Rev Jim Martin remembered as a ‘man who made a difference’

Former clergyman and founder of the Martin Residential Trust, the Rev. Jim Martin MBE, has died after a short illness. He was 88.

Martin Residential Trust. (Pic Google).
Martin Residential Trust. (Pic Google).

Mr Martin was the first rector of St Brigid’s Church of Ireland in Glengormley.

A service of thanksgiving for his life was held in Fleming and Cuthbert funeral home, Ballyclare, on August 2.

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Due to Covid restrictions, only members of his immediate family were present. But over 100 people - including close friends, members of the St Brigid’s congregation and representatives of the MRT - attended the committal in Antrim Cemetery.

Rev Jim Martin.

Mr Martin made it a personal mission to build the MRT - a residential home for the profoundly mentally disabled - after experiencing at first hand the immense difficulties one family in the St Brigid’s congregation was experiencing caring for their severely disabled son in their own home.

He vowed that “under God” he would build a new home for Roy and Dorothy Greer’s son Steven, who sadly passed away two years ago.

Mr Martin, originally from east Belfast, served his time as a joiner, starting work at the age of 14 in Harland and Wolff shipyard.

However, married with two young children, he “answered a call from God” to study for the Church of Ireland ministry at Trinity College Dublin.

Mr Martin’s son Timothy, speaking at the service, said: “Everyone I have spoken to has said how kind and nice my father was - but there was another side to him that was more important than that.

“My dad possessed a ferocity. As a new parish, St Brigid’s didn’t have a rectory. My father built one with his own bare hands. That’s fierce.

“Promising Dorothy Greer he would build a home for her son Steven, when he knew nothing at all about working with the profoundly mentally disabled - that is fierce.”

Timothy said the family had been taking turns to be at his father’s bedside in Antrim Area Hospital during his last days. He stressed how hot the ward had been due to the heatwave.

“But then, just after my father passed, we walked outside and the sky darkened. The heavens opened and there was a flash of lightning and thunder.

“I have a good friend from Nigeria and when I told him that, he said ‘in Nigeria they say when that has happened, a giant has fallen and the earth weeps.

“But Caroline, Lisa (his two sisters) and I had a different theory. We think he might’ve been getting an earful from Kate (referencing their mother Kathleen, who passed away eight years ago) about how he didn’t spend enough time with the grandchildren - or what took him so long to get there!”

Timothy also told of how, one time when he and Lisa had been at their father’s house in Antrim, they had come upon the MBE he had been awarded in the bottom of a drawer.

“My dad said, ‘you take that - I don’t need it.’ That summed up my dad. He had kept many things my mum had bought him over the years - over 50 dress shirts, an old rusty exercise bike from 40 years ago - but he’d no interest in the MBE. Today is probably the first time the letters MBE have appeared after his name,” said Timothy.

During the service, Mr Martin’s grand-daughters - Deborah, Sarah, Lara, Grace and Elise - also paid tributes and read scripture passages.

The Rev Stephen McBride, Archdeacon of Connor - who officiated at the service - said: “A joiner by trade, he was a man used to working with his hands and his tools. When I saw him in hospital, there on his beside locker was his bible - the best tool he ever used.”

In a social media post, Penny McCanny (who had been appointed general manager of the MRT when it was built in 1988 - and who just stepped down from the post earlier this year) described Mr Martin as “a wonderful, caring and compassionate man who I had the privilege of knowing and working with for 30 years.

“A good man who made a difference, not only to the people who lived in the MRT, but to all who knew him.”

Mr Martin was laid to rest with his wife Kathleen. He is survived by his children - Caroline, Timothy and Lisa - grandchildren and great-grandchildren.


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