Tattooing in South Africa

John Thompson who was born in Bedale, North Yorkshire, England in 1871 – relocated to Galveston in the USA.

Where he changed his name to J.T. Clark and married Bertha Ritchie the tattooed lady – who went by the show name Princess Beatrice and who had a portrait of George Washington on her chest and a rendition of the last supper tattooed on her back – as well as having various other tattoos on her arms. With much of her work having been put on by Clark himself, who was her second husband.

Later Clark ended up in South Africa fighting in the Boer War (1899-1902) after which he opened a tattoo shop and at one time an amusement arcade at 31a Rissik Street, Johannesburg – where not only did he employ tattooed oddities to exhibit themselves – it was also the location where Britains George Burchett ran a tattooing studio after he and Clark (of whom Burchett referred to as Alfred in his book Memoirs Of A Tattooist) went into partnership together.

J.T. Clark also tattooed at 30a Simmonds Street (Johannesburg) at one time – and had many tattoos himself – including a portrait of the SA president Paul Kruger (even-though Clark was English) tattooed on the top of his head in which he would show in exhibitions to make ends meet. He also sold tattoo kits and even tattooed identity numbers on Whippets (dogs) for the South African Whippet league. It’s also believed that he tattooed all over the world including Cape Town, Durban, Sydney in Australia and in London, England, but it is not known whether or not Bertha joined him on his travels.

J.T. Clark died on the 14th of April 1918, from a prolonged illness he contracted during in the Boer War.

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6 comments on “Tattooing in South Africa

  1. For a more detailed history of Professor Clark and Princess Beatrice who are my grandparents, please go to

    For the record, John Thompson changed his name to J. T. Clark. His brother David who came to the USA with him, also changed his surname to Clark but the rest of the family which included four other sibllings in England remained Thompson. They lived in Bedale, Ripon and Harrogate

  2. Paul Sayce says:

    Thanks Judy for letting me know that it’s J.T. Clark and not J.L. Clark…I got the J.L from some photographs in my collection of George Burchett standing outside the shop (with another man) in Simmonds Street in SA.

    I had a look at your site and it’s very nice with plenty of info – And for the record the first patent for the electric tattooing machine issued was in 1891.

  3. Paul, would you be willing to scan and send me the photo of George Burchett and the other man in Simmonds Street? I would like to know if it is J.T. Clark. Thanks, Judy

  4. Paul Sayce says:

    Do you have a myspace account because if you do I will put the picture up in my tattoo history file (pictures) – I’m looking at the photo now and the man with GB is very smart and quite tall – In fact they are both wearing suits and ties.

    If you don’t have a myspace do you want me to send the image to the address on your web-site…Paul.

  5. Paul,

    I just created a my space account for Princess Judy. Will you please give me the name you use on myspace so I can find you?

    All of the street-clothed photos I have of J.T. Clark show him very nicely dressed. I think photography was more formal in the old days.


  6. Paul Sayce says:

    Hi Judy – You can find me at – – Cheers Paul.

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