Globe-trotting church leader to help region

Dermot Thornberry from Blackwell has been appointed as new Superintendant to oversee 26 Methodist Churches in the region. Dermot and his wife Charlene.
Dermot Thornberry from Blackwell has been appointed as new Superintendant to oversee 26 Methodist Churches in the region. Dermot and his wife Charlene.

A cosmopolitan minister has been appointed as superintendent of 26 churches on the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire border after he has fought prejudice and injustice around the world.

Rev Dermot Thornberry, 63, of Blackwell, near Alfreton, grew up in Belfast and was inspired to join the Christian movement against apartheid while he was working in the restaurant trade in South Africa when he was 29 years-old.

He said: “I was a restaurant manager during the anti-apartheid era when black people were not considered South African citizens and if they went into what were considered wrong areas the authorities would raid workplaces and pull them out of their jobs and send them back to tribal regions.

“I met some extraordinary people working against this system and worked with the churches in particular who were operating against apartheid to change things.”

Rev Thornberry lived in South Africa for 27 years where he was ordained as a Methodist minister. Before this he had lived in Australia working for an insurance company and as a cabbie and travelled to Bali, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Burma, Kathmandu, Nepal, India and Pakistan.

During his time in South Africa, he assisted a church in Namibia, trained in Pretoria and spent time in Natal where he was chaplain to the town council during the era when Nelson Mandela was released from captivity.

Rev Thornberry also enjoyed an exchange in America before moving to Great Ayton, near Middlesbrough, in the late 90s, then Reading, Paignton and now Blackwell.

He said: “When we first arrived in Derbyshire we loved hearing people warmly addressing each other as duck and we’ve received such a welcome reception I’m glad to say we’re very happy and settled.”