ROGER MOORE began his long and illustrious film career modelling knitted jumpers for the Darlington wool firm of Patons & Baldwins in the early 1950s.

In fact, his first nickname was “the Big Knit”, and he says at the end of his biography: “Not bad for a knitwear model.”

But even though his features were seen on the front of thousands of patterns produced by the Lingfield Point company, Roger was never required to come to Darlington for the photography.

However, it is said that, bizarrely, he did visit the town in the mid 1960s – to inspect a boat that was being built for him by Richardson’s of Neasham Road.

The company had started in the 1850s making hothouses and glasshouses but by the 1960s, it had diversified briefly into building fibre glass “Tempest” class boats in the joiners’ shop at the rear of the North Road railway workshops, which had recently closed down.

The Tempest was designed in 1965 with a view to becoming an Olympic class and Richardson’s hoped to jump on that bandwagon.

Roger was one of the first to order a prototype, and visited it in production. But while the Tempest made its bow at the 1972 Olympic Games, Richardson’s sunk in 1970, disappearing into bankruptcy.