In 1972 the much-loved British actor Ricky Tomlinson was a 33-year-old plasterer who picketed Shrewsbury building sites during the national building workers’ strike.
The strike lasted 12 weeks and won workers a pay rise. But the strikers’ picketing tactics angered the construction industry and the Tory government. Six pickets were made an example of and Ricky was among them. He was charged with conspiracy and given a two-year prison sentence.
Fellow picket Des Warren was sentenced to three years in jail. Des is on the left of Ricky in the picture below, which was taken when Des was released in 1975. Des’s family claims that his death at the relatively young age of 66 in 2004 was down to the treatment he received in prison. Ricky is still fighting to clear their names.
Des Warren (left) and Ricky Tomlinson (centre) in 1975 after Des’s release from prison
Here is an extract from Ricky’s speech from the dock during the 13-week trial:
“The sentence passed on me by this court will not matter. My innocence has been proved time and again by the building workers of Wrexham whom I represent, and also by the building workers from all over the land who have sent particular messages of support to myself and my family and my colleagues … It is to be hoped that the trade union movement and the working class of this country will act to ensure together that the charade such as this trial has been will never take place again. And the right to picket or strike will be defended, even at the case of my personal hardship and individual freedom.”