Al Dixon - Woolpack Walter, 1980 to 1985,
I've received an e-mail from somebody apparently called Tibbles.
Tibbles has recently viewed the 1985 TV special celebrating 1,000 episodes of Emmerdale Farm, which featured actor Al Dixon, the show's silent Walter character in the early-to-mid-1980s.
Why, asks Tibbles, did Richard Whiteley, the show's presenter, state that Al Dixon had not spoken a word during 13 years in Emmerdale Farm, and yet Al Dixon did not actually first appear as Walter until 1980?
It's probably an error, Tibbles - although it is possibly a slightly garbled reference to Al Dixon's first Emmerdale Farm role - he appeared in a photograph as Jacob Sugden, alongside Sheila Mercier as Annie. The photograph stood on the farm's mantelpiece in the very early days.
So, Al Dixon had played two silent roles in Emmerdale Farm.
Sheila Mercier revealed in her autobiography, Annie's Song (1994):
It was decided there should be a photograph of Annie with her late husband, Jacob, on the mantelpiece [at Emmerdale Farm] and they chose Al Dixon to pose for a picture with me. I was absolutely furious because I thought Annie should have a great lion of a man for a husband, not a tiny, weedy thing like he was. I took it out on Al and couldn't bring myself to be nice to him, although he was terribly nice to me. I still couldn't forgive him for daring to be my husband.
Mr Dixon became Walter in September 1980 and was last seen on-screen in December 1985. There were some delightful clips on YouTube in recent years showing a totally different actor being a Woolpack Walter in the late '70s. The actor playing "old Walter", listed in a 1976 TV Times special, was Geoffrey Hooper. Mr Hooper's Walter was, apparently, occasionally known to speak. The story of Walter, as far as we know it, is covered in more detail here.
The wonderful thing about the 1,ooo episode celebration was that we actually heard the '80s Walter (Mr Dixon) speak! Had he ever been tempted to speak in the show? asked Richard. "Oh, many times!" said Mr Dixon..