Obituary: David Thorne

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A DEDICATED teacher and equally dedicated environmental campaigner, David Thorne, has died at the age of 63.

Until his retirement due to ill health in 2001, Mr Thorne was a member of the English department at Hautlieu School. His involvement with that institution and the entire educational system was, however, far deeper than that simple description of his final professional role.

He was initially a Hautlieu pupil and then, having studied for an English degree at the University of Leicester and undertaken teacher training, he returned to Jersey to teach his specialist subject at his old school. His deep love of the English language and its literature and dedication to communicating his enthusiasms were evident not only to his students but also to his colleagues.

As a result of this and his easy-going, gentle personality, he was universally popular in the classroom and the staffroom. But Dave, as he was known to everyone, did not confine his efforts to the scholastic realm. For him, school life extended far beyond formal lessons and the exam curriculum.

The one word that is on the lips of all his former colleagues is ‘helpful’. His reputation as a man who was willing to assist in any capacity in which he had any competence remains his defining characteristic among all who knew him.

With a lifelong interest in the scientific world and technologies ranging from household carpentry and information technology to photography and gardening and with demonstrable skills as a craftsman, Dave Thorne was an indispensable consultant and hands-on helper for school plays, exhibitions and concerts.

Everyone who encountered him in the school context will attest that he never declined to lend a hand when he was asked to provide his skilled help. In the words of one colleague, he had an unblemished record of never refusing. Often he had volunteered long before any request was put in.

It was also evident that his interest and abilities extended beyond the sphere of practical education and school activities. When, in 1994, the future of Hautlieu was in question because of plans to reform secondary education and turn the school into a sixth-form college, Dave Thorne was among the band of staunch defenders of a system that had stood the test of time since the early 1950s and had provided a wealth of opportunity for talented children from families of limited means.

And his work in defence of the school and an ethos that he loved went far beyond mere words. Meticulous research that he undertook and presented was instrumental in helping Hautlieu’s supporters to win the day and preserve the school’s status as the flagship of the Island’s non-fee-paying educational sector.

Later, it was fitting that he was entrusted with the task of co-editing – for which we may read researching, writing and compiling – The First Fifty Years, the book which commemorated Hautlieu’s first half-century. Beyond the educational sphere, Dave Thorne had a profound interest in Jersey and its future.

He was a founder member of the environmental pressure group Concern and served as its vice-chairman for many years. Employing his technical and scientific knowledge, he authored carefully researched studies on Island problems ranging from energy policy to transport and population.

He also devoted many hours to attending meetings organised by States departments and to liaising with the Island’s media. At a personal level, he was a dedicated family man who enjoyed motoring holidays in France and walking in the English Lake District, cooking and entertaining at home, and making wine from his own grapes and jam from his own fruit.

He also had great enthusiasm for the natural world, taking photographs of wildlife at favourite locations such as La Rocque and the north coast. When such activities became impossible during his final illness he bore his condition with great courage, dignity and relentless good humour.

He leaves a wife, Sue, and two daughters, to whom the JEP extends its sympathies.

• Picture: Mr Thorne and his wife, Sue, photographed in 2006

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