Tomlinson, best known for his TV portrayal as the lazy-arsed slob Jim Royale in the The Royale Family - went to prison for two years for his part in a building strike in the seventies. The former hard-line activist never forgot that it was the close-knit mining community who fed and cared for his family when he was banged up.
His emotional tribute to miners was used as a backdrop to fascinating previously unseen film of mining and miners through the Twentieth Century.
The British Empire was driven by coal in two world wars of course. I agree with Tomlinson that our nation owes those who mined the coal an enormous debt of gratitude.
But for me, Tomlinson’s film serves as a reminder of the desperately high price miners and their families paid – and how little regard there was through the 20th Century for the safety or welfare of working miners.
In the 1930s, on average four British workers died in our pits every day. In the worst disaster at Senghenydd Colliery in South Wales in 1913, 439 workers were killed in one day – just a decade after an another disaster claimed a further 90 lives in the same pit.
Tomlinson saved his venom for Lady Thatcher for the very last frame of the 60-minute special from the heart.
We were treated to the infamous clip of Tory cabinet minister Michael Heseltine telling the Commons that coal mines must shut because they couldn’t produce coal economically. Thatcher claimed there was no demand for deep-mined coal.
Cut to Tower Colliery in South Wales, a living testimony to the big Tory lie on coal.
When the Tories closed the pit at the top of the Rhondda, miners pooled their redundancy pay-offs, took out bank loans and bought the pit.
And today Tower is economic. It runs successfully - and safely – providing a living for more than 400 miners. It's the only working pit in South Wales.
Tomlinson stares angrily into the camera lens and says:
“Where Mrs Thatcher is going very soon, she won’t need to worry about coal, because it will be roasting hot…and when it happens, I’ll be having a pint with the miners.”Cut.