Former ‘Emmerdale’ actor John Middleton lands new soap role

Emmerdale Ashley Thomas
From the Dales to Letherbridge: Actor John Middleton will star in 'Doctors' next week. (Image credit: ITV)

John Middleton, best known for his role as Emmerdale vicar Ashley Thomas, has landed a guest role on Doctors

And in a case of art imitating art, he’ll play a man suffering from dementia.

In his first TV role since starring in the ITV soap, the 68-year-old will feature in an episode that airs on 5th October as pensioner Feargal Lumsden. 

Doctors Feargal Lumsden John Middleton

Confused: John Middleton will play ailing pensioner Feargal. (Image credit: BBC)

Feargal’s daughter Eileen confronts her ailing father after discovering he has been giving his money away, only for Feargal to suffer a transient ischaemic attack - otherwise known as a mini stroke.

As Feargal receives treatment at St. Phils, Eileen visits a care home with a view to getting him full-time care. Whilst she is gone, a confused Feargal wanders off, wanting to go home. 

Doctors Feargal Lumsden John Middleton

Worried: Feargal's daughter Eileen (Tor Clark) thinks her father needs full-time care. (Image credit: BBC)

He is found by his neighbour, Nicola, who is at the hospital in labour and uses the meeting as an opportunity to try and persuade Feargal to sell her half of his garden.

John Middleton was a permanent fixture in Emmerdale from 1996 to 2017. His character left the Dales in a heart-wrenching storyline that began in 2015 when vicar Ashley was diagnosed with early-onset vascular dementia.

The emotive plot gained praise from both viewers and critics alike for shining a much-needed spotlight on dementia; a disease that had previously been little explored in soap.

Emmerdale Ashley Thomas

Lost and confused: 'Emmerdale' dementia sufferer Ashley Thomas (John Middleton) was the subject of a standalone episode in 2016, showing life from the ailing vicar's perspective. (Image credit: ITV)

John Middleton’s performance earned him the ‘Best Actor’ and ‘Best Male Dramatic Performance’ gongs at the 2017 British Soap Awards, while Emmerdale also scooped the awards that year for ‘Best Storyline’, ‘Best Single Episode’ (for an instalment told from Ashley’s perspective) and ‘Best Soap.’

Speaking at the time of his exit, he said, “Most people have some experience of this disease. I’ve found it really quite astonishing, the number of people who have come up to me and said ‘Thankyou very much for doing that; my Dad had this’ or ‘My Mum died a few years ago and she had this.’ 

“That’s what drama’s for; it’s for holding out a hand to people and saying, ‘You’re not alone.’”

John Middleton isn’t the only familiar face who’ll be in Doctors next week.

Former Hollyoaks actor Rachel Adedeji, who played Lisa Loveday in the C4 soap, makes a guest appearance as April Lewin, the girlfriend of a transgender man who has been rejected by his mother.

Alison Slade
Soaps Editor
Alison Slade has over 20 years of experience as a TV journalist and has spent the vast majority of that time as Soap Editor of TV Times magazine.  She is passionate about the ability of soaps to change the world by presenting important, issue-based stories about real people in a relatable way. There are few soap actors that she hasn’t interviewed over the years, and her expertise in the genre means she has been called upon as a judge numerous times for The British Soap Awards and the BAFTA TV Awards.

When she is not writing about soaps, watching soaps, or interviewing people who are in soaps, she loves going to the theatre, taking a long walk or pottering about at home, obsessing over Farrow and Ball paint.