At last some readers have come forward following my appeal a few weeks ago to reveal the worst presents you have been given. There are a couple of corkers, such as a car bumper given to Fiona Lyons and an electric toothbrush given to Net Wiles.

I don’t know if it is a surprise to learn that both gift-givers are now ex-husbands.

It is sometimes disappointing to receive two of the same thing, but one year Janet Pearce received no less than four Filofaxes (I’m sure most of you will remember these leather-bound personal organisers that were ever-so trendy in the 1980s and 1990s).

In my column, Clare Proctor had revealed that her husband Howard defied the male stereotype, showering her with gorgeous presents, but she confessed that she didn’t possess the same nous when it came to choosing for him. One year, her misguided mother-in-law went to Clare rather than her son for advice on what to get them for Christmas, and consequently when Howard opened her gift, a hand-held vacuum cleaner, he declared bluntly: “I expected something more exciting for a present!” Poor Howard.

On another note, Ian Ford got in touch after coming across my column from October 2023 about the water engineer Joseph Foord. He thinks their families might be connected (the spelling of his own name dropping the second ‘o’ courtesy of his great, great, great grandfather, also called Joseph). Although he hasn’t yet firmly established that connection, he went on to talk about Foord’s illegitimate son - yet another Joseph - Joseph Pilmoor.

Darlington and Stockton Times: A memorial plaque dedicated to North Yorkshire-born Joseph Pilmoor in North Carolina

Pilmoor was born out of wedlock in 1739 after Foord had a liaison with a lady called Sarah Pilmoor from Fadmoor near Kirkbymoorside, and as a result, Foord was thrown out of the Quakers. This inauspicious start did not deter the young Pilmoor from following an extremely interesting path.

Pilmoor was educated at Kingswood School near Bristol, which was established by the founder of Methodism, John Wesley. In 1769, he travelled to Leeds along with his childhood friend, Richard Boardman from the neighbouring village of Gillamoor, to listen to John Wesley speak. Wesley’s passion and devotion to his cause had an immediate impact on the young men from the North York Moors, and they volunteered to become missionaries to the American colonies. Although Wesley had travelled there himself, he’d returned to England following a scandal over a woman who’d spurned his affection and to whom he’d refused to give communion.

Incidentally, this year marks the 250th anniversary of the publication of John Wesley’s controversial pamphlet, ‘Thoughts Upon Slavery’ in which he lambasts society’s tolerance of such an abhorrent practice upon which the colonies were built.

"Where is the justice of taking away the lives of innocent, inoffensive men; murdering thousands of them in their own land, by their own countrymen; many thousands, year after year, on shipboard, and then casting them like dung into the sea; and tens of thousands in that cruel slavery to which they are so unjustly reduced?" he wrote.

Wesley embraced the itinerant lifestyle of the travelling preacher and is said to have journeyed 250,000 miles on horseback and delivered 30,000 sermons during his lifetime. Inspired by their mentor the two young men travelled and preached extensively in the colonies, going to New York, Philadelphia and Georgia, staying in each place only for a short time before moving on. Although he returned to England for ten years between 1774 and 1784, Pilmoor returned to the US to continue his mission and appears to have been far more successful in recruiting followers than his more famous founder. Today there are about six million Methodists across more than 30,000 churches in the USA.

Pilmoor’s influence is evident by the number of commemorative plaques that have been erected in various places, including in the grounds of St John’s College, Annapolis, where he is said to have delivered the "first Methodist sermon in Maryland" on July 11, 1772 beneath the college’s famous "Liberty Tree". Another plaque describes him as a "Pioneer missionary" and marks the place where he preached the first sermon in the North Carolina colony at Curritick Courthouse on September 28, 1772. A church nearby was named after him.

When you think about it, that’s quite the achievement for an illegitimate lad from a tiny North Yorkshire village.

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