OUR weekly sister paper, the Darlington & Stockton Times had an eye-catching headline 150 years ago: A Mormon watchmaker in trouble.”

The watchmaker was not a member of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, but the D&S was suggesting that he was naughtily following the Mormons’ practice of having multiple marriages (a doctrine which was officially abandoned in 1890).

The paper then regaled its readers with a story of rum goings on, including rumpy pumpy, involving the unnamed watchmaker who had moved to Thirsk Market Place from the West Riding.

“But alas! in a little time the tongue of scandal caught the first link of Mormonite practices of the stranger, which has resulted in the open exposure and disgraceful proceedings of today,” said the D&S of January 15, 1870.

The fellow went out and about clock-cleaning, and villagers in Knayton, which is on the A19 between Thirsk and Northallerton, began whispering “that the farmer’s clock was often out of repair”. Coincidentally, they noted that the repairs were carried out when the farmer’s young wife was at home alone and the farmer was out in the fields.

So much repair did the clock need that she began regularly travelling with it the three miles into Thirsk to get its tick put right.

But she was not alone. The D&S said the watchmaker received regular visits from wives from the West Riding, often followed by their irritated husbands.

Matters came to a head, said the D&S, last Thursday, when “the Knayton agriculturist” learned that his clock must have been in urgent need of repair for his wife had made an unscheduled dash into Thirsk.

He hurried after her.

“He found her in the house of the jeweller, whereupon he applied his walking stick manfully at the front shop window, breaking almost every pane, and causing lever and Geneva (types of pocketwatch mechanisms) to share one common lot on the pavement,” said the D&S.

“The enraged watchmaker hearing the smash issued from his back room brandishing a revolver, closely followed by the farmer’s helpmate, and stood the hooting and hissing of some hundreds of townspeople with a Blue Beard impudence, exhibiting themselves through the broken window, and occasionally firing the revolver as a warning to the worthy farmer to keep a respectful distance from his lawful partner.”

Blue Beard is the star of a French folktale – he marries a string of beautiful women, each of which mysteriously disappears when he seduces the next.

The appearance of hundreds of hooting and hissing townspeople sounds like another episode of “riding the stang”, which has featured here in the past, in which adulterers are publicly shamed by having all their neighbours making a terrible din outside their door all night long.

The D&S concluded: “But things have not ended here; the Mormon watchmaker was apprehended and taken to prison on Thursday evening for stealing articles belonging to the despised husband.”