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Ricky innocent? MY A*@!! EXCLUSIVE Royle Family star was picket bully boy, says builder.



Byline: BEN GOLDBY

HE is best-known for his role as Jim Royle - the swearing, slovenly star of The Royle Family.

But long before finding fame, Ricky Tomlinson was jailed for two years for conspiracy to incite violence and unlawful assembly following a bitter strike dispute in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.

The actor and former trade union activist had always protested his innocence and is now mounting a fresh bid to clear his name.

Yet a Midland worker who clashed with pickets during the national builders strike of 1972 recalls the day Tomlinson, now aged 67, turned up with his gang.

"Tomlinson should be ashamed of himself," said Jack Smith. "Whenever I turn on the TV and see him, it makes my blood boil. I have to switch it off."

The national builders strike was about pay rates and there were ugly clashes at building sites between pickets and workers.

It has previously been reported that Tomlinson, then aged 33, was a member of an action committee for 300 flying pickets who turned up at the Shrewsbury building site.

Tomlinson was later jailed alongside fellow trade unionist Des Warren, who was sentenced to three years.

The pair became a cause celebre and were known as the 'Shrewsbury Two' to supporters.

Builder Mr Smith, 58, of Lichfield, Staffordshire, claims he suffered abuse at the hands of flying pickets when they turned up at a site he was working on in north Wales.

The roofer, who has been in the building trade for 40 years, said: "I was working as an assistant foreman in Penryn Bay when Tomlinson and his pickets turned up and ordered us off the building site.

"Personally, I was in favour of the strike but it wasn't being done the right way. There was a feeling around the site that it was all going to kick off - and it did when these flying pickets arrived.

"Some of them started using dirty tactics. They were pushing and shoving, and effing and blinding.

"The mouthpiece was Tomlinson. I felt threatened and bullied by him with all the swearing and the shouting.

"Some of the other pickets smashed up a drain we had been working on, and a van which belonged to one of the workers."

Before enjoying acting success, Tomlinson had a chequered past, including a spell as a member of the National Front - something he later said he regretted.

MI5 files from the 1970s also branded the former Communist party member a 'political thug' according to a later BBC documentary.

His Shrewsbury conviction has kept Tomlinson from travelling to America for acting jobs because the US government will not let him have a visa.

His bid to clear his name is being supported by the Shrewsbury Pickets Group.

Its secretary Mike Abbott disputed the claims of Mr Smith and added: "If these allegations are true, why didn't people press charges at the time?

"I wasn't there so I can't say it didn't happen, but it is not impossible. What I would say to Mr Smith is that I am sure he didn't turn down the pounds 6-a-week wage rise we got him.

"Anybody who scabbed that strike was taking blood money. They should be coming up to guys like Ricky and saying 'Thanks very much' and offering them a Christmas present."

The Mercury contacted Ricky Tomlinson but he refused to listen to the claims made about his behaviour.

His only comment was: "Print what you like about me. My lawyer will be looking very carefully at this week's Sunday Mercury."

ben_goldby@mrn.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

MURKY PAST: Ricky Tomlinson; ACTIVIST: Ricky outside court in 1974
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Feb 4, 2007
Words:605
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