IN ENGLAND'S LARGEST CONTAINER PORT
chaplain from Lisburn marks 25 years of ministry
A LISBURN man who has been Chaplain to England's largest
container port for more than 19 years recently celebrated a
quarter of a century in the Christian Ministry.
This major anniversary in the life of Ken Martin who is based
at Felixstowe's 'Seafarers Centre' was marked by a special
service in the East Anglian town's United Reformed Church.
Ken, who was brought up at Lawnmount Crescent in Hilden, was
back in Lisburn this week with his wife Doreen, originally from
Dungannon and their son James to visit his mother Agnes who
still lives in the family home.
During the visit Ken described the type of work he carries
out among sailors whose ships dock at Felixstowe.
However, this was not the first time he has featured in his
home town's local newspaper.
The last occasion, almost 19 years ago, demonstrated all too
clearly the type of sudden and hearbreaking challenge which can
face a port chaplain at any time.
"James was just a baby and I hadn't been at Felixstowe very
long when the 'Herald of Free Enterprise' ferry capsized at
Zeebrugge," he explained.
"There was an article in the Star about me at the time -
James was in the picture as a baby - but the whole aftermath of
the disaster was one of the most awful experiences. "I can
remember one man telling me it would be 'good experience'. When
I heard that statement I felt so bad I really didn't know what
to do. In the end I just cried."
Fortunately, most of Ken's work takes place in a much happier
He is assisted in his role as Port Chaplain by a Church Army
Captain and a Catholic lay worker. "Some of the largest
containerships in the world come into Felixstowe and the longest
they stay with us is 24 hours," he explained.
"It is a joy to see some of these sailors come to a living
faith in Christ.
"To think there are Bible study groups on ships is amazing.
"On one vessel eight men hold their study together in the
mess room as a witness to their colleagues while on another they
get together at midnight, the only time they can meet. We are
giving away hundreds of Bibles each year."
Ken is the son of Agnes Martin who recently celebrated her
80th birthday and the late Thomas James Martin.
Both his parents were employees of Bridgeport Brass and as a
child he attended Hilden Primary School progressing on to
Lisnagarvey High and Belfast Bible College. He also studied at
Westminster College, Cambridge
He is a former merchant seaman who became a committed
Christian many years ago at a service in Lisburn's Salvation
Army Citadel which was then located on the site now occupied by
He sailed the world as a crew member on board the mission
ship operated by 'Operation Mobilisation', the
inter-denominational Christian missionary organisation.
Ken was eventually sent into the missionary field by Lowe
Memorial Presbyterian Church in Finaghy under the auspices of
the Sailors Society.
He and Doreen spent four and a half years in Jamaica and it
was during his time in the Caribbean he was ordained to the
They then spent more than five years in Belgium where their
son born just before they moved to Felixstowe.
"We have so much to thank Felixstowe for - the town and the
people have been very good to us," he added.
"I still look forward each day to going on board the ships,
meeting new seafarers from different countries, never knowing
what problems you will find and giving help where we can.
"It is a wonderful privilege to serve in this way."
Ken returned to Felixstowe on Wednesday and is once again
hard at work caring for the wellbeing sailors in the port.
Unfortunately, his departure from Lisburn was a little sadder
than normal as he explained.
"Usually my mother travels back with us to spend some time in
East Anglia. Sadly she has not been able to do so on this
occasion because of health problems but she does hope to visit
Felixstowe again in the future.