It is with a heavy heart that we inform members that our friend and former Hon Sec Mark Thornberry has passed away at the age of 60 after a brave and prolonged fight against terminal cancer of the liver.
Thorners was a club man through and through, playing back row at senior level for several seasons before becoming completely immersed in Dorking RFC as our Secretary, a position he held with distinction between 2003-2010. He will be remembered for dragging the Club into the digital age through his work on the website and ensuring that the often unseen back office administration of running a rugby club was top notch. Mark was a key participant in the various Committees that complimented the outstanding performances on the pitch by the players to deliver the various promotions and successful seasons. These achievements were only trumped by the now legendary 2006 Powergen Cup final at Twickenham. Prior to the day Mark and Chairman Judd were summoned to HQ to discuss arrangements for the day. A run through of the RFU etiquette covered a range of subjects but when the matter of ‘how big was DRFC’s flag’ and ‘would we like it flown above the North Stand during the match’ - quick as flash Mark responded ‘5 ft by 8 ft’ and ‘yes, we would like it flown’. Of course no flag existed but the one that fly’s at the Club on match days is the original which was hastily sourced and proudly flew at HQ ahead of the cup winning performance!
He was an enthusiastic touchline Dad while son Harry played mini and junior rugby, before moving into the august ranks of the Derelicts where he cheerfully turned out for many seasons while notably establishing The Derelicts weekly match reports as essential club reading. He captured the essence of his teammates extraordinary talents, or lack of them, with a wonderful detached bewilderment, fondness and a clever turn of phrase befitting a man who boasted two first class degrees.
Thorners was also a prodigious distance runner and after retiring from playing he refereed to a high standard with the London Society of Referees, before turning his attentions properly to distance running, covering phenomenal mileage in ultra marathons and other monster exertions.
Through all this Thorners had been quietly battling liver disease but developing a steely resolve not let it get the better of him. Ever the stoic, the only clue to his illness was that he no longer drank Guinness… and seemed to run further and further with every passing year until he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in August 2017.
Despite the diagnosis and his club chums mistakenly predicting his imminent demise, Thorners had other ideas. We wrote on the club website at the time:
"Nobody knows exactly how long he can continue his battle, but in the meantime there is something we can do to help him.
"As those who played with him or were reffed by him will remember, Thorners is a determined and tenacious character and refuses to see himself as a victim. He will not be leaving us without a fight. A fight that involves his passion for extreme endurance running in one final giant run from Birmingham to London in a couple of weeks' time over three tough days so that he might raise money to help others.
"Run with him if you can, for some or all of the way, or just donate what you can to help a very brave long-term friend of Dorking realise this wish.”
It was a most gruelling 3-day run from Birmingham to London, 150 miles plus along the Grand Union Canal to raise money for the Kings College Hospital in Camberwell where he was being treated. The fund raising will go on, but the £100k plus Mark contributed through his amazing run will long be an inspiration to us all on what immense bravery, tenacity and out right guts one man can have when the odds are against you.
We have lost a good man who is a fine example of what constitutes the DNA of Dorking RFC - we will miss him and I know all at the club extends it's sympathies to his wife Kate, and children Molly and Harry at this difficult time.