Friday, 4 September 2009

1984: Jack Sugden - Being Dad...

Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock) and Jack Sugden (Clive Hornby) - discovered they were father and son in the early 1980s...

It was never going to be easy. When Pat Merrick (Helen Weir) told Jack Sugden that her son, Jackie, was also Jack's son in late 1981, she knew it wasn't going to be easy.

When Jack had left Beckindale in 1964, Pat had discovered she was pregnant. And so she'd married Tom Merrick. She had feelings for Tom, but was it love?

But the idea of being an unwed Mum in Beckindale at that time was unthinkable, and Pat had acted quickly, out of fear for her future and that of her unborn child.

And Tom Merrick believed that Jackie was his son.

And Jackie believed that Tom was his father.

Tom may have had faint suspicions at times, in fact probably more than that (at one point in the dim and distant past Tom had used the idea that Jackie was Jack's son to try a little blackmail), but Tom loved the little lad in his way and, at the end of the day, believed they were kith and kin.

Another child, Sandie, arrived a year or two later, and the Merricks settled down to a rather miserable existence.

Tom was shiftless and sly. And he wasn't above giving the kids and Pat a "good hiding" at times.

In 1980, Pat took her courage in both hands and left Tom.

In 1981, he gave her another "good hiding".

Life in a caravan for Pat and Jackie after their return to Beckindale in 1980.

1980 had also seen Jack Sugden return to his home village and the old chemistry between himself and Pat was re-ignited.

And in 1981 there was talk of marriage.

But there was a curious tension in the relationship, certain things were being left unsaid, and both Jack and Pat knew it.

Then, as preparations for Christmas began, Pat came straight out and told Jack that he was Jackie's father.

And then Jack blurted out the shock news to Jackie, and Jackie went to see Tom in Hotten to get reassurance that what Jack said wasn't true, and realisation hit Tom.

At first, he rejected Jackie.

Jackie was not the most mature of teens, and took this badly, planning to run away, but his position as gamekeeper's assistant at NY Estates enabled Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards) to convince him to stay - at least to work out his notice.

And then Jackie decided to stay on in Beckindale permanently.

Gamekeeper Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards) became fond of Jackie and concerned for his welfare.

Annie Sugden (Sheila Mercier) actually enlisted Tom's help. She desperately wanted her grandson "in the family". Tom's mother had been a friend of Annie's, and Tom liked and respected her.

He told Jackie that not all the Sugdens were bad.

And Sandie (Jane Hutcheson) convinced Jackie to make the run-up to the wedding of Pat and Jack a happy time for their mother.

Edward Peel stepped into the role of Tom Merrick in late 1980, and took the character to new heights of sneering intensity.

In October 1982, Pat and Jack married, and Pat, Sandie and Jackie moved into Emmerdale Farm.

But Jackie, after the briefest of stays and a row with Jack, decided to hole up in the NY Estates caravan the family had lived in since 1980.

And when he was sacked from his job as gamekeeper's assistant, he flew into a drunken tantrum and torched the caravan.

Sandie and Jackie look on aghast as the caravan burns...

The vicar of St Mary's Church, Beckindale, the Rev Donald Hinton, stepped in - offering Jackie accommodation, and to speak up for him in court.

Jackie got a community service order.

He moved back into Emmerdale Farm in 1983, when it was discovered that Sandie was pregnant.

Pat was horrified. History was repeating itself. Sandie was only eighteen. As she told Sandie, despite the fact that people were not supposed to be bothered by pregnancy out of wedlock in the early 1980s, they were.

And single mothers got the "worst end of the world".

Sandie decided to have the baby adopted, and moved up to Scotland to be with Tom for the duration of her pregnancy.

Which left Jackie living at Emmerdale with his real father.

Jack and Jackie bonded a little during 1983.

But they didn't reach a true father-and-son relationship.

And perhaps that was only to be expected.

Jack did not want to do anything to upset his fragile relationship with Jackie, and, as Pat said he was "as soft as butter" with him.

When Jackie bought a motorbike, Pat was worried that he was using it to go out drinking.

Jackie and Jack laughed at her tendency to fret - more like two young lads than father and son.

Jackie was finding growing up difficult: there he was, in his late teens, but still very immature. He could be extremely thoughtless and selfish and his occasional tendency to throw tantrums if people did not see things his way was rather wearing.

But, in 1984, Jack was proud when Jackie managed to deliver his first calf.

Jack, Pat, and Matt and Dolly Skilbeck (Frederick Pyne and Jean Rogers) had gone out to dinner at The Feathers Hotel in Connelton. Back at the farm, a cow had unexpectedly gone into labour, and Jackie had gone smoothly into action, aided by Henry Wilks (Arthur Pentelow) and the Rev Donald Hinton.

Jack was proud of his cows. Since his return in 1980, he'd been building up the Emmerdale herd's Friesian pedigree. He reckoned he should be proud. When he thought back to his father's cattle after the War... well, he reckoned he had cause to be proud.

The Reverend Donald Hinton - a good friend to Jackie.

Jackie was showing more interest in sheep than cows, and Matt was Emmerdale's shepherd. Spending long periods out with the flock and Matt and Nell the sheepdog, Jackie began to confide in Matt about things he felt unable to confide in Jack.

Jack became aware of this, and was hurt. But he said nothing, fearing that he might Jackie drive further away from him if he did.

When the NY Estates bull got out, and did what came naturally with some of Jack's prize Friesians, Jack was furious and blamed Alan Turner (Richard Thorp). Jackie reckoned that he was probably responsible for the bull getting out. He confided in Matt, who advised him to keep quiet - as he wasn't absolutely positive that he was the culprit, surely it wasn't worth the trouble of owning up?

Jackie was nearly certain the incident had been his fault, but didn't trust or feel close enough to Jack to tell him.

Sandie, her baby born and adopted, returned from Scotland for a visit to the farm. Tom (now played by Jack Carr), accompanied her.

Her ex-husband's return threw Pat into a tizzy - what was he up to? Had he returned to England with Sandie simply to ensure that Sandie would go back to to Aberdeen with him? Pat desperately wanted her daughter to live at the farm again.

Jack was hurt that Jackie still referred to Tom as "Dad", but not him.

In fact, Jack bore the brunt of Pat's fears about Tom without being able to express his own concerns a great deal at all.

And he went out of his way to be fair to Tom, not wanting to upset Jackie who still clearly looked up to the man.

Life was often a worry for poor Pat...

Tom still regarded Jackie as his son in many ways, and resented the influence of Jack Sugden in the lad's life.

And then came an opportunity for Tom to "reclaim" Jackie.

Derek Warner, an old pal of Tom's, offered him a part in a terrific money-making venture - poaching fish from the river at NY Estates.

And Tom invited Jackie along for some "fishing".

When Jackie discovered what was going on, he wanted no part in it. Tom, Derek and an associate were using explosives to kill the fish, and then simply scooping them out of the river with nets.

After one session, Jackie had had enough. But Tom sneered at him - would he rather be up at Emmerdale, "philosophising" with Jack Sugden, he asked?

Tom gave some of the trout to Annie Sugden and was invited to partake of the feast at the farm. He thoroughly enjoyed being there, with the "holier than thou" Sugdens, tucking into the stolen trout, when Sergeant MacArthur (Martin Dale) called to inform them of the poaching activities in the district.

The two faces of Tom Merrick in the 1980s, Edward Peel and Jack Carr. Less intense but just as sly, Jack Carr's interpretation of the character ensured that Tom Merrick's visits to Beckindale continued to be a source of trouble to the locals.

Jackie accompanied his "father" on another poaching trip, but left him to it early on.

Tom was furious and almost struck the lad.

Jackie was letting him down in front of his two associates.

But the game was up. Tom and co were apprehended by the police with a van full of stolen trout that night. Seth Armstrong had seen the van heading for the river, and alerted Alan Turner.

It was a good job that Jackie had left the scene of the crime.

Jackie flew into a childish strop with Seth when he discovered that he had "blown the whistle", and lived in fear that the police would soon be arriving at Emmerdale Farm to pick him up.

He told Sandie about his involvement in the fish poaching, but otherwise the family at the farm knew nothing of it.

Until Pat visited Tom at the police station. And he told her that Jackie had nothing to worry about - he and his associates would be keeping the boy's part in the crime quiet.

"You bastard!" said Pat.

And Tom laughed.

During their marriage he had sometimes felt that Pat looked down on him. He hated her deceit over Jackie, hated the way his family had been revealed as a lie in 1981.

And now Pat was up there at Emmerdale with the high-and-mighty Sugdens.

But he could still get at her.

Tom returned to Scotland, on bail, with Sandie - much to Pat's distress.

And Jack got on with the task of trying to build a closer relationship with his son.

One big happy family? The Emmerdale Farm folk in the summer of 1984.

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