Wed, 24 July, 2024

Frank Thorne

Posted: September 9th, 2021

We are indebted to Sandra White for sharing her eulogy, which has been added to tributes at the foot of this post.

Our dear old friend, colleague and reporter extraordinaire, the inimitable and award-winning FRANK THORNE, died last night [Sept 8, 2021] in The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, from complications following a kidney transplant.

Frank’s funeral will be on Monday, October 11 at 12.40 at the South Essex Crematorium, Ockenden Road, Upminster, Essex RM14 2UY.

Afterwards there will be a reception at Henry’s, Romford Road, Aveley, South Ockenden RM15 4XB. The link below will take you to the undertaker’s website and provide you with directions to both venues.

The service will also be live-streamed – the details for that are also in the link above.

FRANK was a top reporter on the Daily Mirror, Sunday People, Daily Express and Today. He was also a renowned freelance for most British and other national newspapers for several years in Australia, and at one time after leaving the Mirror he worked on TV’s The Cook Report.

He was 72 but we couldn’t do a “Frankie Goes To Vagabonds” 70th birthday as he was undergoing gruelling dialysis while awaiting his transplant. (With thanks to Alastair McQueen.)

Alastair Campbell: “That is so sad. The last time I saw him – at a funeral, which alas is where too many meetings happen these days – he was on amazing form considering all the health challenges he had faced. Such a lovely guy and such a terrific reporter who taught so much to others.”

Sue Bullivant: “Brendan [Monks] took this jolly pic a couple of years ago at the Bleeding Heart. This is how I will remember dear old Thorny x”

Jeffrey Edwards: “Sad news. A warm and often hilarious character and a peerless professional. RIP Frankie.”

Roy Greenslade: “Frank and I first met in the mid-1970s, when he was working for The People and I was a casual sub on the Sunday Mirror, and we stayed friends ever after. He was irrepressible, always cheerful and optimistic. Those qualities were to the fore in the way he went about his reporting and the way he treated people. During my short and difficult stint as Daily Mirror editor, he proved to be a wonderful colleague and often lifted me out of my gloom.

“I set him and Ted Oliver a tough task (the Arthur Scargill story) and told them they must drink moderately during their investigation and that, if they were found worse for drink in the office, they’d be fired. They agreed and behaved well for a couple of weeks until drink got the better of them one night and they rolled into my office, singing and shouting. They were only standing up because they were leaning against one another other but, inevitably, one made a false move and they collapsed backwards on to the floor in front of my desk.

“Frank, red-faced and smiling broadly, asked from his supine position: “Are you going to sack us now?” I didn’t of course and they went on to win awards for their exclusive. Despite later differences of opinion in the aftermath of that story, our friendship remained steadfast. Indeed, when I revealed my Irish republican sympathies earlier this year, I received a lengthy, warm and supportive email from Frank.

“I’m aware of the clichés that follow, but they do sum him up. He was a one-off; a character; an old-school reporter, hard-working and hard-drinking. A Fleet Street legend, if you like. But we shouldn’t overlook the skills he employed, and the intelligent way he used them. He never forgot what he learned while under the tutelage of that doyen of investigative journalists, Laurie Manifold at The People. Raise a glass or three to Frank Thorne, the man who smiled through adversity right up to the end.”

Geoff Webster: “Very, very sad news. Frank was particularly helpful to me when I came down from Manchester.  What a lovely man and brilliant journalist. An absolute diamond.”

Anna Smith: “So sorry to hear this. I’ve been reading Frank’s posts on the run up to his ops and it all sounded so upbeat and inspiring. Such a great character and a top journalist. Huge loss. Thoughts are with his family.”

Caro Bass: “This is devastating news. Not only was Frankie a top, top reporter, he was a lovely, caring human being. He was my friend. He was so supportive when Brian died. He was irrepressible and is irreplaceable.”

Tony Patey: “Can’t believe Frank is dead. Thorough professional. First met him when he and Terry Lovell were working freelance out of a room above a garage in Harold Wood in the very early 70s. I was chief district reporter for Romford Times and we once spent a drunken evening
together as they tried to get me to join them. Doing the round of pubs we picked up a couple of stories – as one did – and I think one of them, about a parrot in a pub in Warley, even made The People. Terry, the lovely rogue, is also alas no more. RIP, mes braves.”

Plain John Smith: “Sadly, we say farewell to another of Fleet Street’s finest. Frank was the brightest and the best, and I am proud to have worked alongside someone who knew what popular newspapers were all about and never failed to serve them with style and distinction.

“Old hacks like me admired Frank not only for the tenacity and determination that made him a great reporter, but also for the way, accompanied by a sprinkling of self-effacing humour, he carried these characteristics over to his fight against the medical setbacks that dogged him for so many years.

“In typical Frank style, he tackled these adversities head-on and managed to cling on to life even in those dark days when the odds seemed stacked so strongly against him. RIP.” Plain John

Sylvia Jones:  “Although it was a close run thing, I think Frank loved life even more than he loved a good story. He died trying to keep on living. If only he had made it to see his book published.

I remember him in his prime, acting as my ‘pimp’ when we went undercover to expose hookers who were active in Harrods perfumery department to pick up rich foreign clients. Frank was in his element wearing an eye-catching shiny mohair suit – with a touch of lurex running through the fabric – flooding the Knightsbridge pick-up bars with pink Champagne using a generous advance from the Bank in the Sky.

We can all entertain each other with his legendary and well remembered exploits. He was one of a dying journalistic breed who could always manage to write the splash – in Frank’s case probably in between his Karaoke rendering of Roy Orbison hits and getting in the next round!

But beyond all that booze and reporting razzmatazz, Frank was a kind, generous and loyal friend to a lot of people. He’ll be missed, not least by me.”

Sandra White, October 11, 2021: Frank Thorne took no prisoners. If you were a bent cop, a dirty vicar or a corrupt sportsman he would work relentlessly until he had you banged to rights.

Frank did not tolerate fools, he had no time for talentless hacks, and despised newsdesk executives who didn’t share his own wonderful opinion of himself.

Years ago I received a call from David Alford. “Come right away,” he said, “Frank is trying to throw PJ out the window.” When I got to the People office, Frank had been surrounded by his colleagues, trying to keep him away from PJ, the news editor.

I said: “Come on, we’re leaving,” and he followed me out. When we got outside it was pouring with rain. Don’t ask me why, we took off our shoes and turned up at the Wine Press, sopping wet, barefoot and laughing teacakes.

Those of us here, and those tuning in from six countries, are special. Frank rated us. He chose us as his friends. To us, he was kind, loyal, generous and protective.

One evening I found our friend PD slumped against the bar of Vagabonds, looking very fed up. He said he and Frank were going to go for a Chinese and have a quiet night in. But down the other end of the bar Frank was well away, belting out Three Steps to Heaven. PD sighed: “Sometimes it’s hard being Frank’s friend.” And then we both said together: “But he’s worth it.”

He would drive me mad sometimes, actually many times. When he did, I would pummel the cushions at home, saying: “Frank Thorne’s head.” Once when he had spent another night on our sofa – my husband asked me if he had moved in! – I made the children their breakfast. As Frank stood there drinking his black tea, my son picked up his spoon, bashed it into his boiled egg and said: “Frank Thorne’s head.”

I would like to read an email Frank wrote to one of his close Aussie friends, Steve Holland. Frank wrote it last year, just as the pandemic was taking hold. “Good to hear from you in the early hours of your morning, 3pm in the afternoon here in Essex, UK where I am isolating myself as much as possible.

“Just to remind you that if fate means we will never meet again and I am claimed by the Coronavirus, I have enjoyed a wonderful life from being brought up as a poor ragamuffin working class kid in the deprived suburbs of Manchester, who read only Dennis the Menace comics, to one of the best reporters Fleet Street as ever seen and then on to one of the best reporters Australia has ever seen.

“It has been an extraordinary, unimaginable fantastic life journey of fun, family, love , friends, laughter and tears. I have no regrets and will die happy knowing I never let a chance go by. What a life!”

He didn’t let chance go by, and it was the chance of a new life with a new kidney that has led us here. A chance he took bravely and confidently, making plans to travel to see his far flung friends.

And as he said What a Life. I am glad I was able to spend so much of it with him.

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