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Edna Birch (also Burrows) is a fictional character from the British ITV soap opera, Emmerdale, played by Shirley Stelfox. She made her first screen appearance during the episode broadcast on 25 May 2000. Edna had been living in the village for many years prior to her first appearance on screen. She may have a vicious temper, but Edna has a good heart, which is demonstrated by her devotion to her friends and her beloved dogs. Edna is also known for her iconic hats, which have been known to reflect her personality. She is rarely seen without a hat. Edna died off-screen on 3 May 2016 after it was reported in December 2015 that Stelfox had died.
|Portrayed by||Shirley Stelfox|
|First appearance||25 May 2000|
|Last appearance||26 October 2015|
|Introduced by||Kieran Roberts|
|Occupation||Office assistant (2004–2012)|
Factory packer (2013)
A committed member of the parish church, Edna was horrified when local vicar Ashley Thomas (John Middleton) began dating pub landlady Bernice Blackstock (Samantha Giles) and was one of a group of people who opposed the match.
Edna was pleased when her teenaged granddaughter Eve Jenson (Raine Davison/Suzanne Shaw), came to live with her in 2001. Eve became involved in a hit and run accident, when her boyfriend Marc Reynolds (Anthony Lewis) accidentally killed their teacher Miss. Strickland. Eve successfully manipulated Edna into believing Marc had been a bad influence, whereas in fact the reverse was true. Edna refused to believe stories about Eve's bad behaviour, until her good friend Betty Eagleton (Paula Tilbrook) spotted Eve cruelly kicking Edna's beloved dog Batley. Finally seeing her true colours, Edna sent Eve back to live with her father in France. When Batley fell ill and had to be put down, Edna was heartbroken and it took a long time for her to get over his death. Despite her initial reluctance, Edna later got a new dog, Tootsie, who brought a lot of pleasure back into her life.
Len Reynolds (Peter Martin) was an old friend of Edna and once it looked like romance might be brewing between them. Len did tell Edna that he was in love with her. Unfortunately, Edna didn't feel the same and told Len this, although she was displeased when he started dating Pearl Ladderbanks (Meg Johnson). Since the flamboyant pensioner was her absolute opposite, it took Edna a long time to warm to her. A woman of contradictions, Edna was the only person to defend Len and Pearl when Pearl's son, convicted rapist Frank Bernard Hartbourne (Rob Parry), came to live with them. Her friendship helped them decide to stay in Emmerdale when everyone else nearly drove them out. They bonded over having trouble with their sons and became close friends. Edna was devastated by the demise of her beloved friend Len in 2007. She and Pearl fell out about Len's feelings for Edna for a while but later reconciled.
In June 2004, Edna was the victim of a hit and run while walking Tootsie. She fell into a ditch, breaking her hip. Her lifeless body was first discovered by Shadrach Dingle (Andy Devine) who, rather than raise the alarm, helps himself to cash from her purse. The blame initially fell onto Cain Dingle (Jeff Hordley) as it was his car involved. However, Sam Dingle (James Hooton) later admitted responsibility.
She was ashamed to learn that her grandmother was a prostitute and for a while, went into hiding. Edna found a new lease of life when she went to work as a PA for local businessman Tom King (Ken Farrington); Edna needed to pay off a loan Tom had offered her for a new boiler, and he was keen to have an efficient PA rather than the glamorous but incompetent young girls favoured by his sons. An unlikely duo, Tom and Edna became close friends. Knowing he could trust her, Tom often turned to her for advice. Taking King and Sons in hand proved quite difficult, causing her to clash repeatedly with Jimmy and Matthew King (Matt Healy) and quit when Tom retired. Edna later joined Tom when he started Home Farm Estates. Edna did not always approve of his decisions but believed Tom was a good man. Edna was disappointed when Tom chose to marry Rosemary Sinclair (Linda Thorson), as she had fallen for him.
In October 2006, Peter Birch (Philip Bird) arrived in Emmerdale to ask his mother to attend Eve's wedded blessing in France. Edna refused, as she resented Peter's rejection of her faith and felt that she had failed to look after Eve properly. Edna was later persuaded to attend the blessing, where she came face to with sister Lily Butterfield (Anne Charleston) after an estrangement of many years.
Edna confided in Tom that Lily was Peter's birth mother. Edna adopted him as a baby but Tom and Edna's friendship ended when he used this to blackmail her to keep quiet about the Kings' role in the showhome disaster. As a result, Edna decided to tell Peter the truth about his parentage so Tom couldn't blackmail her. Unfortunately Peter didn't take it well and rejected Edna completely. Edna hated Tom for this and handed in her resignation. Nevertheless, she was sad to learn of his death. In March 2007, Edna's dog, Tootsie, was not feeling herself. Billy Hopwood (David Crellin) noticed and Edna phoned vet Hari Prasad so he made a home visit and found Tootsie was close to giving birth. Edna hadn't known Tootsie was pregnant. Later on, two healthy puppies were delivered.
Edna's sister Lily returned to the village in 2007 and began growing cannabis in Home Farm's polytunnel. She found cannabis was more effective for her arthritis than prescription medicines but Eli Dingle (Joseph Gilgun) discovered what Lily was doing at Home Farm. He blackmailed her into splitting her crop with him in return for his silence but he was selling his share.
When the police invaded Edna's home and arrested Lily, Edna evicted Lily in disgust at her unlawful activity. Lily returned in March 2008 and during an argument, Edna admitted she'd always resented her sister for being the one who had adventures. Lily and Edna made up. Following the drama with the winning raffle ticket, Edna asked Peter to visit, which he did. She asked him to pay back the money he had got from selling the car Lily and her friends/colleagues had won but he refused, claiming it was tied up. When Edna confronted him over taking Lily's savings, it became clear he felt she owed him that for abandoning him as a baby. Edna told Lily that he had agreed to pay back the money but quietly arranged to withdraw the money needed from her savings.
Near the end of 2008, Lily began having dizzy spells and learned she had a brain aneurysm. She refused to face the severity of her condition, which only Rodney Blackstock (Patrick Mower) knew about, and she swore him to secrecy. Edna became suspicious of Lily's relationship with Rodney. She, believed they were in a relationship and became even more suspicious when they disappeared together during December. When Lily fled hospital right before her surgery, Rodney told Edna, who, in spite of being hurt over her sister's lack of trust in her, managed to convince Lily to have the surgery. Edna convinced Lily to move in with her to help her recuperate, but after a short time, Lily felt smothered and moved back in with Pearl.
As a devout Christian, she was horrified when, in November 2008, the local church was revealed to be closing. To stop this, she and around twelve other villagers started a choir. During this time, she took in Nicola De Souza after discovering she was homeless. She later kicked Nicola out when she found out Nicola had secretly been working with David Metcalfe (Matthew Wolfenden) and Eric Pollard (Chris Chittell) to sabotage the choir and buy and then demolish the church. This happened around the same time as the day of the choir competition, which Edna missed to be with Lily at the hospital. In spite of Edna's absence, the choir won, but Bishop George informed them the church was still being closed.
Edna and the other parishioners were furious and with the encouragement of a reformed Nicola, staged a lock-in on Christmas Day which convinced Eric and David to not buy the church. However, the church was still up for sale. In early 2009, Mark (Maxwell Caulfield) and Natasha Wylde (Amanda Donohoe) bought the church. When the villagers angrily confronted them in The Woolpack, they decided to give the church to the village as a gift.
In early 2010, Edna had a lodger called Sally Spode (Siân Reeves). Sally was originally living with Ashley until he flipped and she reluctantly. Sally told Edna, that she had been beaten by her husband Vincent and that she was terrified of him. Edna then suggested to Ashley that Sally move in with her at her cottage permanently. Sally smashed Edna's window and faked that her husband Vincent did it to set scores with Sally. Edna was horrified but still allowed Sally to stay in her cottage. Later, Edna found out that it was Sally who smashed her window not Vincent. Edna later believed Sally's accusations about Ashley abusing and torturing her that she informed Bishop George, who suspended Ashley as vicar pending further investigation. When Sally's true colours were revealed to Edna, she apologised to Ashley before throwing Sally out. She then confronted Sally and accused her of torturing Ashley not vice versa. Edna was disgusted with Sally and hated that she had been fooled. She then told Betty who told Pearl and the gossip about the events spread round the village. Since Sally has been gone, Ashley and Edna went back to the vicarage and found it trashed with the writing "burn in hell" above the fire, along with a family photo smashed, both were horrified. Ashley and Edna later realised the lies that Sally had portrayed. Ashley threatened Sally that he would kill her. Later in the day, Terry informs Ashley that Sally has left the village but he and Edna are left shocked when they find his house wrecked with "burn in hell" painted on the wall but Ashley realises that it may be too late to save his marriage now.
In December 2008, the Kings lost their business empire, their home and their brother, Matthew. Carl and Jimmy King (Nick Miles) started up a haulage business and Edna was aghast when she saw the poor job Scarlett Nicholls (Kelsey-Beth Crossley) was doing in her attempts to be a receptionist. She helped out one day, and so impressed Jimmy that he asked her to work for them. Edna agreed and got on well with Jimmy so much so that he became convinced she had a crush on him.
Edna bonded with young Scarlett over her troubled love life, baking a pie and convincing Scarlett to pass it off as her own to boyfriend Daz. A distraught Edna lost her wedding ring, not realising she had dropped it into the pie, leading Daz to worry that Scarlett was proposing marriage. Soon they worked everything out and Edna got her ring back.
Edna's biological great-niece and adoptive granddaughter Eve returned to stay with Edna in April 2010. In 2012, Edna's dog, Tootsie, fell ill with cancer and Jimmy suggested she retire and spend time with Tootsie during her final months. For this reason, as well as a dislike towards the King Brothers' new business partner, Charity Sharma who wants to sack Edna, she decides to take up Jimmy's advice. Edna is upset after Carl is murdered during Emmerdale's 40th anniversary live episode in October 2012. No longer working and having spent a lot of money on Tootsie's vet care, Edna went through a period of financial hardship during 2013, which peaked when Jimmy found her unconscious in her house due to not being able to afford heating or food. Edna had tried to hide her money worries from friends and neighbours, but only began to recover with the help of the community, culminating in Sandy Thomas (Freddie Jones) becoming her lodger to give her an income source, and after he needed a new place to say. Edna and Sandy have become closer and have been joined in her cottage by Sandy's son Ashley and Ashley's new boss Harriet Finch (Katherine Dow Blyton). Harriet is Edna's first cousin once removed, as the daughter of Edna's unseen cousin Mildred.
In August 2014, Edna revealed to Aaron Livesy (Danny Miller), who is openly gay, that her late husband, Harold, was also gay, and had married her out of "convenience", as homosexuality was still illegal in the United Kingdom at the time. Believing Aaron was in love with his heterosexual best friend Adam Barton (Adam Thomas), Edna also revealed that Harold had a lover, Lawrence, and had been jealous that Harold could never love her in the same way - pointing out the same would be true for Aaron and Adam. A guilty Edna later admitted to Sandy that she'd reported Lawrence to the police in revenge, and that he had later committed suicide in prison. Sandy tries to find out where Lawrence is buried, in the hope that visiting his grave may give Edna some comfort. However, he is shocked to discover instead that Lawrence White (John Bowe) is still alive. He visits Edna and the pair make their peace, although Edna finds it difficult when he later moves to the village. In December 2014, Edna is devastated and distraught to discover that her house has been robbed and her pension has gone missing. The culprit turns out to be Belle Dingle (Eden Taylor-Draper), who has been experiencing hearing the voice of her late friend, Gemma Andrews (Tendai Rinomhota), who forced her in the mind to trash Edna's house.
In January 2016, Pearl mentions that Edna is going to stay with Lily for a while. In reality, Edna had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, and went to stay with Lily in order to keep it secret. In May 2016, Ashley receives a phonecall from the hospital, informing him that Edna's condition has taken turn to the worse. Later, Ashley and Laurel return from the hospital with Tootsie and break the news that Edna has died from her illness, devastating Harriet, Pearl and Sandy. Edna's funeral was held on 13 May 2016.
Shirley Stelfox died on 7 December 2015 after a short battle with cancer. John Whiston, ITV's creative director for soaps, led the tributes: "The family here at Emmerdale are deeply saddened by Shirley's passing. It is hard to imagine Emmerdale without her," Whiston commented. "We offer our condolences to Shirley's family and share our feeling of loss with the millions of viewers who will miss Edna enormously."
On 16 April 2016, it was announced that Edna would die off-screen in early May.
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