David Thornton

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DAVID Thornton who has died, aged 76, was one of the most complete sportsmen to come out of Ermysted’s Grammar School and went on to inspire generations of young sports people as a Housemaster at Giggleswick School.

David Thornton was born in Cononley, from where he went as an 11-year-old to Ermysted’s. From the start, he showed himself to be an outstanding athlete. At a time when school sport at Skipton had a very high profile, David stood out amongst his contemporaries.

David Thornton: An inspiration for generations of  young sports people.

David Thornton: An inspiration for generations of young sports people.

In his first year he won the school cross country race and went on to win it in every succeeding year, establishing records for the course. His greatest strength, though, was as a middle distance runner and he quickly established himself as a supremely gifted miler and 880 yard runner both at school and in local and area competition.

When he turned his hand to other events, he proved equally talented, winning the long jump and the javelin.

His athletic prowess transferred itself to the rugby field. He played at centre for a very successful school 1st XV and was selected to represent Yorkshire Schoolboys against Wales. He also turned out whilst still a schoolboy for Skipton RUFC.

David Thornton was also gifted academically and as in his sport showed the remarkable ability to succeed at whatever he turned his hand to. His greatest love at school, as in later life, was working with wood, handicraft as it was called then.

However, he was persuaded by the then headmaster, M.L. Forster, to study maths and science in the sixth form and consequently won a place at Christ’s College, Cambridge, to read Natural Sciences.

After two years’ National Service in the RAF, David embarked on three years at Cambridge which brought further accolades. After winning the Freshers’ trials at both the mile and half mile under the gaze of one Harold Abrahams, then working for The Times as athletics correspondent, David went on to become President of the Cambridge University Athletics Club.

By a nice coincidence, in the 1958 Oxford v Cambridge match he found himself competing against an exact contemporary from Ermysted’s, David Carrington.

After his degree, David Thornton started his teaching career in Horncastle, Lincolnshire, where he married Shirley Mawson whom he had known since primary school days in Cononley.

In 1964, he was appointed to Giggleswick School, initially as a teacher of Physics and then as Housemaster of Paley House. Here he took on responsibility for the school’s athletics and rugby and was successful in inculcating his own love of sport in generations of students.

His retirement in 1995, gave him time to devote to his love of woodwork and his family’s houses became the beneficiaries of his talents as a cabinet maker.

David Thornton died last month after a short illness. He is survived by his wife and three children.

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