LAUNCHED on a whim after Lionel Titchener got his first tattoo, his parlour is now celebrating its 40th birthday.

Lionel’s Tattoo Studio on Cowley Road came about in 1972 when its namesake had a chance encounter with a fellow tattooist.

Lionel had just got his first inking – a heart with the word mum in it – when he was in a second-hand store in Headington.

Ex-tattooist Tony Malo owned the store and recognised the tissue and tape around his arm as protecting the new tattoo – and offered him his old machine for £25.

Mr Titchener, 60, said: “I gave him a £5 deposit and then came back in a couple of weeks when I had saved up the money and the price had gone up to £30 because he had found some more parts to go with it.

“It wasn’t necessarily something I planned to do, it just happened.”

After that Mr Titchener, a former lorry mechanic and welder, started practising on himself and friends with his new machine.

He first opened up a store on St Clement’s in 1974 and it was in that store that he helped draft regulations for tattooists for the Government in the 1980s.

He said: “Up to that point there were no specific regulations for tattooists.

“I think there were only about 100 of us around the country.

“I had been doing some research about tattooing and stumbled across a small paragraph in a medical text about Hepatitis A and its links to tattoos and when I started to do more research that is how I got involved with the regulations.”

In the past 40 years, Mr Titchener said the biggest difference is how people go about getting tattoos.

He said: “When we first opened people would just turn up and we would have queues outside the door, and then they would come in and pick a design off the wall.

“Now people make appointments and often bring in their own designs. I would say that is the biggest difference.”

And the Cowley Road store had its very own A-list visitor when Robert De Niro went to the studio to research 18th century Spanish tattoos for The Mission, which was released in 1986.

Mr Titchener’s son Barny now looks after the store alongside manager Curly Moore.