John Martin was born in Bessbrook near Newry, Co Armagh, Ireland on 12 August 1875.1 Hailing from a Church of Ireland family, he was the son of William Martin, a carpenter, and Elizabeth Patterson.
Initially working as a labourer, Martin joined the Royal Navy as a stoker in March 1900; he was described as standing at 5’ 7½” and he had brown hair, blue eyes and fair complexion, sporting tattoos on his left forearm and a scar on his nose. The majority of his naval career was at the accounting shore station Pembroke II, during which time he spent numerous spells of detention for poor behaviour. In July 1903 he was ejected from service on account of theft.
Whilst a resident of 20 Boyne Street in Belfast, Martin was married in that city’s Christ Church on 5 August 1900 to linen worker Wilhelmina Kerr (b. 6 July 1878), the daughter of a sea captain.
The couple welcomed five children: William (b. 1901), Wilhelmina (b. 1903), Georgina (b. 1909), Lilian (b. 1914) and Margaret (b. 1916). Daughter Georgina died in June 1910 after an attack of the measles whilst daughter Lilian did not reach her first birthday and died in March 1915 from bronchopneumonia.
The family appears on the 1911 census as residents of 29 Teutonic Street, Belfast and John was described as a fireman.
Martin’s ship prior to Titanic had been the Torr Head. He joined Titanic at Belfast for the delivery trip to Southampton where he then disembarked.
John Martin remained at sea for a number of years after the Titanic. Widowed in December 1934 and burying his wife on Christmas Eve, John rallied for almost another two decades. His last address in Belfast was 20 Auburn Street but he died in a sanitorium on 8 March 1951 aged 75. He is buried with his wife in Dundonald Cemetery (plot E3 371).
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