Malcolm Tierney: Character actor who specialised in villains and rogues and was best known for his roles in 'Brookside' and 'Lovejoy'
Wednesday 30 April 2014
Malcolm Tierney brought integrity and believability to the roles he played. He first gained national attention as Tommy McArdle in the gritty, groundbreaking Channel Four soap opera Brookside, created by Phil Redmond. The Liverpool underworld villain appeared on and off between 1983 and 1987, usually bringing trouble for Barry Grant (Paul Usher), a Jack the Lad whose own money-making scams became more sinister and dangerous.
Tierney's staring eyes provided a mix of charm and menace for all those his evil character encountered. McArdle framed firefighter George Jackson (Cliff Howells) for a warehouse robbery, implicated Barry and his friend Terry Sullivan (Brian Regan) in a casino robbery by using their car and had his heavies beat up both Barry and Terry at various times. However, McArdle saw himself as handing out moral justice after agreeing to Barry's request to have the young pretender's mother's rapist taught a lesson in prison.
Hiss other memorable TV role was in Lovejoy, the comedy-drama series adapted by Ian La Frenais from the novels by John Grant (under the pen name Jonathan Gash) and starring Ian McShane as a roguish antiques dealer and amateur sleuth. In three series (1986-93), Tierney played Lovejoy's nemesis, Charlie Gimbert, who as an auction house owner was both his landlord and rival, not averse to double-crossing him in the quest to find the best deals. However, the pair later found that co-operation led to a better business relationship.
One of Tierney's first film roles had brought him into the social-realist world of the director Ken Loach, who was looking for someone to act the rebellious boyfriend of the troubled young woman played by Sandy Ratcliff in Family Life (1971). It was a reworked version of David Mercer's 1967 television play In Two Minds, also made by Loach, based on the questioning by new-wave psychiatrists led by RD Laing as to whether some people diagnosed with schizophrenia were simply victims of an oppressive family – in this case, a domineering mother.
Tierney was drew on his own unsettled family background. "I went through a period when my parents would break up, but my father always came back," the actor told me in 2002. "It was pretty awful and I was torn between the two of them, so I would go silent. Academically, it was hopeless because I couldn't do homework there. There was one period when my dad went into hospital for a whole term and my performance improved enormously."
Tierney was born in Manchester. His father was a boilermaker and his mother worked in a cotton mill. On leaving St Mary's Roman Catholic School, Failsworth, hestudied at Manchester School of Art. He spent six years working as a commercial artist and textile designer, during which he acted in amateur dramatics at the Bolton Little Theatre. As a result, Tierney gained a scholarship to train at the Rose Bruford College of Speech & Drama, in Kent (1959-62).
He made his professional début in a revival of Sean O'Casey's Red Roses for Me (Mermaid Theatre, London, 1962), then worked with repertory companies in Margate, Leatherhead and Hornchurch. Although he had occasional character roles on television, much of his early work was in the theatre. He impressed in Strindberg's The Father (Piccadilly Theatre, 1964, alongside Trevor Howard), Beyond the Fringe (Mayfair Theatre, 1965) and Robert Shaw's Cato Street (Young Vic Theatre, 1971).
He also enjoyed a string of leading roles at the Royal Court (1967-72), including Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night (1968). In the company's notorious 1968 production of Edward Bond's Early Morning, which portrayed Queen Victoria and Florence Nightingale as lesbian lovers, he played Disraeli plotting to assassinate the monarch. It was performed in private after becoming the last play to be banned by the Lord Chamberlain as theatre censor.
His television breakthrough was as the arrogant MP Monk Adderley in the second series of Poldark (1977). There was another regular part in The Spoils of War (1980-81) as Richard Warrington, the villain of the piece who returns from fighting in the Second World War to take over his uncle's ironworks.
On television, Tierney also played Zametov in the mini-series Crime and Punishment (1979), the title role in Granada's award-winning play LS Lowry – A Private View (1981), the murderous scientist Doland in the 1986 Doctor Who story "The Trial of a Time Lord", the anthropologist Geoffrey Ellsworth-Smythe, romancing Gwen Taylor's deserted wife, in the second series (1989) of A Bit of a Do, Patrick Woolton, twice unsuccessfully standing as Conservative Party leader, in the political drama House of Cards and Detective Chief Constable Raymond, on and off, in Dalziel and Pascoe.
In the cinema, Tierney had small roles in the first Star Wars film (1977), In the Name of the Father (1993) and The Saint (1997), and played the magistrate condemning William Wallace's wife to death in Braveheart (1995).
Tierney, a lifelong socialist who was a member of the Workers Revolutionary Party in the 1970s, married the Austrian painter Andrea Schinko in 1979 after meeting her at Vienna's English Theatre. Although they separated in 1998, they never divorced. Tierney died of pulmonary fibrosis.
Malcolm Tierney, actor: born Manchester 25 February 1938; married 1979 Andrea Schinko (two daughters); died 19 February 2014.
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