Notable signaller and collector

PAT VELTKAMP SMITH
Last updated 08:00 17/01/2013

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Throughout a long life of 92 years begun on Christmas Day 1920 in Invercargill, Noel Martin mastered the art of communication at every level.

By the time he was working at the Awarua radio station, near Invercargill, he was sending and receiving messages at a record 23 words a minute.

As a teenager he had learned morse code in Wellington, sent there after six months as a telegram boy, his first job after gaining a good pass in Public Service examinations at Marist Brothers School, Invercargill.

The Awarua job was special, at that station on the road to Bluff, the only one sending direct signals worldwide without any relays.

He was to equal that 23 words a minute in morse code with his record 83 letters a minute teleprinting when the new method of sending and receiving telegrams was introduced in Christchurch.

The war intervened and Noel Martin joined the Royal New Zealand Navy as a radar officer, learning the new technology at a base on the Isle of Man. He was appointed to the radar cabin crew on the Achilles, on convoy cruise duty protecting merchant vessels using the Suez Canal.

After the war he took a year's leave of absence to attend the Olympic Games in Finland in 1952 and complete a cycling tour of Europe.

Then in 1970 Noel Martin was back in Christchurch, preparing the telecommunications setup for the international media covering the 1974 Commonwealth Games.

His skill in managing that project earned him a citation from news agency Reuters International whose sports reporters used the technology to send their stories worldwide.

Before his appointment as general manager of the telegraph side of Post and Telegraph New Zealand, Noel and his wife, Betty McCullach, a telephonist from Whanganui, lived around New Zealand because of job transfers.

With no children of their own, their home was open to others, and Noel Martin's gardens always fed many no matter where they were.

The quick mind and retentive memory that made him such a skilful technical communicator were put to good use in his collection hobbies for which he was widely known.

His stamp books held every stamp of every denomination ever printed in New Zealand and he held every first-day cover issued.

It took him 30 years to locate the final two rare stamps for a collection, and he received them in a book left to him. He had two sets of cigarette cards made in New Zealand and there were thousands and complete collections of Weet-Bix cards.

He was an inveterate collector, meticulous and thorough and made friends all over the country through the hobby.

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With family help and friends in the printing industry he compiled a history of his grandparents and their 14 children. The Dunfords of Anderson Bay was published in Dunedin in 2007 and most copies were taken up by the University of Otago, where it was used it as a history text book.

Born the second eldest in a large and close family, he will be missed by generations of nieces and nephews, as well as by fellow collectors New Zealand-wide.

- The Southland Times

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