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Thames community unites at Tower for harbour master

Thames safety workers and watermen bid to boost fundraising for harbour master’s cancer battle

From front: Terry Leach (HM Coastguard), Lee Phillips (LFB), Steve King (RNLI), Steve Ford (Ambulance service), Andy Hudson (Police), Sarah McLeod (PLA)

Joanne Towens, Mark's sister, was joined by Harry McCarthy, Simon McCarthy and Robert Dwan to help spread the news of the appeal.

The tidal Thames river community is joining forces to support fundraising efforts for Mark Towens, Port of London Authority (PLA) harbour master, who is battling cancer.

Members of the Tidal Thames Water Safety Forum (TTWSF), which Mark chairs, gathered at Tower Pier (22 July), in a bid to boost an appeal to enable Mark to secure emergency treatment overseas. The trip is needed urgently as the cancer, first detected over 15 years ago, returned at an advanced stage four years ago and has recently spread to Mark’s brain.

In its first seven days, the appeal raised over £70,000 towards the £100,000 target.

It was under Mark’s leadership, while he was dealing with the impact of advanced cancer and its treatment, that the TTWSF, with the help of HRH The Duke of Cambridge, last year launched a Drowning Prevention Strategy for the tidal River Thames.

Among the organisations who attended the Tower appeal for Mark are the Police, the RNLI, the London Fire Brigade, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the London Ambulance Service. Mark’s deputy, Sarah Macleod, represented the PLA.

Former winners of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race wearing their bright red ceremonial jackets and golden armplates also lined up on the banks of the river to add their support to the fundraising appeal. Mark, a member of the Company of Watermen & Lighterman, competed in the race in 2004. Founded in 1715, it is thought to be the world’s oldest continuous sporting event.

Neil Withers from the RNLI, one of Mark’s colleagues on the TTWSF, said: “The entire river community is rallying behind Mark and his family at his time of need.

“There is no greater champion of safety on the river than Mark, a fact reflected in the determination and persistence he showed in making the Drowning Prevention Strategy a reality last year, despite his illness.

“He’s a man of the Thames to his core, who as a rower has long enjoyed the recreational opportunities the river offers.

“He cares passionately about all aspects of life on the river. Now it’s our turn to show how much we care about him and how much we are supporting him in his fight against cancer.”

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