BREAKING: Tributes pour in for BRITISH ACTOR who dies from COVID

He had a “hard man” face which was instantly recognisable.

But it was his ability, and generous nature, which made him unforgettable to many.

He was born in a miner’s cottage in Atherton, near Leigh, and still lived in the town.

During his 62 years he packed in a hell of a lot – apprentice jockey, soldier, service with the RAF, an ambulance driver for Bolton General and Salford Royal Hospitals – and finally, actor.

Tom Charnock, has died from a Covid-related illness.

He leaves behind a rich legacy of fine acting.

Tributes to him were led by filmmaker, Ken Loach, for whom he delivered a stunning performance in the award-winning film, The Wind That Shakes the Barley.

Before acting Tom had served in Northern Ireland as a soldier, and 25 years later his portrayal of a savage Black and Tans sergeant in the opening scene of the drama set during the Irish War of Independence made a powerful impact. The film won the Palme d’Or in 2005.

Tom served in the British Army as a gunner and spent four months in Northern Ireland. He was proud of his service and the film, and the fact his grandfather met his wife in County Cork in 1919, while also serving in the army. 

Ken Loach said: “I was so sorry to hear the sad news of Tom. It is dreadful that he has been lost at such a young age.

I remember him as a very friendly man, easy to work with and full of enthusiasm for what we were doing. We met Tom in Manchester and hit it off straightaway.

“He certainly made the opening scene memorable and led his platoon of soldiers with real authority.”

Other gritty characters Tom played on television, included a Victorian overseer in North and South (2004) and a cameo as the 1970s copper John Simm awakens to in the first episode of the Manchester-based Life on Mars (2005).

He appeared in Coronation Street, Brookside, the Royal and Heartbeat, but worked regularly on independent short films and features.

Jacqui Carroll, creative director of REELmcr, worked with Tom for over 17 years, making dramas and documentaries in some of the most deprived communities across the North West.

“Tom generously shared his tremendous acting talent with everyone,” she said. “He mentored young working class aspiring actors with incredible results. 

“I feel so lucky to have worked with Tom for as long I did, he became my best friend and I will miss him forever.”

On social media her company posted: “On Sunday November 15th 2020 Reelmcr lost part of its beating heart.

“Our Tom Charnock tragically passed away from COVID. We all thought he would beat this and be back smiling as always making us laugh.