Yorkshire Times
Voice of the North
Gill Blackwell
Art & Literature Correspondent
9:33 PM 21st May 2013

The Yorkshire Times Interviews Actor And Racing Commentator Malcolm Tomlinson

Malcolm Tomlinson
Malcolm Tomlinson
Fifty five year old Malcolm Tomlinson is sitting in the commentator's box, looking down over Thirsk Races with head phones and microphone at the ready. Equipped with a television screen, a pair of binoculars and the names of the horses and jockeys stuck on paper from The Racing Post, Malcolm seems remarkably relaxed and is ready for the race to begin. He juggles his two careers of actor and commentator successfully. As he explains, for both jobs you need to be a good communicator, have a good memory and be able to entertain the audience.

It was clocks that got me into racing!

Born in the market town of Beverley in East Yorkshire, the young Malcolm used to accompany his father to the Beverley races as he was a jeweler and clock repairer, responsible for servicing the public clocks at the Race Stand.

Malcolm remembers as a young lad, sitting on a little seat at the front of his Dad's bike, feeling excited as they made their way to Beverley Races, where all the clocks had to be checked and adjusted, including the one high on the clock tower. He recalls too the excitement he felt as he watched the horses thundering by and he would often spend all day there, sometimes playing with the children from the gypsy caravans that visited on race days, or else rushing there after school.

Malcolm's mother was a land army girl during the war and she worked with shire horses, driving the wagons carrying farm produce. She instilled a love of horses in Malcolm and they often rode together and indeed he still loves riding today.

The Acting bug

Malcolm joined the Drama club at Longcroft Secondary school, which he attended from the ages of eleven to eighteen, and performed in several Gilbert and Sullivan productions. From there he went on to Huddersfield Polytechnic, where he graduated in Drama and English, before going on to a Postgraduate Drama Diploma at Mount View Drama School in London.

A stint with the Midlands Theatre Company gained him an equity card and then the next ten years of his life were theatre based, working in repertory theatres. His first West End production was as an understudy to Gary Bond in Graham Swannell's play, 'A State of Affairs' and he took over from him as the main male lead at The Duchess Theatre.

I slammed my office door and didn't come out for two and a half years!

From the early nineties onwards he worked in television, his first role playing a policemen in the one off Crime Drama, 'Indelible Evidence'. He was also the principal in 'Hollyoaks' for many years, "I was wheeled in to tell students off," he grinned, "in one episode I slammed my office door shut and didn't come out for two and a half years!" He was amazed when the director rang and said they wanted him to appear in another episode after such a long break.

Malcolm seems to specialize in respectable authority figures such as the shop lifting Dot Cotton's solicitor in 'East Enders', the auctioneer in the last episode of 'Cold Feet', a hotel inspector in an episode of 'Crossroads', a doctor in a Catherine Cookson drama. However one of his favourite roles was as Emmerdale's Bruce Baines: "It's always much more fun playing baddies!"

The thrill of the Race

After doing some voice recording work, he moved into racing commentary. He is now one of twenty commentators who cover racing in the UK. He can be heard on Sky TV and recently covered the Grand National on 5 Live Radio. He now dovetails his two careers, working between seventy and eighty days a year as a commentator.

He loves his job. There is a thrill as he hears the roar of the crowd. "The key is to start low key and build up to an exciting finish". And yes, he does get butterflies before a race, and there are some hairy moments. "I just let the race happen" he explains. "If I am struggling to pick out what's going on, I just commentate around it and then gradually things become clear."

Acting genes

Eleanor and Ross Tomlinson
Eleanor and Ross Tomlinson
Malcolm divides his time between his Beverley home and his London flat. His latest film 'Hackney's finest', where he plays a bent policeman in a London Crime based drama, is soon be released. His two children are both pursuing acting careers.

Ross, aged nineteen, has recently starred in an episode of 'Casualty' and twenty one year old Eleanor has roles pouring in since her recent success in the Hollywood movie, 'Jack the Giant Slayer.'

"I want them to pursue their dreams and be happy" Malcolm told me. Something he has certainly achieved himself.