Mad Martins

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Mad Martins is a unique performance, recording and book project featuring original songs, poetry and spoken word narration depicting the extraordinary lives and times of the notorious Martin Brothers, William, Jonathan and John, who were born in the late Eighteenth Century in the South Tyne area of Northumberland.

Mad Martins was initially conceived by Poet and Narrator Keith Armstrong and is led and coordinated by Musical Director and Songwriter Gary Miller.

Mad Martins offers a variety of items and services, including a triple CD lovingly housed in a lavish 104-page book, concert performances, theatre shows, exclusive merchandise and more.

Please look around our website and if you have any comments or questions, please feel free to contact us. We hope to see you again! Check back later for new updates to our website. There’s much more to come!



Mad Martins aims to promote the legacy of the Martin Brothers, William, Jonathan and John by presenting an exciting, enthralling and educational package of entertainment, delivered through a broad range of creative art forms.

Mad Martins has been made possible through the collaboration of a wide circle of friends, all highly-motivated professionals in their respective chosen field, each giving generously of their time and individual skills, and is a true labour of love by all concerned.

Mad Martins is...

  • A collection of songs, poems, music and art
  • A 50-track triple CD and 104-page deluxe book containing lyrics, interlinking text and around 100 illustrations
  • A live concert performance
  • A 3-hour theatre show in 3 acts
  • All off the above and more

To learn more about the project, watch Gary's video presentation, below : -


William Martin (1772-1851) was born at The Towhouse, one of a group of old greystone cottages standing on a plateau half a mile west of Bardon Mill, Haltwhistle, Northumberland, during a night of violent thunder and lightning on June 21st 1772. 

A philosopher, doggerel poet, pamphleteer, engraver and inventor; he aspired to be 'Renaissance Man' and aimed for the "defeat of learned humbugs":

"Cheer up, you Northumberland and British Bards that can use the pen

And show your divine wisdom for the good of all men…
Cheer up, you Britons, your champion has the battle won,
All the world cannot penetrate the celestial armour he has him upon."

His many inventions included a Life Preserver, a Mechanical Horse, and a Flying Machine. Some of his discoveries and ideas came to him, like his brother Jonathan, in "dreams and visions of the night".

Jonathan Martin (1782-1838) from High Side, near Hexham, has gone down in history as 'the notorious incendiary' of York Minster. Six years in the Navy (both the Royal and the Merchant) when he was present at the Battle of Copenhagen, gave him a love of roving “which prevented him from settling down to regular employment”. A passionate religious fervour led him to indulge in frequent fits of rage against the clergy, coming to a head with his plot to assassinate the Bishop of Oxford and resulting in his committal as a lunatic at West Auckland and Gateshead Asylums. Eventually released, after two escapes, he travelled to York where he issued dark warnings to the 'Clargy', accusing them of going to plays and balls, playing at cards, and drinking wine.

"Hear the word of the Lord Oh you blind Hipacrits, you Saarpents and Vipears of Hell, you wine Bibears and Beffe Yeaters, whose eyes stand out with Fatness… Oh repent for the Sourd of Justic's is at hand. J.M. our sincerest Friend.”

In the early morning of 2nd February 1829, he set fire to the Minster and was later confined in the Royal Bethlem Hospital (Bedlam) where he died in the same year that his son Richard committed suicide.

John Martin (1789-1854) was born July 19th 1789 in a one-roomed farm cottage at East Landends, Haydon Bridge, Northumberland, thirteenth and youngest child of Fenwick and Isabella. Although the family was living in poverty, John became the first Martin to attend school. The progressive Haydon Bridge Grammar school provided him with free schooling, and his parents with a cheap form of childcare. He showed an early talent for drawing, utilising the schoolroom walls, the doors of the villagers, and the sandbanks of the River Tyne.

An apprenticeship as a heraldic painter with a High Friar Street coach builder in Newcastle was his first taste of work before he headed for London, marrying there at the age of 19 before having a picture accepted at the Royal Academy and later becoming "Historical Landscape Painter to the Princess Charlotte and Prince Leopold", as well as a noted book illustrator.

Like his elder brother William, John was an 'all-rounder', devising sewage schemes for London and the Thames and proposals for railway systems, a lighthouse, floating harbour, and an 'Elastic Iron Ship'. He is most famous, however, as a New Romantic painter and mezzotint engraver, celebrated for his epic and melodramatic scenes of cataclysmic Biblical events crowded with tiny figures placed in vast architectural settings.

John Martin died on the Isle of Man on February 17th, 1854.