Matthew James "Matt" Skilbeck was a long running
character in Emmerdale Farm for almost 20 years from the shows beginning in Episode 1 (16th October 1972) to Episode 1410 (7th December 1989). He was the gentle shepherd who was a honest and reliable farm worker down at Emmerdale Farm, although he did lose his temper twice, with villains Harry Mowlam and Eric Pollard. Matt was once accused of the murder of the former but was cleared when Derek Warner, the real culprit admiited the truth after the police closed in on him. Matt was married to Peggy and then Dolly Acaster from 1978 to 1990. In 1988, Matt inherited Crossgill and this made Dolly have delusions of grandeur. Matt was happy with how he was, so Dolly saw that as boring an embarked on an affair, ending Matt and Dolly's marriage. In December 1989, new Home Farm owner Frank Tate secured Matt a job in Norfolk so Matt started afresh down there and left Beckindale. He was played by Frederick Pyne.
Peggy Sugden (1965-1973), Dolly Acaster (1978-1991, 1992-)
Matthew James Skilbeck was born in 1948 in Beckindale, the son of Oliver Skilbeck and Elizabeth Skilbeck (Nee Barlow). He was orphaned as a young child. He was bought up by his aunty Beattie Dowton and her husband Ben Dowton. Matt worked on the land from a young age and first knew the Sugdens when he was 16 years old in about 1960. In the mid to late 1960s he met farmers daughter Peggy Sugden and they married in August 1965. Peggy was the daughter of Jacob and Annie Sugden.
In October 1972 when Jacob Sugden died Matt carried on helping out on the farm. The farm was bequeathed to
Jacob's eldest son Jack. Peggy, Matt's wife persuaded him to take a factory job in Bradford once she learned she was pregnant but Matt was seen as unskilled so stayed on in Beckindale. They moved into Hawthorn Cottage. In April 1973 Peggy gave birth to twins Sam and Sally Skilbeck. However, tragedy followed in July that year when she died suddenly of a subarachnoid hemorrhage. A devastated Matt threw himself into his work. Due to her death Matt inherited her shares at Emmerdale Farm Ltd. In January 1976 the twins were set to live with the Aunt
Beattie but all 3 of them were killed in a car crash on a level crossing. The car had stalled on the level crossing and was hit by an oncoming train. Matt was yet again marred by tragedy.
In 1977, Matt started dating Woolpack barmaid Dolly Acaster. In 1978 a cousin of his, Polly Ferris turned up. Matt and Dolly married at St Mary's Beckindale on the 29th June 1978. The couple occupied the attic bedroom at Emmerdale Farm, and Dolly was welcomed to the house by Annie and Sam. Dolly suffered a miscarriage in 1980 but the Skilbeck's finally had a son, Sam, in December 1982. This was the year that Matt converted the barn at the back of Emmerdale farm house into a cottage, a home for himself, Dolly and the new baby. Jackie Merrick, who was Jack Sugden's son, worked at Emmerdale after being sacked from Home Farm for torching their caravan. Jackie was often late for work and lazy, and this annoyed Matt who was a workaholic.
In 1983 local villain Harry Mowlam was mistreating his dog and Matt intervened. This started a rivalry. Although for a year or so, Mowlam then left Matt alone. That was until the autumn of 1985 when Harry bought land next to Emmerdale and became their neighbour from hell, as he sabotaged the harvest that year.
In November 1985, Harry Mowlam began harassing Matt's wife Dolly. He was still peeved at Matt for confiscating his abused dog 2 years earlier. Mowlam even caused Dolly to have a miscarriage and committed robbery. In January 1986, Matt tended to some of Mowlam's sheep but 3 of them died in Matt's care. Mowlam blamed Matt and made more advances towards Dolly. Mowlam planned to steal some of Matt's sheep to compensate. Matt caught Mowlam stealing, so he tried to stop him driving away. Mowlam crashed into a wall, dragged Matt out of the truck and started beating Matt up. Mowlam had Matt in a bear hug so Matt grabbed him by the neck to get free. Mowlam then tripped and fell down the river bank. A dazed and shaken Matt then went home.
Mowlam was found dead the next morning by Henry Wilks, who then found that Matt had been in a fight with Mowlam the day before. Matt was then told that Harry Mowlam has been found dead. Matt was arrested and faced tough questioning. Matt said how Mowlam had him in a bear hug, so Matt grabbed him by the neck to get free. The police knew that Mowlam had made many advances towards Matt's wife, even causing a miscarriage. Due to this, the police thought that Matt was lying about how Mowlam got the marks on his neck, and that Matt had really followed him down the riverbank, beat him up then held him underwater until he finished Mowlam off. Matt was charged with murder. A few days later, he was granted bail.
In mid February 1986, Matt revisited the scene with Henry, and Henry said he found Mowlam's dead body 20 yards from where Matt last saw him. But Matt was later cleared when Harry's accomplice, the equally nasty Derek Warner confessed to the crime. The police knew Matt was not capable of murder and could not drag a man who was twice his size 20 yards downstream. Matt kept thinking of Mowlam, and how he wanted to kill him but he pulled himself together and moved on with his life, putting Mowlam to the very back of his mind. In August 1986, Pat Sugden was killed, and Jack was devastated, and went missing, so Matt and Jackie went looking for him. Matt supported Jack during his grief. Matt and Dolly were stunned when Dolly's illegitimate son Graham Lodsworth, a Grant Mitchell lookalike, turned up in December 1986. Graham did cause some trouble for Matt and Dolly but returned to the army in February 1987.
In April 1987, Matt, and the entire villagers of Beckindale pondered their future, when the government proposed to build a nuclear dump in Beckindale. This involved months of campaigning and protesting. In September that year, the plans were abandoned and the village returned to quiet. In late 1987, Matt's luck was in as he found he had inherited Crossgill Farm off the previous owner, Mr Metcalfe, who had told Matt a secret that he killed his wife when she wanted to leave him 40 years earlier. Due to inheriting Crossgill, Matt's wife Dolly wanted to move in but the house burned down whilst undergoing renovations. The couple started to grow apart and Dolly had an affair with lumberjack Steve Fuller. In July 1988 when Matt found his wife Dolly had cheated on him he even said "I sometimes think I could murder her" and Jack looked shocked. Matt said "Just for a second". Matt and Dolly later split up.
In November 1989, Matt got into a bit of a war with Chris Tate, whose father Frank Tate had just bought Home Farm. Matt had been horrified to find that Chris was transporting sheep to Hotten Market with no regard for regulations designed for their comfort and safety. Frank Tate, Chris's father, was impressed by Matt's dedication to his work as a shepherd, and was instrumental in Matt being offered a new job - 200 miles away in West Raynham, Norfolk. Matt took the job.
And so, in December 1989, Matt decided there was nothing left for him in Beckindale and accepted the offer to run a sheep farm in Norfolk. He wanted to start afresh well away from Beckindale. Frank said one of his haulage trucks is heading to Norwich tonight, so Matt can get a lift. On the 7th December 1989, Matt Skilbeck left for Norfolk, never returning to Beckindale.
Dolly and Sam apparently later followed him and they remarried offscreen in 1992, however this is yet to be confirmed.
First appearance Episode 1 (16th October 1972)
Last appearance Episode 1410 (7th December 1989)
Birthday: 1948 (Originally 1945)
Full Name: Matthew James Skilbeck
In January 1974, Matt said he gave his daughter Sally her middle name of Elizabeth after his mother and wanted to give Samuel the middle name of Oliver after his father but his initials would be SOS so Matt and Peggy chose William.
Matt said he was 16 when he first met the Sugden's and in 1986, Annie said she had known Matt for 25 years. This gives 1944/1945 as a birth date for Matt later altered to 1947/1948.
Father Oliver Skilbeck
Mother Elizabeth Skilbeck
Cousins Polly Ferris
Stepsons Graham Lodsworth
Grandfathers Michael Barlow