From the outside, the Patrick Street Tattoo Company in Boyle looks like any other business, but once inside the door you are immersed in a completely different world, one with US license plates and Joe Kearney’s art adorning the walls.
Galway natives, Joe and Aethel, had spent ten years in the US before moving to Boyle in 2016 and opening the business in March of last year. Tattooist Joe had learned his trade at Irish Ink in Galway before moving to Las Vegas where he worked in a number of tattoo parlours, most notably ‘Pussycat’ and the Hells Angel-owned ‘Pricks’.
Joe had left Galway in 2006 when he was offered a job at a tattoo parlour in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“It was exciting because in America everyone wants bigger and brighter tattoos so there’s a lot more freedom as an artist. People in Ireland were a little more conservative back then.
“The first tattoo I remember doing was a pitbull on a guy’s leg in Las Vegas. It was his dog and he was chatting to me during it and the banter out of him was so different to what I had experienced in Galway,” Joe said, before Aethel reminded him of yet another ‘quirky’ character.
“What about the tattoos you did for the girl who was a pimp? She’d have all her girls come in and you’d have to tattoo her name on them,” she said.
Joe had initially travelled to Las Vegas for a holiday and Aethel later joined him. Homesickness was never far away however and returning to Ireland was always on the cards.
“I was there about six months and I got a job working for the Hell’s Angels in ‘Pricks’. That was a culture shock for sure. The owner of the shop was a Hell’s Angel and all the guys that worked in his club used to hang around there all the time. They were sound enough.
“I tattooed a couple of them, I did a Celtic cross on one of them and a fireman’s cross on another”.
Members of the notorious biker gang weren’t the only ones with an interest in ink in Nevada however.
“When I worked at Pussycat a lot of the local police, guys who were undercover in the gang and narcotics units, used to come in and get tattooed but they couldn’t go to Pricks when I moved there – for obvious reasons – so I’d have to tattoo them at the house,” Joe said.
There were other tough customers too...
“I worked on a guy for nine hours in one day,” he began.
“Which is completely unheard of,” Aethel interjected.
Joe continued: “We were moving to Alaska so I said we could do two sessions but they were going to be long. He was insistent on getting a sleeve. We did two nine-hour sessions and I was a bit doubtful if he would be able to stick it but he did!”
Joe and Aethel have a number of visible tattoos. Joe also lifted up his t-shirt to show off a tattoo of the ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign on his stomach.
“I told one of the lads I was working with that I was thinking of getting the sign tattooed on my stomach so he left me thinking about it for a few weeks and then we just sat down and did it,” he explained.
So when it comes to tattoos where does Joe draw the line?
“There have been a couple of times when people came in looking for tattoos that ethically I couldn’t do. I had a guy in Alaska who came in looking for a swastika on his arm. He went from tattooist to tattooist and everyone said no,” Joe said.
Sinister at times in the States, but back home in Boyle it’s a more light-hearted affair, according to Joe.
“A fella rang us and said he just wanted to get a name done. He came in and told us he lost a bet with his friend and he had to get his friend’s name tattooed on his arse. First name on one cheek and last name on the other.
“I tried to talk him out of if but he was adamant and said that there was a €1,000 forfeit so he had to get it done. So I tattooed his buddy’s name on his arse!”
On a serious note, things have been going well since the grand opening in 2018, and the Patrick Street Tattoo Company celebrates a year in business on March 6th.
“I’m getting a lot of business from the surrounding towns, including Ballaghaderreen, Carrick, and Castlerea, so it’s worked out well,” Joe said.
Aethel added that they have received great support from the people of Boyle, and that many local people she encounters are fascinated by the business.
Joe has been kept busy since opening with appointments and walk-ins during the week. Both he and Aethel have been delighted with the support from other local businesses in the area and said they were looking forward to celebrating further milestones in the years ahead.