Sheila Mercier died peacefully in her sleep, according to her former co-star Frederick Pyne, reports the Metro. The actress was best known for playing Annie Sugden in Emmerdale, and was introduced when the show first launched in 1972.
Frederick, who played Matt Skilbeck in the ITV soap from 1972 until 1989, alongside Sheila, wrote on social media: “Sad to tell all you Emmerdale fans that Sheila Mercier, Annie Sugden, died peacefully in her sleep…
“She would have been 101 years old on New Years Day. She was a great character and wonderful to work with.”
After leaving the Dales in the mid 1990s, Sheila made a guest return in 2009 at the funeral of her on-screen son, Jack Sugden, played by Clive Hornby, who died the year previous from cancer.
Clive had played Jack for 28 years on Emmerdale and members of the Sugden family past and present gathered to bid him farewell in a special tribute episode.
The soap had wrote Clive out when he fell ill but his character was mentioned to have been looking after his elderly mother, Anne, at her home in Spain.
Talking about the episode surrounding his funeral, Sheila said: “It was a pleasure to return for this special tribute.
“It will be a fitting way to celebrate the life and memory of one of Emmerdale’s dearest characters.”
Sheila went on to be Emmerdale’s longest running original actor and was a firm favourite with viewers.
Sheila Mercier has died at the age of 100
Sheila Mercier returned to Emmerdale in 2009
Her character, Annie, was placed at the centre of the soap’s action, which originally was called Emmerdale Farm.
Sheila was born in Hull, Yorkshire, in 1919 and went on to have a long career on stage before hitting the small screen.
She was talent spotted whilst touring with a Shakespeare company.
In 1939, Sheila joined the WAAF division of the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, serving in fighter command.
Sheila Mercier was a fan favourite as Annie Sugden
Sheila’s husband, Peter Mercier, died in 1993 and they had one child together, a son Nigel, who died in 2017.
Emmerdale fans have paid tribute to the soap legend on Twitter, with one person writing: “Farewell to #Emmerdale legend Sheila Mercier, known to millions as Annie Sugden, who has left us at the grand old age of 100.”
Another said: “Sheila Mercier, who played Annie Sugden in Emmerdale has died. I’m so thankful to her for playing Annie the way she did. I watch a lot of Classic Emmerdale, and she’s one of my favourites. A real Emmerdale legend, and the original Sugden xxx.”
A third commented: “Annie Sugden was a really good lady in Emmerdale. I can still remember her voice.. God Bless RIP. X.”
A fourth said: “Sad news. I loved watching Annie Sugden when I was little. She was a formidable character in #Emmerdale.”