Friends and family line funeral route in honour of Dromore’s Ernie Martin - tradesman, craftsman, musician and churchman

Once hailed as the best joiner in Dromore, Ernest (Ernie) Martin, who passed away recently, aged 91, was credited with the ability to “make the wood sing”; no less than you might expect, perhaps, of a man who was himself a dedicated chorister.

Tuesday, 30th June 2020, 9:50 am

A member of the celebrated Dromore and District Male Voice Choir, Ernie was attending rehearsals right up until earlier this year.

Tradesman, craftsman, musician, churchman and even marksman, Ernie was a man of many talents and interests, driven to live life to the full, in keeping with his favoured maxim “It’s better wearing out than rusting out.”

As one who took up running in his fifties, only hanging up his shoes at the age of 75, the Barban Hill man was never in danger of gathering any rust.

Ernie passed away on Sunday, May 31 and coronavirus restrictions meant only immediate family members could join John Gamble Funeral Directors at the June 3 graveside service conducted by the Rev Brian Moodie at Dromore Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church.

But friends and family lined the route from his home to the church to pay their respects to the dearly loved husband of the late Norah, much loved father of Walter, Anne, Joe, Adwena, Heather and Jeffrey, father-in-law of Evelyn, Tim, Raymond and Stephen and dear grandfather of Amy and James.

Ernie Martin studied woodwork and mechanics at Belfast Technical College, achieving his City and Guilds qualifications with Distinction, and attended night school at Dromore and Lisburn Tech, learning Technical drawing and English literature.

For 38 years he worked with John Graham’s Construction Ltd, Dromore, where he was respected as a highly skilled tradesman, reaching the position of Joinery Foreman in the 1980s.

He subsequently worked for several other local construction companies.

It was one former employer who declared him “the best joiner in Dromore”.

Numerous examples of his craftsmanship exist around Dromore and throughout Northern Ireland, among them the pulpit at Drumlough Church and the stairs and pulpit at Banbridge Road Presbyterian Church.

In Dromore NS Presbyterian Church he made the stairs to the pulpit, the wooden frames for the two 16ft stained glass windows either side of the pulpit and the frame for the Sacramental War Memorial window.

He worked too on the Maypole Park and Jubilee Park housing developments in Dromore as well as the council offices in Hillsborough and the roof, stairs and windows of Dromore Masonic Hall.

Known for his infectious enthusiasm for music, he also turned his hand to making a number of guitars.

In his sixties Ernie became sexton of Dromore NS Presbyterian Church, a position he held until he retired at the age of 80.

He was also involved in various church activities, including the Property Committee, and occasionally helped out as ‘lollipop man’ at Dromore Central Primary School.

In the 1940s he was a member of the Army Cadet Force and his proficiency as a marksman became clear when he achieved full marks in a competition and was ranked joint first in Northern Ireland.

As a young man Ernie enjoyed cycling, but when he turned to running later in life he raised £1,720 for the Paul Russell Trust Fund by participating in the Magheralin, Lisburn and Dromore fun-runs.

He liked to play the occasional game of snooker too, and was an accomplished wine maker in the 1960s.

In the 1980s, after joining the church choir, he also joined Dromore and District Male Voice Choir, performing at many concerts and church services throughout Ireland and Scotland.

He remained a member and, despite his frailty in walking, he was determined, at age 90, to sing in the choir’s most recent annual concert last year; he continued to attend rehearsals until recently.

Thanks to the skill of the cardiac team at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital, Ernie survived major heart surgery in 2013 and subsequently enjoyed four memorable holidays in Italy.

In 2015, a month before his 86th birthday, he became Worshipful Master of Lagandale Lodge of Freemasons 521. He was a companion of W H Phillips Memorial Royal Arch Chapter No 521.

Having studied accordion as a young man. Ernie started playing again about nine years ago, after hearing Jinglers Bridge Musical Group perform at Scarva bandstand.

A few weeks later he was playing in the group, with annual concerts in Scarva and at care homes. Again, he was rehearsing with them until recently.

In the summer months he enjoyed weekly performances by musical groups at Scarva and Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park.

With his ageless spirit, boundless enthusiasm and great sense of humour, Ernie Martin enriched the lives of all who knew him; he was a true gentleman, much loved by family and friends, for whom life will never be the same without him.

Donations in lieu of flowers, if desired, may be made online at: or sent to John Gamble Funeral Directors, 7 Meeting Street, Dromore BT25 1AQ, for Heart Trust Fund (cheques made payable to John Gamble).