British Soap Operas

British Soap Actress Sheila Mercier Has Passed Away

Emmerdale Sheila MercierEmmerdale Sheila Mercier

Actress Shelia Mercier, best known for her two-decade stint on the ITV serial Emmerdale, has passed away – a mere four weeks shy of her 101st birthday.

Emmerdale Bids Shelia Mercier Adieu

A tribute to the late, much-lamented actress was posted on the official Emmerdale Twitter feed soon after the passing was announced on December 13. It reads in part, “We’re very sad to hear about the passing of Shelia Mercier.

“It’s always sad to hear of the death of an actor who played a significant part in Emmerdale’s success. Even more so when that actor was in the very first episode and around whose family the show was built.”

Born Shelia Betty Rix, Mercier was the daughter of business owner Herbert Rix and his wife Fanny. She trained for a life on the stage at the famed Stratford-upon-Avon College of Drama under the tutelage of Randle Ayrton.

Upon being scouted by Donald Wolfit, Mercier joined his touring Shakespeare repertory company. At the onset of World War II, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force – a division of the Royal Air Force – where she served as a flight commander and eventually earned the distinction of being adjutant.

After the declaration of Armistice, Mercier returned to the stage and appeared in a number of classic productions including Noel Coward’s Hay Fever and Jean Cocteau’s The Eagle with Two Heads.

Between 1951 and 1972, Mercier worked alongside her brother Brian in the Whitehall Farces, which they took on tour and performed for BBC television cameras. Though she had to depart the company, she did so to accept a lead role in an experimental daytime program entitled Emmerdale Farm.

Ostensibly the star of the program for many years, Mercier played farm woman Annie Sugden, who would be besotted with a whole host of problems courtesy of her wayward offspring who had a nasty habit of either sleeping with or marrying the wrong person – and then dropping dead!

Mercier remained with the serial for over 22 years before finally bowing out. Despite her exit as a main cast member, she did return on a number of occasions.

She was preceded in death by her husband of 42 years, Peter Mercier, their son, Nigel Mercier, and her brother Brian Norman Rix.

Emmerdale airs in its home country of Great Britain every weeknight at 7 p.m. on ITV. A second, half-hour edition also airs weekly, on Thursday nights, at 8 p.m.


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