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Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland

Minister Talks, Of His Work Among Sailors


Felixstowe port chaplain from Lisburn marks 25 years of ministry Rev Ken Martin with his son James, wife Doreen and mother Agnes

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 con-text.

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 Lindsay Cars.

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 Ministry.

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.

Ulster Star