William Martin was born in the mining village of New Silksworth, near Sunderland in 1925. During the Second World War, he was a radio technician in the RAF, based near Karachi, in India, where he was to be inspired by the eastern religious and philosophical traditions. When demobbed he became a gas fitter and later served in the Audiology Department of Sunderland Royal Infirmary, retiring as Head of Department.
In 1950 he married Winsome Groves, from Hartlepool, a fellow member of the Labour League of Youth, and they were to go on to have two sons, Graham and Keith. After marrying they returned to live in New Silksworth, but now live in Sunderland. William was an keen member of CND and participated in the ritual boarding of nuclear submarines in Holy Loch, Scotland in 1961. He became an artist and had work purchased and exhibited by Sunderland Art Gallery. However oil paints and a young family were not an easy combination and poetry became his medium from the mid 1960's onwards.
For some years he wrote without any recognition, but in 1970, he had a book of poetry published by Coelfrith Press, based at Sunderland Arts Centre. He trhen went on to have his next book published to commemorate the Wearmouth 1300 Festival in 1973 (Tidings of our Bairnsea). His first major reading was to be part of that festival in the Saxon church of St Peters in Monkwearmouth. That was to signal the begining of regular readings and his bardic style was to become popular around the North East of England and beyond. In 1981, he was to read one of his most well known poems, 'Kildan Fragments' on the BBC Radio 3 programme, Poetry Now (see the page on Cracknrigg for a transcript of the poem). William still read publicly until only a few months before his death.
To watch a video combining biographical images with William reading his poem 'Marking Time', click the play button below: