Who was Emmerdale’s Nellie Dingle, the relative that’s not been seen for 20 years?

Mandy mentioned a big blast from the past this evening

Nellie and Tina Dingle

“Being a Dingle has always been about blood,” Mandy Dingle said, addressing the bottom line in many of the Emmerdale family’s biggest fall-outs over the years. She explained in Tuesday’s March 17th episode why she kept Vinny’s parentage a secret and in the process recalled Aunt Nellie a member of the clan who has not been seen onscreen for decades.

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Aunt Nellie was Zak’s first wife. She was first played by Sandra Gough in 1995 (who had previously appeared in the soap between 1984 and 1991 as the more glamorous Doreen Shuttleworth, landlady of the the village’s rarely referenced second pub, The Maltshovel).

The mother of Nathan, Butch, Ben, Sam and Tina Dingle, Nellie was a fiery matriarch who only lasted a year in the village before she moved back to Ireland to look after her sick dad. The following year Zak (Steve Halliwell) met Lisa Clegg (Jane Cox) and he and Nellie were subsequently divorced.

Nellie returned to the Dales in 2000, now played by Maggie Tagney, and tried to break up Zak and Lisa’s marriage. She came preciously close to achieving that when son Butch Dingle was killed in a bus crash and Lisa was blamed for having serviced the bus. In the end a grief stricken Nellie went back to Ireland after Butch’s funeral.

Nellie Dingle Mk 2

Cousin Mandy’s discussion with Sam about the importance of blood relatives in the Dingle clan had brought up all sorts of past grievances. Lisa was almost thrown out of the family for reporting Liv Flaherty, Aaron Dingle’s sister, to the police when Liv accidentally spiked Lisa’s drink.

More recently Nate Robinson (Jurell Carter) caused chaos when he revealed himself to be Cain’s long lost son. Nate was told by his mother Cara (Carryl Thomas) that Cain had turned his back on him when in fact it had been Faith Dingle (Sally Dexter) trying to protect Nate from his racist biological grandfather Shadrach Dingle.

Referencing the troubles with Nate Mandy pointed out the fate that she assumed might be in store for Vinny. “You think they wouldn’t have treated him like some kind of add-on?” said Mandy, reminding Sam of his dad Zak’s own intolerance back in the day.

The fact that hard liner Cain has even mellowed to Nate after he kept the Dingle code and didn’t shop his dad to the police for accidentally shooting him suggests Vinny’s official entry into the family may not be as fraught as some. The only hope is that Mandy hasn’t got any more surprises up her sleeve now that the big secret is out.

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