1985 Emmerdale tribute article. Intense and snarling - Edward Peel took on the revised role of Tom Merrick in 1980, to be followed by Jack Carr a few years later. The fact that David Hill had once played a lazy, twisting version of Tom Merrick years before had been forgotten.
Maria has written:
I liked your post about the Merrick family. I used to lust after Edward Peel's Tom Merrick! I remember David Hill in the role, and, not to be rude, he was neither smouldering or attractive! Mr Peel had it all - a devious bad boy we ladies could love! Characters were often rewritten in Emmerdale Farm, weren't they? Ruth Merrick became Pat, and nobody could say she was chosen to look like the previous actress in the role. The same, as I've already mentioned, with Edward's Tom. I also recall the Merricks had three children originally, but in 1980 one of them was simply written out of existence. Ursula Camm's Meg Armstrong was also very different to Ruth's Holden's Meg in 1986. Ursula's was quiet, unhappy and stay at home, Ruth's was loud, eccentric and out and about. Great blog to read. I'm a long-time fan. Keep up the good work!
The Merricks had originally been a brief, "passing through" story - and when they were revamped in 1980, the writers transformed them into an interesting long term story-line concept. Edward Peel, of course, did not resemble the original Tom (David Hill) and Helen Weir did not resemble the original Ruth Merrick (Lynn Dalby).
In particular, Edward Peel's Tom had a snarling intensity that had previously been completely lacking.
Interviewed about his role as Tom years later, Mr Peel played down his impact, saying that Tom was simply up to his old tricks, but comparing episodes with David Hill and Edward Peel reveals that the character had become a lot more menacing and downright angry in the Edward Peel era.
It must be remembered that the Merrick family had previously featured as a short story-line eight years before, when VCRs were unknown in the UK, so viewers were not able to check what the family was originally like - although the Emmerdale Farm novels by Lee Mackenzie faithfully recorded the original facts about them, third child and all.
I don't know why Ruth's first name was changed to Pat - although at Pat's wedding to Jack in 1982, it was revealed that her full Christian names were Patricia Ruth, it didn't quite add up.
Whilst Coronation Street employed an archivist and most past story-line facts were rigidly adhered to (there were howls of protest when the age of Ken Barlow's twin children was altered to fit in with a story-line in 1978), Emmerdale Farm took a slightly more relaxed approach to its past.
As for Meg Armstrong - I think that the downtrodden Meg character, as played by Ursula Camm, had been taken as far as it could go, and that's why the character was so drastically altered in 1986.
Emmerdale Farm was never afraid to rewrite bits and pieces of its history!
Left: Ursula Camm as Meg Armstrong in 1983: downtrodden and frankly fed up with Seth's drinking, she locked him out of their home. Right: Ruth Holden was the new Meg Armstrong in 1986: chirpy, religious, and absolutely barking, she terrified Amos Brearly when she worked at The Woolpack for a while, told Mr Wilks that one of her favourite hymns was called "The Ship Of Temperance Is Sailing To The Port", and called Seth "poppet".