TV star and trade unionist Ricky Tomlinson was in campaigning mood when he opened a new Chester Wetherspoon’s pub but he also raised a few smiles especially when referencing his alter ego Jim Royle.
Ricky was jailed along with other strikers when he helped organise the first national building workers’ strike in an upstairs room at the pub in 1972.
So his trip to The Bull and Stirrup in Upper Northgate Street would have been bitter-sweet as he and the others are still fighting to clear their names as alleged victims of a political conspiracy.
But Ricky, who is best known as the lazy and cantankerous Jim Royle in comedy The Royle Family, was asked what Jim would make of the Wetherspoon’s crowd.
He said: “He’d have a right name for these people who drink here! He’d call them all shirkers who'd never done a day’s work in their life.
"Now, we never ever found out if Jim ever worked did we? The last job he was supposed to have had was the school milk monitor! His National Insurance number he had was four. Jim was wasn’t known for rolling his sleeves up.”
After clambering onto a tiny chair, the 77-year-old joked: “I’ve been very, very lucky. I’ve been on the Philharmonic Hall stage, the Liverpool Empire stage, I’ve even been on The Palladium stage and now this is the smallest stage. If Health and Safety were here today, we’d all get prosecuted!”
And while having a photo opportunity outside the venue with pub manager Dan Grist and the politicians, he made a risqué joke at the expense of Cllr Dixon, as the group stood there all suited and booted.
Looking in her direction, he yelled: “Is there anyone here who hasn’t slept with the bride?”
Cllr Dixon took it in good humour and said she wasn’t offended.
But Ricky, who is seeking justice for the 24 Shrewsbury pickets put on trial more than 40 years ago, told those gathered: “I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had a wonderful career, made a few quid, but there are some of our lads, six or seven of them have passed on, there’s one in hospital now, he’s 89 years of age, we don’t think he’s going to come out, he’s got serious dementia. All’s we want is justice before we all pack in, before we all snuff it.”
To a rousing round of applause, he said: “The fight will go on. I am thrilled to bits here today with the turn-out of you people, from the trade union movement and from Chester and wherever. God bless you. But the fight goes on.”