James Martin, long-serving minister and chaplain to Motherwell Football Club

Born: January 21, 1921;

Died: 8th April 18, 2019

THE Reverend Doctor James Martin, who has died aged 98, was a long-serving Church of Scotland minister who exercised a vigorous and successful parish ministry over 43 years. He was also chaplain to his beloved Motherwell Football Club from the 1950s until his death. For over 40 years he trained with the playing staff at least once a week and was a wise counsellor to many of the players and background staff over several generations.

He was Motherwell born and bred, the eldest of six boys, and was educated at Dalziel Public School and Dalziel High School in Motherwell, before going on to Glasgow University to study for the Ministry of the Church of Scotland. He graduated Master of Arts in 1941, prize- winner in both English and mathematics, before proceeding to Trinity College, Glasgow, from where he graduated Bachelor of Divinity with distinction in New Testament Studies and winner of gold medals in both Church history and Hebrew.

Following graduation in 1944, he took on the post of Locum Tenens at Newarthill Parish Church where he served until 1946. Thereafter he was ordained and inducted as parish minister at Newmilns West Church, Ayrshire. In 1954, he accepted the call to be minister of High Carntyne Church in Glasgow where his ministry was to become transformational both for him and for the congregation.

With soaring attendances at Sunday worship the 850 pews were filled on a weekly basis, at times requiring additional seating to be brought from the church halls. His ministry among children and particularly among teenagers was inspirational. He was assiduous in parish visitation and highly disciplined in his preparations. With a congregation of over 1600 communicant members and a profound influence across the wider parish, his workload involved the conduct of numerous funerals, weddings and baptisms, not to mention hospital visits across the city.

Perhaps his most notable attribute was his unbounded enthusiasm for his vocation. He worked long hours each day, yet found time for other activities beyond his parish duties. He served for 51 years as industrial chaplain to William Collins, Publishers. He led no fewer than 30 pilgrimages to the Holy Land. He served as chaplain to 13 British India Educational Cruises where his easy rapport with young people served him in good stead.

All of this activity was purely voluntary, as was his chaplaincy to Motherwell. He loved all manner of sports and played competitive football, usually as an inside forward for over 40 years. To put it kindly, he was a robust opponent, uncompromising in the tackle, and not always in agreement with the decisions of match officials.

He took seriously his obligations to the wider church, both at Presbytery level and in the committees of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland where he held convenerships in relation to the St. Andrews Press, Publications, and the Board of Communications.

Jim Martin was an excellent communicator and, not surprisingly, was in demand as a broadcaster, both on radio and television, working at various times with the BBC, STV and Radio Clyde. He was also a prolific author with 30 published books to his credit. His final publication, 52 Brief Meditations, appeared in July 2015, a compilation of articles written originally for the Church of Scotland magazine, Life and Work, and for the popular magazine, People’s Friend – a most apt description of the man himself.

At the height of his busy ministry, he still found time to assist his good friend, Professor William Barclay, in the task of re-editing and updating the complete set of Barclay’s The Daily Bible Study.

His ministry was grounded firmly in his strong Christian beliefs centring on God’s love manifested in the life, death and exaltation of Jesus. Throughout his life he retained an active intellect. He held the Bruce Lectureship at Glasgow University’s Trinity College from 1960 - 64 and maintained a strong relationship with the college throughout his ministry. It was most fitting that in 1983 his alma mater conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity in recognition of his services to the Church and to the wider community.

He was a fun-loving person with a great sense of humour, qualities which helped him in establishing an easy rapport with church members and parishioners alike, and which enhanced his wonderful ability to communicate with children and young people.

His family life was outstandingly happy. In 1947 he married Marion Greig. Marion was the light of his life and the lasting source of encouragement and inspiration. They were a splendid team and shared so much happiness and fun. Sadly, in 2014, Marion predeceased Jim, but not before, together, they had seen their two daughters, Heather and Lesley, happily married and had enjoyed their four grandchildren, and their two great grandchildren.

To recall the many achievements of this multi-talented individual does not begin to do justice to Jim Martin the man who rose from the humblest of origins of which he was immensely proud, to fulfil with honour and distinction the vocation to which he dedicated his entire life.