The first time I heard William Martin read, nearly 20 years ago, I knew that he was special. He had an ageless quality about him, a sort of childlike wonder. His words rang pure and true and mysteriously beautiful, and he read with the voice of a bard, breaking at times into song. When later I got to know him better, though friend and fellow-poet Keith Armstrong, I realised that this purity of vision was entirely consistent with his character, his integrity of spirit, his gentleness, humour, humility and loving kindness towards his family and friends, those timeless virtues which the world does not always sufficiently recognise.
Our thoughts are with Bill's family at this time of loss. I hope they can take comfort in the knowledge that, although Bill is gone from us in person, he has left us the priceless gift of his voice, his vision, his poems, rooted in the collective memory of the North East, in all that passes - in the now-vanished mining traditions of County Durham, the street games and rhymes of our childhood, and beneath that, the longer, deeper memory of this community, stretching back to the Anglo Saxon Church of St Bede, and to the Celtic spiritual quest beyond it. Bill Martin reminds us that we are all part of this history, that one by one we vanish into its fabric, but that the spirit, the vision, is greater than all of us, and that at its heart is one simple truth - love. Bill's love - above all for Win, Graham, Keith and all his family - but also for his friends, his community, for life itself - lives on, wherever one of his poems is read.