Mad Martins

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At the Tow-house, near Haltwhistle,
In Northumberland, where I was born,
Amongst hills and mountains, although,
Many times far from my house, and forlorn.

And strange has been my
Adventures that I have thought on;
Although singular was the inventions
That I have thought upon.

I cannot remember one half of
My inventions; they’re sown all over the land:
Now, by the power of the living God,
The new system of philosophy I can command.

Thirty-seven different inventions for the
Perpetual Motion had :-
That should make Northumberland rejoice,
And be very cheerful and glad.

To think the North of England
Hath put the whole world to the stand;
And will have to give divine light,
To all other benighted land.

(Words: William Martin / Tune: ‘The Waters of Tyne’ - Trad. arr. Richard Doran & Mick Tyas)

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Additional Text

William Martin was certainly not the great philosopher he claimed to be. He was no great inventor, no great poet, but he was a great human being, an individual at a time when survival itself was a clear triumph. He deserved better than the teasing and taunting he received from his narrower-minded contemporaries. He was, in fact, a crank of genius.

“My own recollections of him are as a stalwart good-looking but garrulous eccentric, who in 1832 might have been frequently met with in the streets of Newcastle, stick in hand, and carrying sheets of manuscript and printed matter, and maybe a drawing of some invention, all or any of which he was ready to expound or discuss with the ardour of an enthusiast. Martin also professed to be a poet as well as a philosopher, but his extravagant claims and pretensions made the public incredulous, and no doubt prevented his crude, though original, inventions from receiving the attention which the ingenuity displayed in many of them deserved.”
(John Latimer, the Northumbrian)


Recording Credits

Keith Armstrong - Recitation
Mick Tyas - Mandolin
Richard Doran - Dulcimer

William Martin Natural Philosopher [engraving], William Martin, 1829.


In: The Downfall of all False Writers: A Copy of a Letter Sent to Earl Grey.
On the 16th of August, 1832.

Newcastle-upon-Tyne: J. Blackwell & Co., p. 56.