter months he tattooed in a variety of places.

Ron Ackers, Watercolour by Pepe
Ron Ackers, Watercolour by Pepe

In 1963 Ackers, along with Mike McGowan and Peter Lewis, formed the “North Western Tattoo Club”. It was formed «for those with major tattoo designs of a high artistic standard and as a federation of tattoo artists pledged to observe certain codes of practice and fulfilling hygienic regulations». In the July 1965 issue of the Tattoo Club of America newsletter they stated that the North Western Club had seventy members and seven affiliated tattoo artists in the northern counties of England and Wales. Throughout the years, Ron Ackers worked with many tattooists including Johnny O’Brien, Les Skuse, Lyle Tuttle, Stan Davis, Davy Jones, Cash Cooper, Harry Leavers, Tattoo Jack and Mick Bloor. During the 1960s he took a traveling tattoo van on the road where he tattooed in Spain, Germany, Denmark and Italy.

Ron Ackers is best known for his years in Portsmouth, England, where he set-up shop in 1966 under the railroad arches at Portsmouth Harbor station working with Joe Cleverly. He is also known to thousands of TV fans in England as the tattoo artist who appeared on the David Frost show. He died in 2004.