Martin Walsh, –2011
I didn’t expect to be standing here today, paying tribute to my son. Indeed, it was only 18 months ago since I was in this same spot, doing exactly the same for my dear brother, Peter. Martin and Peter shared similar traits – both had a sense of fearlessness and adventure. But Martin had one more – a feeling of compassion and concern for anyone in difficulty or in need of help.Martin was born Nov. 1955 in a nursing home in Bramley, nr. Leeds. He liked to tell everyone he had been born in Armley ( the gaol, that is.) Some of you expressed no surprise at this. His lovely mother, Monica, who, sadly, is unable to be with us today, used to call him No. 1 son. His first sign of adventure was when she heard a bang, one evening, from his nursery bedroom and rushed upstairs to find him playing with his toys on the carpet floor. He had climbed out of his high-sided cot; shades of things to come??? The day we moved house from Wrose Rd. to Bolton Rd. in 1963, Martin, then aged 7, took his little sister, Catherine, to the teacher, tearfully complaining that his Mum and Dad had not told them where they were going – He loved to create a drama. Family holidays were spent mainly in Filey, where Martin developed a great love of fishing, persuading his somewhat reluctant father to take him out on one of the many boats available at that time. He made friends of many fishermen, right up to last year.
Martin’s dream, as a youth, was to fly. He joined the Air Cadets and gained his solo glider-pilot’s license. His biggest disappointment was to learn he was colour blind, thus preventing him from achieving his ambition to be an R.A.F. pilot. Undeterred, he turned his sights to the opposite ends of the spectrum – caving. He joined Newcastle University Caving Club,, starting a long association that continues to the present – indeed I understand there are several members present here today – you are most welcome. From caving/potholing, Martin progressed seamlessly into mining, studying mining engineering at Doncaster College subsequently progressing to the position of ‘Under-manager. Whilst at Doncaster, he lived with his great-aunt Ellen in Mexboro. She treated him as her own son-there was great affection between them. I’m delighted to say that Ellen, now 94 years old, her sister Anne and family have made the trip from Mexboro’ to be with us today.
Susan remembers when Ellen bought them a wedding present, it was a set of brown towels – no point having white ones whilst Martin was around. About this time, Martin met and fell madly in love with his ‘wife-to-be’ - Susan . They were married in this church in 1982, and went to live in Micklefield. Their daughter, Stephanie was the first-born, followed by the twins – Richard and Dominic. Prior to the arrival of the family, Martin and Susan had the chance to visit Australia, courtesy of the Coal Board, who wanted Martin to examine a new type of mine roofing. Susan took the opportunity to visit her sister and Martin met up with several old friends who had settled there. One of them – Stephen Baines, emailed me with about a memorable birthday party, at which Martin told everyone that, when he was 40, he was goiug to climb K2 AND HE DID! Not K2 the mountain in Afghanistan, but K2 – the curryhouse in Lumb Lane round the corner from Columba Club. One evening he had shinned up the drainpipe to stand on the roof of K2.
Martin’s exploits with his microlight are legendary. Based on Rufforth he would cover all Yorkshire, using landing strips like South Filey Bay also Oxenhope International Airport, inviting his passenger to visit the control tower, which turned out to be the Tap-room of the nearby Dog & Gun. He was once reported for ‘hedgehopping’ the jump fences at Wetherby Racecourse. I volunteered, (why I will never know), to try a flight – perhaps because my old schoolfriend, Frank Thompson, had already been up as ‘rear-gunner’. After the first terrifying few minutes it really became a wonderful experience and I began to realise why Martin loved it so.
The next big disappointment in Martin’s life was the closure of the mines, following the miners’ strike. And with it, the end of his career in mining. The family returned to Bradford, to live in the family house in Shaftesbury Avenue. Martin tried several jobs, but by this time, his chronic illness was beginning to manifest itself, placing a huge strain on family life. It is here that I want to pay tribute to Susan, who, throughout all this adversity, somehow managed to keep the family together and subsequently, when Martin came to live with us, she continued to support me in caring for him. Thank you, Susan.
Finally, I must, on behalf of the family thank you all for your attendance, which is a source of great comfort to us. Special thanks to Dr. Reynolds and the Staff at Bfd. Royal Infirmary for their kind care. Thank you, Fr. Eamonn, for all the kind support you have given to the family, both at the hospital and at this lovely service. May I thank Fr. Pat Wall – Chaplain to the Knights of St. Columba, along with Martins fellow members of Bfd. Cl. 83., also Fr. John Newman for letting us use the church, and to Mark Bolland for kindly assisting on the organ.> Special thanks to Richard and Dominic’s 6th Form colleagues, who, along with the Knights of St. Columba, will form a ‘guard of honour’ as the coffin leaves the church. As you leave, there is a box for donations for Bfd. Alzheimer’s Society, and the family warmly invite to partake of refreshment at the Bfd. Irish Club, just at the bottom of the street. Go forth, beloved Martin – Adventurer Extraordinare – on you last great adventure to meet your Maker and may your noble soul finally find peace and rest in Him. Amen.