Isobel Varley: World's most tattooed female senior citizen dies aged 77

The former secretary had her first tattoo aged 49

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The Independent Online

Isobel Varley, the world’s most tattooed female pensioner, has died aged 77 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease.

Varley, a former secretary, was famous for having 93 per cent of her body inked and held the Guinness World Record for being the most tattooed female senior citizen.

Born in Yorkshire, she later moved to a town outside of north London at the age of 12. She had her first tattoo aged 49 at the Hammersmith Palais in 1986, where she caught the "bug" that would see her go on to have 200 pieces completed in ten years.

Her favourite tattoos were of a family of tigers on her stomach. 

“Originally, I was only ever going to have one - a small bird - but I fell in love with it, and developed an addiction," she told the Guinness World Records after being officially handed her title. "The only areas not completely tattooed are my face, the soles of my feet my ears and some area on my hands."

However, the mother-of-one insisted she would never get her face covered in tattoos, saying: “I want people to be able to see what I look like.”

She went on to appear at conventions, on television shows and in magazines and newspapers across the world.

Varely married her husband Malcolm, an engineer, in 1960. He told the Hertfordshire Mercury that while his wife was known globally for her ink, many would also remember her for her laugh. "If you look on Facebook I understand someone says she was a legend of tattooing, that's how people will remember her, others will remember her because of her laugh," he said.

"In fact one guy approached her and said 'Can I use your laugh as a phone ring tone?'."

Malcolm said the fame that accompanied her place in the Guinness World Records was unforeseen. "It just happened, she never had it in her mind. She was always able to carry it off, I found it remarkable that she never got serious criticism."

Her family announced her death in a short statement on Facebook. “Isobel has passed peacefully onto her next adventure," it read.

“The Varley family would like to express their thanks to everyone for their support, their friendship and kind words expressed to, and about, Isobel and her numerous achievements during her time.

“Heaven has gained a new Angel.”

News of her death sparked tributes from the tattoo community and across the globe, with many remembering encountering her at conventions.

Her family has also set up a JustGiving page to raise money for the Alzheimer's Society. Varley is survived by Malcolm and her son Stephen.

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