When Dolly Skilbeck (Jean Rogers) took the best tea service and placed it on the dresser, ready for a wash as part of spring cleaning, she had no idea that this would bring about the end of a treasured possession for Annie Sugden (Sheila Mercier).
There had been a spate of burglaries in the district. And, late that night, the burglar came to Emmerdale Farm...
... and, once inside, began seeking valuables - as burglars tend to do.
Upstairs in the attic bedroom, Matt Skilbeck (Frederick Pyne) was restless, worried over a poorly ewe in the barn. He told Dolly he would go out to check on her, but Dolly advised not - it was best to get some sleep, he'd only disturb the ewe. Suddenly, there came a crash from downstairs! The clumsy burglar had managed to knock the tea service from the dresser to the floor as he probed around by the light of his torch.
Matt dashed downstairs, to find the burglar gone, the door wide open, and the shattered tea service all over the floor.
Sergeant MacArthur (Martin Dale) informed Matt and Jack Sugden (Clive Hornby) that although the door lock was strong, the wood around it was weak. There was no point in having a good lock if the surround was like plywood. And wasn't it a bit daft to keep the sheep dogs, Nell and Snip, in the buildings at the back of the farm?
Matt and Jack took the lecture quietly, although Jack later told Matt that he didn't like Sergeant MacArthur very much at all.
The next day, in the farmhouse, Dolly and Annie chatted. Annie was distressed over the loss of the tea service.
"It were a wedding present. I 'ad an aunt, lived in Richmond. We never saw 'er from one year's end to the next. But she turned up at the wedding with this present. It was good china, too - not the sort of present you expected in them days. You never knew Jacob, did you, lass? But you know things weren't always what they might have been between us. But there were good times - especially at the beginning. It was a marvellous wedding. Everybody singing and laughing and joking and folk all pleased to be with each other. Jacob had one too many, of course. But in them days he knew how to make folk laugh. And how to make folk love him... Somehow this china seems to stand for all that was good between Jacob and me..."
Matt was inducting Snip, a new sheepdog, at Emmerdale and one day, shortly after the burglary, Snip ran out into the road near the farm and was run over and killed by a speeding red Escort car.
Matt contacted the police.
Meanwhile, young Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock) and Andy Longthorn (David Clayforth) had stumbled across some of the burglar's loot at derelict Alder Cottages.
The burglar turned out to be the driver of the red Escort - he was pulled over and a stolen television and two radios were discovered in the back seat. Sergeant McArthur surmised that the man was in the act of hurriedly fleeing from the area, having discovered that the hiding place for his spoils at Alder Cottages had been rumbled.
Matt called the old faithful Nell out of service to resume sheepdog duties at Emmerdale.
And Jack, Joe (Frazer Hines), Matt and Dolly clubbed together to buy Annie a brand new tea service, an act which touched and pleased her greatly.