Matthew James "Matt" Skilbeck was a long running
Emmie matt 1988

Matt Skilbeck in 1988.

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 1991. He was played by Frederick Pyne.



Matt Skilbeck




Oliver Skilbeck


Elizabeth Skilbeck


Peggy Sugden (1965-1973), Dolly Acaster (1978-1991, 1992-)


Samuel and Sally Skilbeck (1973), Sam Skilbeck II (1982)



Matthew James Skilbeck was born in about 1945 in Beckindale the son of Oliver Skilbeck and Elizabeth Skilbeck. 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
Emmie matt skilbeck 1973

Matt in 1973.

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 haemorrhage. 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
Emmie matt skilbeck 1976

Matt Skilbeck in 1976 looking like he has got out of bed the wrong side.

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 Skilbecks 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.

In 1985 local villain Harry Mowlam began harassing Dolly. This lead to an eventual struggle between Matt and Harry when he caught him stealing Emmerdale Farm's sheep in January 1986. Mowlem was found dead the next morning by Henry Wilks and Matt was arrested and charged with manslaughter. He revisited the scene and Henry said he found the 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 but soon moved on with his life.

In April 1987, Matt pondered his future, as did all the villagers when the government proposed to build a nuclear dump in Beckindale. 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. 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". This may have made Jack think of the time when Matt was once wrongly accused of murder himself 2 years earlier. 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.

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. 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)

Memorable infoEdit

Birthday: 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.


Father Oliver Skilbeck

Mother Elizabeth Skilbeck

Siblings None

Spouses Peggy Sugden (1965-1973), Dolly Acaster (1978-1989, 1992-)

Children Samuel and Sally Skilbeck, Sam Skilbeck II

Cousins Polly Ferris

Uncles/Aunts Ned

Stepsons Graham Lodsworth

See alsoEdit


Emmie matt sad in 1976

Matt has to deal with the death of his children in January 1976 after a tragic accident.