Sheila Mercier will be best remembered as the stern matriarch Annie Sugden in ITV’s Emmerdale Farm (latterly, Emmerdale) for 22 years from 1972, briefly returning in 1995 and 2009.
An elder sister of the actor and impresario Brian Rix, she was born in Hull and made her professional debut in the Humberside city’s Grand Theatre before touring with Donald Wolfit. Seasons in regional reps followed after the Second World War (during which she served as an adjutant with Royal Air Force Fighter Command) and a spell with the Viking theatre company, her brother’s early venture into producing.
The family connection continued throughout the next two decades, Mercier becoming an integral part of Rix’s hugely successful Whitehall farces, notably in the long-running Dry Rot (1956), Simple Spymen (1958), One for the Pot (1961), Chase Me Comrade (1964) and Uproar in the House (1967).
Her last theatre appearances included Vernon Sylvaine’s Will Any Gentleman? and One Wild Oat at Cardiff’s New Theatre in 1971 before the demands of appearing in more than 1,300 episodes of Emmerdale kept her away from the stage and other television roles.
She published an autobiography (co-written with Anthony Hayward), Annie’s Song: My Life and Emmerdale, in 1994.
Sheila Betty Mercier was born on January 1, 1919 and died on December 4, 2019 aged 100.