Thursday, 15 October 2009

Emmerdale In The News - 1983: The Farmer's Wife Who Is Afraid Of Cows

Sunday Mirror, 3/7/1983:

"Emmerdale Farm" is making a quiet assault on the TV ratings. It is at number 5 in the ITV top ten, rivalling "Crossroads" for the title of Britain's most popular show after "Coronation Street"....

Helen Weir fled to a cast caravan as a gaggle of particularly loud and petulant geese played havoc with the film set outside.

Helen had no intention of tangling with them.

Even after three years with "Emmerdale Farm", 42-year-old Helen still can't cope with animals.

"I'm just terrified of horses," said Helen, who plays Pat, the wife of Jack Sugden (Clive Hornby). "And I hate going into a field of cows."

But the goat Pat Sugden looks after in the programme is helping Helen to get over her nervousness.

"The viewers have been marvellous," she said. "I'm always getting letters advising me on how to handle the goat."

Annabelle, Pat's goat, wreaked havoc, and formed part of an excellent storyline in which Pat, tired of criticism about her cooking, moved out of the kitchen a little and got out and about on the farm.

Back in 1983, many members of the cast believed that the show should have a prime time slot in the London area. But Sheila Mercier, the farm's matriarch Annie Sugden, did not agree...

Unlike her famous brother Brian Rix, the former king of the Whitehall farces, Sheila is shy and reserved and guards her privacy.

Thames TV's stubborn refusal to shift the series from their afternoon schedule suits Sheila just fine because she can live undisturbed by fans in Shepperton, Middlesex, with Peter, her husband and agent.

"Yes," admitted Sheila. "I am happy that the series goes out at a time when not many people are watching."

But something no viewer ever sees is the secret battle against pain which Sheila fights every time she gets on set. She is in constant agony with arthritis - and that's why the motherly, houseproud Annie is never seen scrubbing floors.

"I just can't kneel down," she explained. "I've tried everything from acupuncture to faith healing but it's still painful."

Sheila says there are few similarities between herself and Annie. "Annie is wise and I'm not. I'm not as compassionate as Annie. She is religious - and I'm not.

"But we're both good cooks."

Annie copes with a crisis in 1983: she has just discovered that her son Joe (Frazer Hines) is having an affair with the vicar's married daughter, Barbara Peters (Rosie Kerslake).

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