CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Pat’s tats: Deputy council leader explains love of body art

71-year-old thought tattoos were trashy when she was younger, but now gets compliments on her birds

11 October, 2018 — By Richard Osley

Pat Callaghan speaking at Monday’s full council meeting

AS their children and grandchildren head off to the tattoo parlour for a date with the ink and needle, wise old heads look on and utter those familiar words: “You’ll regret it when you’re older.”

But tell that to Camden Council’s deputy leader, the long-serving Labour councillor Pat Callaghan, who has become hooked on the body art bug having already arrived at what might be politely described as a later stage in life.

The 71-year-old told the New Journal that after three tattoos, the most recent at the end of last year being a picture of a bird, she has had to stop because she fears she might become addicted.

“I had this one done just before Christmas, a bird with red feathers for the election,” she said. “This goes with the bird on my shoulder and a koru symbol on my arm. I was thinking ‘oh maybe I should get one on my ankle too’, but there are people who go on and on and you have to stop yourself.”

She added: “When I was younger I thought they [tattoos] were horrible. I thought ‘they’re a bit trashy, aren’t they?’, but then I thought: ‘Well I don’t know, I’m feeling a bit boring, why not?’ “Now I get comments. I can be walking along the streets and people see the bird on my shoulder, and shout ‘woah, I like the tattoo’.”

The koru motif on her arm is a constant reminder of her son Conor, who moved to New Zealand five years ago and is settled with his family on the other side of the world

“The koru is a motherhood symbol in New Zealand,” she said. “They use a fish hook for a father, as a provider, and the koru is the symbol of ever-lasting love of motherhood. “He had sent me it because of the heartbreak of leaving and living his life over there, and I wanted it on my person the whole time.”

One of Cllr Callaghan’s tattoos

Cllr Callaghan is not the only inked councillor in the chamber, although her two bird tattoos are the most on show. It is understood some of Camden’s other local politicians have chosen areas of the body for private eyes only. The needlework on her chest had hurt, Cllr Callaghan admitted, but the tattoo on her arm had been less painful.

The trend of later-life tattoos became apparent in recent years when some older famous faces made parlour visits. Both older than Cllr Callaghan, the Question Time presenter David Dimbleby had a scorpion etched into his shoulder blade, while Dame Judi Dench celebrated her 81st birthday by having the words “carpe diem” – seize the day – tattooed into her wrist.

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