I first met Mark around 1991 or so after I’d got married and moved out to Luton.
Quite soon after I set up the Luton R’s and Mark was the first to respond. Then, after a few games it soon became clear that we had many things in common. One difference was the way we dressed, Mark was very dapper, whereas I was an ‘Indie’ mess!
Mark had an insane passion for Queen’s Park Rangers, the history of the Club and an undying love of the team of 75/76. Each game was engraved in his memory.
As humans we all have our own thoughts and ways and Mark was probably the worst honest person I’ve ever met bar my sister. But not in a bad way, you just had to get to know him to know that.
Like myself and growing up on an estate in London, or anywhere for that matter, it can define you and what you become. With Mark that was not the case. Since I knew him he would embrace change, challenge everyone and most of all he would never hide his working-class ways for anyone.
His loves were Northern Soul, boxing, words and Queen’s Park Rangers of course. While arguing on words and books with people he would just make it honest and simple.
Two of my stand-out memories were the tears of sorrow in Cardiff in the 2003 play-offs and then a year later the tears of joy at Hillsborough. Myself, Mark and Steve Russell had one hell of a day in Sheffield that will stay with me forever.
Mark, like us all, had his demons, let’s be honest, we all do. He was proud and was a man who would never reach out. I wish he had!
He was a fighter in his own way and that was how he coped with it and that’s brave, far more than me. I wish I knew, I wish he’d asked, but I can’t change that.
During the outbreak of the coronavirus I became worried about Mark. We had drifted away, but when we had met he would tell me what he thought about the podcast, the team and the money that ruined us. On that we agreed.
Anyway, I called him, we talked, and it was just like the old days. I asked him how he was, and he mentioned bits and pieces to me. It hurt when he told me that at times he would travel to Loftus Road but didn’t always have enough money to get in, or he didn’t feel well enough!
The thought of him standing outside unable to see games broke me! That’s just so wrong and if someone finds themselves in that position, please reach out and tell mates.
It’s fans like Mark which shows that Queen’s Park Rangers is more than a football club. We try and help each other.
We agreed that once this was all over we would meet up and do a game one day. He was in a great place, the old spark was there and he was turning things around.
I will never be able to do that, and I was beyond sad when Steve Russell told me what had happened to Mark. After speaking to his brother, Russell, it was clear that Mark was leaving us!
Mark, thank you for the friendship and sleep well old friend.
Come on my team as you would say and Come on UR’s.
Mark’s passing came as a great shock to me. He was only 56 years of age! I knew that he had come through a dark period in his life, but he had managed to get back on his feet again.
In June, his brother, Russell, emailed me the awful news that Mark had suffered a massive heart attack whilst out training!
I had known Mark for over 20 years and apart from the R’s we also shared an interest in music and boxing. There was thatgreat night at Ronnie Scott’s when we went to see Georgie Fame and amongst other memories was a boxing event at York Hall in Bethnal Green.
Along with his parents who sat behind us, our season tickets had been in the Lower Loft until it became a family area.
I hadn’t seen him for some years, but luckily, I had bumped into him twice at Loftus Road in the last twelve months or so. Firstly, outside the Stadium and then later in the Upper Loft.
Due to current circumstances, sadly, Russ and his family weren’t able to attend the funeral, but he informed me of the arrangements.
Paul Finney picked me up from Stanmore Station and we set off to the City of London Crematorium.
Paul brought along blue and white flowers on our behalf and later I noticed amongst the others there was a wreath from the Repton Boxing Club.
The hearse pulled up and laid across the coffin poignantly, was Mark’s Rangers shirt.
Mark was a big Northern Soul fan and we made our way into the Chapel to the strains of Frank Wilson’s classic floor filler,‘Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)’.
The Priest became quite emotional when she told us how she had got to know Mark. She went on to read Russ’s eulogy, adding that she would have liked to have done it in a London accent!
Preceded by ‘Jerusalem’, the final piece of music was an R’s anthem, ‘London Calling’.
Mark James Thornhill: Rest in Peace.
God Bless you mate.