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Emmerdale Farm (ITV 1972, Sheila Mercier, Frazer Hines)



Rural soap Emmerdale has changed out of all recognition since its humble beginnings on daytime TV on 16 October 1972 as Emmerdale Farm. When it began (with a funeral) the show was almost wholly concerned with the Sugden family led by the newly widowed matriarch Annie. Eldest son (and black sheep) Jack also returned home after years away.

The title of the show was also the Sugden’s Farm which had been left to Jack by his father. Also involved in the farm were youngest son Joe, daughter Peggy and her husband Matt Skilbeck and wily old Sam Pearson (Annie’s ageing father). The two other main characters during the shows early years were somewhat cantankerous pub landlord Amos Brearley (he of the famous mutton chop sideburns) and businessman Henry Wilks who not only ended up as co-landlord of the Woolpack Inn with Amos but also part owner of Emmerdale Farm Ltd (Jack decided to share the farm out among the family, Sam Pearson then sold his share to Henry).

Although part of the ITV Network’s daytime schedules the show was very popular (even being repeated at night in many ITV regions) and as time went on the show was moved nearer and nearer to prime time to its current spot of being shown each week night at 7.00pm.

It wasn’t until 1976 that the show opened out to take in more characters such as Matt’s second wife Dolly Acaster and in the late seventies two characters still in the show today gamekeeper Seth Armstrong and tubby Alan Turner (Turner initially worked for conglomerate NY Estates and later took over the Woolpack from Henry and Amos). Jack Sugden (now played by a different actor) later got married to his childhood sweetheart Pat (he had unknowingly got her pregnant before leaving the village years before) and learned he had a teenage son called Jackie.


Since that time the show has opened out all the more until now farming has very little to do with the show. There have been several spectacularly outrageous incidents since the early nineties (such as a plane crashing on the village wiping out many cast members, sieges and bus crashes). With the de-emphasising of the farming aspects the shows producers decided to shorten the title of the show to simply Emmerdale they also renamed the village of Beckindale again calling it Emmerdale.

Some facts:- The first Emmerdale wedding was between that of Frank Blakey and Janie Harker in March 1973. The first death of course occurred in the first episode with the funeral of Annie’s husband Jacob. The first shop owner was Amy Postlethwaite who sold out to Alison Gibbons and Henry Wilks. Longest running policeman was Sergeant MacArthur. The vicar in Beckindale for the earliest years was the Reverend Ruskin but the longest serving was the Reverend Donald Hinton.

Although the show is now very removed from its simple roots it remains one of the UK’s big three soaps behind Coronation Street and Eastenders.

production details
UK / ITV – Yorkshire / x30 minute episodes / Broadcast 16 October 1972 – continuing


Creator: Kevin Laffan / Theme Music: Tony Hatch

cast members have included
SHEILA MERCIER as Annie Sugden
ANDREW BURT as Jack Sugden(1)
CLIVE HORNBY as Jack Sugden(1980- )
FRAZER HINES as Joe Sugden
TOKE TOWNLEY as Sam Pearson
FREDERICK PYNE as Matt Skilbeck
JO KENDALL as Peggy Sugden/Skilbeck
RONALD MAGILL as Amos Brearly
GAIL HARRISON as Marian Wilks(1)
LESLEY MANVILLE as Rosemary Kendall
KATHERINE BARKER as Dolly Skilbeck(1)
JEAN ROGERS as Dolly Skilbeck(2)
HELEN WIER as Pat Merrick/Sugden
IAN SHARROCK as Jackie Merrick
JANE HUTCHESON as Sandie Merrick
STAN RICHARDS as Seth Armstrong
RICHARD THORP as Alan Turner
CHRIS CHITTELL as Eric Pollard
GLENDA MACKAY as Rachel Hughes
HUGH MANNING as Reverend Hinton
PETER AMORY as Chris Tate
PAULA TILBROOK as Betty Eggleton
BILLY HARTMAN as Terry Woods
JOHNNY LEEZE as Ned Glover
SAMANTHA GILES as Bernice Blackstock
PAUL LOUGHRAN as Butch Dingle
JANE COX as Lisa Dingle
LISA RILEY as Mandy Dingle
MARK CHARNOCK as Marlon Dingle
PAULA TILBROOK as Betty Eagleton
STUART WADE as Biff Fowler
NICKY EVANS as Roy Glover
SALLY WALSH as Lyn Hutchinson
LOUISE BEATTIE as Laura Johnstone
FREYA COPELAND as Angie Reynolds
STEPHEN McGANN as Sean Reynolds
SHEREE MURPHY as Tricia Stokes
VICTORIA BINNS as Ollie Reynolds
MADELEINE HOWARD as Sarah Sugden(1)
ALYSON SPIRO as Sarah Sugden(2)
JOHN MIDDLETON as Rev Ashley Thomas
ADELE SILVA as Kelly Windsor/Glover
DEENA PAYNE as Viv Windsor

Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.

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