Sheila Mercier, who played matriarch Annie Sugden on Emmerdale from 1972 until 2009, has died.
Born on 1st January 1919, Mercier was only a few weeks away from her 101st birthday.
The Hull-born actress made her debut as Annie in the very first episode of Emmerdale (then Emmerdale Farm), before departing in 1994 after 22 years. She later returned for a two-episode guest stint in 2009.
A spokesperson for the ITV soap said: “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.
“Annie Sugden embodied all the virtues of Yorkshire… she was hard working, resilient, determined, down to earth and didn’t suffer fools gladly.
“Sheila had many of those qualities too, putting the needs of the programme above her own and always delivering a great performance come rain or shine. She will be greatly missed.”
Mercier’s former Emmerdale co-stars Claire King (Kim Tate) and Mark Charnock (Marlon Dingle) also paid tribute to the actress.
RIP Sheila Mercier, the beating heart of Emmerdale, never forgotten, so many wonderful memories, love and condolences to all her family x pic.twitter.com/ysbPmukt3b
— Claire King (@claireking101) December 13, 2019
The great #SheilaMercier has left us. What an iconic character Annie Sugden was. Used to watch it with my grandparents as a boy, so to meet her in later years was a thrill. I was star struck and she was so lovely to me. RIP.
— Mark Charnock (@markcharnock) December 13, 2019
Before finding success on television, Mercier had a long and successful career on stage. In 1994, she her autobiography Annie’s Song: My Life & Emmerdale was published.