Ricky Tomlinson

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Ricky Tomlinson
Ricky Tomlinson 2011.jpg
Tomlinson in 2011
Eric Tomlinson

(1939-09-26) 26 September 1939 (age 82)
OccupationActor, author, musician, political activist
Years active1981–present
Marlene Clifton
(m. 1962; div. 1986)

Rita Cumiskey
(m. 2003)

Eric "Ricky" Tomlinson (born 26 September 1939) is an English actor, author, musician, and political activist. He is best known for his television roles as Bobby Grant in Brookside, DCI Charlie Wise in Cracker and Jim Royle in The Royle Family, and playing the title character in the film Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001).

Early life[edit]

Tomlinson was born on 26 September 1939 at Burleigh House in Bispham, Lancashire, and has lived in Liverpool nearly all his life.[1] His father was a baker and he was born in Bispham because his mother, Peggy, was evacuated there due to the Liverpool Blitz in World War II. He attended Walton Technical College after passing an exam when he was 13. His favourite subject was English.[2]

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Tomlinson played banjo in bands known as the Guitanjos, Hobo Rick & The City Slickers, and Hobo Rick and the Hi-Free Three.[3] For a time, the band's pianist was John "Duff" Lowe, a former member of Beatles forerunner the Quarrymen.[4]



A qualified plasterer by trade, he worked on various building sites for many years.[citation needed]


As an actor, he has appeared as Bobby Grant in the soap opera Brookside from the show's inception in 1982 until being written out in 1988, followed by DCI Charlie Wise in Cracker and as Jim Royle in the sitcom The Royle Family.

In 2002 Tomlinson starred in the BBC Series Nice Guy Eddie playing a Liverpool private investigator. Using down-to-earth cases—actually based upon real-life ones from Liverpool private investigator Tony Smith—the show also starred Tom Ellis and John Henshaw.[citation needed]

Tomlinson featured heavily in series two of Paul Abbott's series Clocking Off, in a BAFTA-nominated episode written by Danny Brocklehurst.[citation needed]

Tomlinson has fronted a series of television adverts for the utility company British Gas. In January 2010 he began to appear in a series of advertisements for the frozen food chain Farmfoods. In 2017, he provided a voiceover for an advert for McCain Foods.[5]

On 19 June 2006 Tomlinson made his début as the guest celebrity in Dictionary Corner on the long-running UK Channel 4 game show Countdown.[citation needed]

In December 2006 he presented a programme in Channel Five's Disappearing Britain series entitled "When Coal Was King".[citation needed]

In March 2007, Tomlinson presented BBC's One Life: Guilty My Arse,[6] detailing his version of the "Shrewsbury Two" case, in which he compared his political activism as a trade unionist to the work of the suffragettes.

The BBC broadcast a programme in its Who Do You Think You Are? series 13 on Tomlinson's ancestors, which traced his family back through a number of carters working around Liverpool at a time when the city was a bustling port.[7]

In 2020 Tomlinson, alongside his Royle Family co-star Ralf Little, presented a travel series called Ricky & Ralf's Very Northern Road Trip for Gold.[citation needed]


Tomlinson has also starred in several films, notably Mike Bassett: England Manager, Raining Stones and Hillsborough, a made-for-TV film about the families of the victims of the Hillsborough disaster, in which he portrayed John Glover – the father of victim Ian Glover.

In 2017, Tomlinson starred in the LGBT short film Tellin' Dad[8] (2017)[9] (co-starring actor Carl Loughlin[10] as his son) which was the first LGBT project he has been involved in and followed the journey of his son building up courage to come out to him. The film was released on DVD, Amazonplay and distributed by Peccadillo Pictures worldwide on several platforms and on their Boys on Film DVD collection.[11]


Tomlinson is also a keen banjo and harmonica player, and has played the instruments in many episodes of The Royle Family. In 2001 he teamed up with fellow Brookside actor Michael Starke and other friends for his own rendition of well-known folk songs including "It's a Long Way To Tipperary" and a cover of Shane MacGowan and The Popes' "Are You Lookin' at Me?" that reached No. 28 in the UK Singles Chart in 2001. A CD album entitled Music My Arse was released the same year, peaking at No. 127 in the UK Albums Chart. He released a single at Christmas 2006 entitled "Christmas My Arse" which reached No. 25.


In 2006, Tomlinson toured to theatres across the UK with his show An Evening with Ricky Tomlinson where he was interviewed about his life by Elton Welsby.

During 2008 and 2009 Tomlinson took his Laughter Show theatrical revue on a UK tour with fellow comedians Tony Barton, Duncan Norvelle and Pauline Daniels.

In 2009 he took a lead role as the Head Judge in the "VMH Club Star Talent Trail", a local talent-based competition held at the VMH Club in Garston. A large number of North West-based performers entered the competition, which was ultimately won by 14-year-old Shaun Walsh from Liverpool.

In May 2010 Tomlinson opened his own cabaret club the Green Room, in Liverpool, teaming up with brothers Richard and Simon Wallace, from Liverpool production company Red Hot Media, to open the 250-seater cabaret lounge on Duke Street. In March 2011 Tomlinson appeared in an advertising campaign for UK retail chain The Range.

Personal life[edit]

He had three children with his first wife.[12]

In 2003, he published an autobiography, entitled Ricky, which spent five weeks at the top of the UK best-selling new books chart. In the book, Tomlinson admitted to having affairs as well as describing in detail his time in prison.

On 19 October 2007 Tomlinson had quadruple heart bypass surgery at Liverpool's Cardiothoracic Centre. Consultant cardiac surgeon Aung Oo said: "The operation went according to plan and he is now recovering within the hospital's critical care unit."[13]

Tomlinson suffers from nodular prurigo, which was the subject of an interview in the Daily Mirror in October 2013.[14]

Tomlinson still resides in Liverpool, stating "I will never, ever move away from Liverpool, I love it here."[15]


In his late 20s, Tomlinson was attracted to right-wing politics and, by his own account, was a member of the National Front for a period after Enoch Powell's April 1968 "Rivers of Blood" speech.[16] In the early 1970s, Tomlinson's political views shifted to the left. He was affected by the book The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists, which was given to him by the governor of the prison in which he was being held.[2]

In 1972 he joined the flying pickets in a building workers' dispute in Shrewsbury. Following allegations of violence during this protest, in 1973 Tomlinson was charged with "conspiracy to intimidate" as one of the Shrewsbury Two. Despite pleading his innocence, he was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison, alongside fellow picket Des Warren.[17] After his release in 1975, he disrupted the TUC conference by shouting from the wings after he had been prevented from speaking on the stage. In 2012, Tomlinson and others sought to have the convictions overturned by the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC).[18] In 2013 a paper petition was launched, alongside the existing e-petition, for an Early Day Motion by MP John McDonnell to be brought.[19] In July 2013, at the Durham Miners' Gala, he again campaigned against the convictions.[20] In May 2020 it was announced that the CCRC had referred a number of convictions relating to the Shrewsbury dispute, including Tomlinson's, to the Court of Appeal[21] which subsequently overturned the convictions in March 2021.[22]

Tomlinson is a close friend of Arthur Scargill and often appears on party political broadcasts for Scargill's Socialist Labour Party, most recently for the 2009 European Parliament elections. He is a long-time member of the Socialist Labour Party, and is the party's most prominent celebrity supporter since its formation in 1996.[23]

He has also expressed support for the Campaign for a New Workers' Party. A public meeting was hosted by the CNWP in Liverpool on Monday 12 February 2007, which Tomlinson addressed alongside Tommy Sheridan and Tony Mulhearn in which he used the slogan: "New Labour My Arse".

On 5 February 2010, Tomlinson revealed his plan to stand as the Socialist Labour Party candidate for the Liverpool Wavertree constituency at the 2010 general election in protest at the selection of Luciana Berger, a 28-year-old Londoner as the Labour Party candidate. Kim Singleton was ultimately selected for the seat; in a statement, the SLP said that he could not contest the election due to "personal and contractual commitments".[24] Tomlinson added: "I am disappointed not to be able to stand. But I am pleased to give the chosen candidate my wholehearted support."[25] He also commented, "People say you could be letting the Tories in. But there is no difference between the Conservatives and New Labour". Singleton ultimately finished sixth out of seven candidates, with Berger winning the seat.[26]

In a guest appearance on an episode of the ITV lunchtime chat show, Loose Women, broadcast on 17 August 2015, while discussing the forthcoming Labour Party leadership election, Tomlinson said:

I know both of them and I know Andy quite well, and he was my choice right up until I went to listen to Jeremy Corbyn and I went to the Adelphi Hotel where there was 3,000 people there, the room holds 800 and were out into the streets, they couldn't get in. And everything he said with I agreed with you know, leave the National Health Service alone, get rid of Trident, stuff like that, so it doesn't matter to me who gets the Labour leadership, it really doesn't matter. But whatever happens both of them will be in the Shadow Cabinet.[27]

Richard Whiteley claims[edit]

In March 2017, Tomlinson claimed during an interview that the late journalist, broadcaster and game show host Richard Whiteley had been an undercover agent for the British security services and had assisted them in securing his 1973 imprisonment by co-presenting a television documentary called Red Under the Bed, which was critical of his political and trade union activities and had swayed the jury.[28] The CCRC cited the documentary and its possible influence on the jury when announcing its decision to refer the cases of Tomlinson and others to the Court of Appeal.[21]

Charity work[edit]

In 2008 Tomlinson donated £200,000 as patron of the Human Milk Bank of Cheshire and North Wales.[29] The charity provides babies on Special Care Baby Units with milk from donor mothers, significantly improving their chances of survival and long-term development. He said: "Due to my own recent experiences with my health, I know how much hospitals and appeals appreciate help and assistance. This is such an important service which can help so many families and I'm very honoured to be the patron."

In November 2010 it was reported that Tomlinson had donated £1 million to the Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool two years previously.[30]


In October 2014 Tomlinson was awarded the Freedom of Liverpool.[31]



  1. ^ Ricky. Little, Brown Book. 4 September 2008. ISBN 978-0-7481-0914-2.
  2. ^ a b "Ricky Tomlinson Interview". Socialist Worker. 24 January 2004.
  3. ^ Shennan, Paddy (15 April 2008). "Ricky Tomlinson: The day my Pope joke led me into a deadly situation". Liverpool Echo. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  4. ^ Womack, Kenneth (30 June 2014). The Beatles Encyclopedia: Everything Fab Four [2 volumes]: Everything Fab Four. ABC-CLIO. p. 586. ISBN 978-0-313-39172-9. Retrieved 14 November 2021.
  5. ^ Jardine, Alexandra (17 August 2017). "McCain's Latest Ad Reflects Diverse and Different British Families". Ad Age. Retrieved 11 February 2018.
  6. ^ "The Life of Wylie » Blog Archive » Ricky Tomlinson: Guilty My ****". Blogs.manchestereveningnews.co.uk. 12 March 2007. Archived from the original on 4 July 2008. Retrieved 27 April 2012.
  7. ^ "Ricky Tomlinson". Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine. Retrieved 2 December 2021.
  8. ^ "Tellin'Dad".
  9. ^ "Ricky Tomlinson in new film where boy comes out to dad - with surprising results". 22 July 2017.
  10. ^ "Carl Loughlin".
  11. ^ "Boys on Film 17 : Love is the Drug - Peccadillo Pictures".
  12. ^ "Married Ricky 'on top of the world'". BBC Online. 4 January 2003. Retrieved 25 August 2014.
  13. ^ "Actor Tomlinson has heart surgery", BBC News, 19 October 2007
  14. ^ Buxton, Olivia (17 October 2013). "Ricky Tomlinson: How I learned to live with rare condition ..." mirror.co.uk.
  15. ^ Ewing, Interview by Sarah (2 May 2014). "Ricky Tomlinson: My family values". The Guardian.
  16. ^ Tomlinson, Ricky (2008) [2003]. Ricky. London: Hachette Digital. pp. 81–84. ISBN 9780748109142.
  17. ^ "Ricky Tomlinson battles to overturn 1970s prison term". BBC News. 23 September 2014.
  18. ^ Campbell, Duncan (3 April 2012). "Union pickets seek to quash 40-year-old convictions". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 January 2013.
  19. ^ "The Official Shrewsbury 24 Campaign". shrewsbury24campaign.org.uk. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  20. ^ Stephenson, John-Paul (14 July 2013). "National security, my arse!". Giggle Beats.
  21. ^ a b Rob Evans (26 May 2020). "Ricky Tomlinson's criminal convictions to be re-examined". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  22. ^ "Court of Appeal overturns members of the Shrewsbury 24's convictions". PA. 23 March 2021. Retrieved 23 March 2021.
  23. ^ "Ricky Tomlinson 'to stand for parliament against Labour candidate'". The Daily Telegraph. 25 April 2013.
  24. ^ "Ricky Tomlinson will not stand for SLP in Liverpool". BBC News. 13 April 2010.
  25. ^ "Ricky Tomlinson halts bid to be next Liverpool Wavertree MP". Click Liverpool. 13 April 2010. Archived from the original on 8 July 2011.
  26. ^ "BBC News - Election 2010 - Constituency - Liverpool Wavertree". news.bbc.co.uk. Archived from the original on 5 May 2010. Retrieved 6 June 2022.
  27. ^ Moore, Matthew (5 February 2010). "Ricky Tomlinson 'to stand for parliament against Labour candidate'". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  28. ^ Oppenheim, Maya (1 March 2017). "Former Countdown presenter Richard Whiteley was an MI5 spy, claims Ricky Tomlinson". Independent. Retrieved 13 March 2017.
  29. ^ "Ricky Tomlinson donates £200,000 as Patron for 2008"[permanent dead link] Cheshire And North Wales Human Milk Bank, 18 March 2010
  30. ^ "Tomlinson donates £1m to Liverpool children's charity". BBC News. 3 November 2010. Retrieved 3 November 2010.
  31. ^ "Ricky Tomlinson granted Freedom of Liverpool". BBC News. 6 October 2014.
  32. ^ "Gloves off (2017)".
  33. ^ Guide, British Comedy. "Ricky & Ralf's Very Northern Road Trip - Gold Comedy". British Comedy Guide.

External links[edit]