AS the man responsible for building his family auction business into a multi-million pound operation, Rodney Tennant must surely have lost count of the gems he’s unearthed over more years than he cares to remember.

But during a sideline to managing the fascinating treasure trove that has passed like a production line through Tennants Auctioneers in the Yorkshire Dales market town of Leyburn, the always affable Rodney came across a particularly special discovery.

A decade ago, Rodney was acting as a steward at the Methodist Chapel in nearby Middleham when in walked an inquisitive 12-year-old boy who was on holiday with his parents. The youngster was drawn like a magnet to the chapel organ and Rodney agreed to his request to have a go.

William Fox, who hailed from Fylinghthorpe, near Robin Hood’s Bay, on the North Yorkshire Moors, turned out to be what Rodney describes as “something of a genius”.

William, whose parents were teachers, had fallen in love with the sound of organ music as a young chorister at York Minister. He went on to study at Magdalene College, Oxford, and this summer was appointed as Sub-Organist at St Paul’s Cathedral.

It’s an organist’s equivalent of a footballer going from kicking about in the Wensleydale Sunday morning League to playing for England at Wembley.

Happily, the families remained in contact and William returned to play at Middleham Chapel two years ago when Rodney’s daughter Jane got married.

Their latest collaboration has seen William, now 22, supporting Rodney with a £200,000 appeal to restore one of the world’s finest church organs at the Guild Church of St Margaret Pattens in London, which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1687.

Rodney happens to be a long-standing liveryman with The Worshipful Company of Pattenmakers, who use the church as their spiritual home. The church organ dates from 1749 and still has its original wooden casework, and some of its original pipes, but suffered damage in the Second World War.

The Friends of St Margaret Pattens have set about restoring the organ to its former glory and Tennants sponsored a unique organ recital, performed by William, at the church.

“It all started out as a chance meeting but it’s lovely to see a Yorkshire lad like William go to the very top of his profession, and this seemed like a good opportunity to use his great talent for a good cause,” said Rodney.

William was only too pleased to help. “It was a really lovely occasion and, hopefully, it’s helped to get them nearer the target to restore what is a very special organ,” he said.

  • By the way, you can hear William playing in a special Christmas concert from St Paul’s Cathedral on Classic FM on December 23.

ON a far less positive note, here’s a warning of a scam that was brought to my attention by my dear old mum.

An official-looking letter from the International Postcode Online Lottery, based in Melbourne, arrived at her house on Teesside last week.

Rose Murray, Vice President, was delighted to be able to tell my mum that her numbers had come up and she’d won £900,000 tax free.

She was provided with a telephone number to claim her winnings by calling Michael Dean, the Foreign Service Manager of Westpac Financial Consultants, no later than December 30.

I’m pleased so say that despite being in her late 80s, my mum still has her wits about her and sensed it was a scam. Indeed, if you Google “International Postcode Online Lottery and Michael Dean” you’ll see it’s a regular con.

It’s easy to imagine some people, especially the elderly, being fooled so please be warned.

A BIG day approaches this Thursday when I’ll be chairing the judging for The Northern Echo’s 19th Local Heroes Awards.

Always an occasion I love, the event has thrown up so many amazing stories over the years, so a huge thank you to Cummins Engines for marking the company’s centenary by agreeing to become headline sponsor for the next two years.

Last year’s overall winner was 80-year-old John Moore, below, who was honoured for his dedication to Sedgefield 75 Swimming Club, where he has coached national and international champions since 1982.

Who’ll be this year’s Local Heroes? I can’t wait to find out on Thursday – and to compere the awards at Wynyard Hall on December 6.

The Northern Echo:

FINALLY, my favourite story of the week was about the Woodland Trust’s choice for the UK tree of the year.

Nearly 100 years ago, a young romantic called Vic Stead twisted three beech saplings into an N-shape to woo a girl called Nellie.

The couple went on to be married, and Nellie’s Tree, which stands in Aberford, near Leeds, remains a popular spot for proposals.

I’d like to follow suit with a H-shaped tree for my wife Heather and to seranade her with “You’re once, twice, tree times a lady”. However, at 56, I’m in need of advice: what’s the fastest-growing tree?