Emmerdale Star Dies aged 100

Emmerdale pays tribute as actress Sheila Mercier, who played the village stalwart Annie Sugden, has sadly died aged 100.

Emmerdale News: Sheila Mercier aka Annie Sugden dies aged 100
Sheila Mercier aka Emmerdale stalwart Annie Sugden

Emmerdale legend Sheila Mercier, who played village matriarch Annie Sugden, has died peacefully in her sleep according to former colleague Frederick Pyne.

Frederick, who played Matt Skilbeck, took to social media to share the news. He posted: “Sad to tell all you Emmerdale fans that Sheila Mercier, Annie Sugden, died peacefully in her sleep… She would have been 101 years old on New Years Day. She was a great character and wonderful to work with.”

Sheila appeared as a series regular in Emmerdale from the very first episode until 1994, when her on-screen character moved abroad. She made guest appearances in the years after, the last being in 2009 for the funeral of her on-screen son Jack Sugden’s funeral. In Emmerdale, Annie’s home in Spain was often referenced to explain the disappearance of one of her family members.

An Emmerdale spokesperson said: “Its always sad to hear of the death of an actor who played a significant part in Emmerdale’s success. Even more so when that actor was in the very first episode and around whose family the show was built. ‘Annie Sugden’ embodied all the virtues of Yorkshire… She was hard working, resilient, determined, down to earth and didn’t suffer fools gladly. Sheila had many of those qualities too, putting the needs of the programme above her own and always delivering a great performance come rain or shine. She will be greatly missed.”

An obituary by ATV Today, revealed Sheila trained as an actress at the Stratford-upon-Avon College of Drama under Randle Ayrton. Later she was spotted by actor-manager Sir Donald Wolfit and he promptly placed her in his touring Shakespeare Company in 1939. World War II however was looming and it wasn’t long before Sheila offered her services to support the cause. She worked for the RAF Fighter Command, rising to the rank of adjutant.

Once the battles were won Mercier returned to acting in repertory theatre and made her television debut on the BBC in 1946 as Mrs Moss in Exercise Bowler. In the same year she began working with her brother, who was working as an actor-manager. While in repertory she met her husband, actor Peter Mercier. They were married for 42 years until his death in 1993.

They had one child, Nigel David – who followed in their showbiz footsteps by becoming an editor at London Weekend Television. As part of the Whitehall Theatre Company she acted in productions such as Chase Me Comrade! and Uproar In The House. Later more television roles followed including parts in her brother’s series Dial Rix in 1962, and a decade later, Six Of Rix. Sheila has also appeared in two movies, The Night We Dropped A Clanger and The Night We Got The Bird. It wasn’t until 1972 however she would reach her biggest audience with the new Yorkshire Television soap, Emmerdale Farm.

Emmerdale fans shared their sadness of the news on social media. They were joined by actress Claire King, who plays Kim Tate, said on Twitter: “RIP Sheila Mercier, the beating heart of Emmerdale, never forgotten, so many wonderful memories, love and condolences to all her family x”

Dominic Brunt, who plays vet Paddy Kirk, added: “Rest in Peace Sheila! I met her many times over the years. Sheila was the centre of Emmerdale for so many years. When I think of growing up watching the show, Sheila always springs to mind. A brilliant, underrated and subtle actor who we owe a debt of gratitude. Thank you Shelia.”

ITV and Emmerdale are yet to comment.