Hugh Manning

Long-serving vicar in the TV soap 'Emmerdale'
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The Independent Online

As the Rev Donald Hinton, the longest-serving vicar in Emmerdale, in the days when the ITV serial was still called Emmerdale Farm, Hugh Manning found the perfect screen role - as a teenager, he had been secretary of his local church youth movement and regularly read the lesson at St Mary's Church in Moseley, Birmingham.



Hugh Gardner Manning, actor: born Birmingham 19 August 1920; died London 18 August 2004.



As the Rev Donald Hinton, the longest-serving vicar in Emmerdale, in the days when the ITV serial was still called Emmerdale Farm, Hugh Manning found the perfect screen role - as a teenager, he had been secretary of his local church youth movement and regularly read the lesson at St Mary's Church in Moseley, Birmingham.

Manning played the parish priest as an old-fashioned clergyman who was extremely popular with his flock and, in return, loyal to them, accepting an appointment as rural dean, but turning down the post of archdeacon, which would have taken him away from his parishioners.

A widower, Donald Hinton arrived in the Yorkshire village of Beckindale (much later renamed Emmerdale) in 1977 and officiated at his first wedding the following year, when Matt Skilbeck married Dolly Acaster. It was 10 years before his next church wedding, with the marriage of Jackie Merrick and Kathy Bates, at a time when there were only two baptisms but the usual quota of deaths and funerals to be found in any soap opera.

Donald then surprised villagers by agreeing to marry two divorcées, Joe Sugden and Kate Hughes, in 1989, but Kate was a regular churchgoer who had wed her first husband in a register office, so their vows had not been exchanged in front of God. It proved to be the vicar's last wedding before he retired to Coventry that summer.

The priest, whose books and butterfly collection helped to fill his spare time, was a good listener who provided a sympathetic shoulder for many villagers during his 12 years at the vicarage, but he sometimes had to grapple with family problems of his own. His son, Clive, was arrested in Athens for gun-running (a soap storyline more in the mould of Crossroads) and his daughter, Barbara Peters, left her husband for Joe Sugden, until she walked out on him, too. Donald himself was held hostage at gunpoint, but escaped unhurt when a crook made a failed getaway attempt after stolen money was discovered in Beckindale.

Manning was born in Birmingham in 1920 and began his working life as a trainee accountant. Deciding to switch careers, he trained as an actor at the Birmingham School of Speech and Drama and joined the city's repertory company in 1945, before seasons at the Bristol and London Old Vic theatres.

As well as touring the world and acting in more than 20 Shakespearian plays, he appeared in London West End productions, notably alongside Noël Coward and Laurence Naismith in George Bernard Shaw's The Apple Cart (Theatre Royal, Haymarket, 1953). He also performed a one-man show, Song of the Lion.

On television, Manning landed a leading role in the legal drama The Sullavan Brothers (1964-65), the brainchild of the Dixon of Dock Green creator Ted Willis. Manning played the barrister Robert Sullavan, working with his three solicitor brothers, in the popular 26-part series.

Then, he starred alongside the great British character actress Kathleen Harrison, who took the title role, in another Willis creation, Mrs Thursday (1966-67). Alice Thursday was the warm-hearted Cockney charwoman who inherits her property tycoon employer's empire, his Mayfair mansion and Rolls-Royce, but relies on Richard B. Hunter (Manning), as her right-hand man, to advise her on business matters. Running to two series, the comedy-drama was frequently the most popular programme on television.

The actor had small roles in films such as The Dam Busters (1954), Our Man in Havana (1959), Quatermass and the Pit (1967), The House That Dripped Blood (1970) and The Elephant Man (1980) but gained most recognition as the old retainer in Robinson's barley water commercials, before joining Emmerdale Farm in 1977, five years after its launch. He left in 1989, briefly returning in 1993, when Donald Hinton married Annie Sugden and Leonard Kempinski.

Manning subsequently put all his energies into voluntary work for the actors' union Equity, which he had already served as president (1975-78 and 1982-84). He was a member of its executive council for 15 years from 1969, one of its trustees from 1985 until his death, chairman of both its International Committee for Artists' Freedom (1995-2001) and International Performers' Aid Trust (2000-01), and a member of various Equity charities.

He was also a founder member of Arts for Labour, an advisory group to the Labour Party.

Anthony Hayward

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