Getting to Cobh - Information for US VisitorsJoin us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter Audioboo Read our blog

Titanic Trail - Cobh Ireland Walking Tour

Biography of Michael Martin

Michael Martin was born in Dublin in 1958 and although late to academic third level education, had another professional career spanning 23 years service in the Irish Navy and self employment since retirement in 1997. He is the author of 3 books on different historical topics and the very popular souvenir booklet "Titanic Trail (Cobh Queenstown)

Having joined the Naval Service in 1975 he rose through the ranks to become the youngest ever person in Ireland's Navy to be promoted into the rank of Warrant Officer at the age of 29 in 1987. During his Naval career a large number of courses were undertaken in a variety of areas including an apprenticeship, instructors courses, military and sea training, and a short advanced course on Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defence with the Royal Navy in Portsmouth.

His service included deployment ashore and afloat and also a voluntary peacekeeping tour of duty as a member of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon. In 1989 Michael Martin played a leading role in the efforts to attain the right of association for serving members of Ireland's Army, Navy and Air Corps. During the lengthy negotiations that eventually followed with representatives of the government, he was the lead negotiator and strategist.

When legislation and regulations were finally enacted he was the first in the history of the Irish State to be elected to the position of General Secretary of the newly formed statutory representative body for members of the Irish armed forces. In the course of this career meetings would have taken place at the highest level of Government. His book, published in October 2016 entitled 'Breaking Ranks, the shaping of civil-military relations in Ireland' details the emergence of these representative bodies. 

Having retired from the Navy Michael Martin set up and still operates a historical guided walking tour of the town of Cobh and in this regard has had visitors from over 85 countries on his walk. He received the Cobh Mayors award in 2005 for his work for the town and was made an honorary citizen of Baltimore USA by the Mayor there in 2003. In 2004 he went back to full time education in University College Cork and University of California at Berkeley completing his PhD on Irish Civil Military Relations in 2010.

Articles published

Michael's latest book, 'Breaking Ranks' provides a fascinating insight into the relationship between the civil government and the military establishment in Ireland. In particular it explores the emergence of the representative association for members of the armed forces serving in Ireland. Having access to Department of Defence secret files and having been involved in the High Court constitutional case regarding the right of soldiers to associate in a democratic fashion, this book promises to change the way we think about  soldiers as citizens in uniform enjoying the same rights that they give up their lives to defend.

'RMS Lusitania, it wasn't and it didn't'  was published in October 2014. This work examines the events surrounding the sinking of the Lusitania and raises uncomfortable questions about actions taken before, during and after the sinking of the ship by a German submarine in May of 1915. While acknowledging the great human tragedy of the incident, the book challenges the traditional narrative 'it was a savage attack on an innocent vessel that brought America into the war', and sets out to show that it wasn't an innocent vessel and did not bring America into the war.  

Michael’s book, Spike Island, saints, felons and famine (Dublin, 2007) explores and compares the ecclesiastical period on the island with that of the period during which it was used as a convict depot during the famine and later. His booklet, Titanic Trail Cobh Queenstown (Cork, 2003) has sold over 84,000 copies. He has also made a 1 hr DVD documentary on the same subject that has sold in excess of 5,000 copies in Ireland and the USA. More recently Michael has made a 45 minute DvD on Spike Island.

In the summer of 2012 he wrote a weekly column on a variety of maritime and historical topics for the East Cork Journal Newspaper. He has written numerous articles which have been published in Irish defence force magazines on issues regarding representation and has also contributed on tourism matters to the local newspapers and newsletters. Michael Martin was a guest speaker of RTE radio 1 in delivering one of the Thomas Davis Lectures. He recorded a series of three contributions for the RTE Radio One show ‘Seascapes’. He has featured briefly in television documentaries produced by 20th Century Fox, Korean National Television, Australian TV and National Geographic regarding Cobh and Titanic. He was interviewed by BBC World News from onboard the ship Balmoral where he was a guest speaker for the Titanic Commemorative Voyage in April 2012. In the last 2 years he has featured in numerous television documentaries for RTE and BBC television. Michael wrote the script and appeared in a short 4 minute film for the Northern Ireland tourism commemorative year of 2012. This can be accessed on YouTube by entering 'Titanic Stories' He publishes an annual visitor guide to Cobh from 2001 to the present day in which he usually contributes a number of articles on historical topics. In July 2011 Michael featured on US television in Ghost Hunters Inernational that was broadcast eventually around the world. In March of 2017 he featured prominently in a French National Television documentary about RMS Lusitania.

Conference, Talks and Presentations

Michael has been a keynote speaker for many groups and bodies for many years around Cork and Ireland but also in the United States, Grand Cayman and Portaferry Northern Ireland. He delivered a paper and was a guest speaker at the UCC centenial conference on the Lusitania on May 6th 2015. He delivered a series of lectures in September 2012 on board the Queen Mary 2 on her voyage from Southampton to New York. They dealt with the topic of 'The Irish in America'. On his return from New York he addressed the Muskerry local historical society in a lecture entitled 'Selection and Survival'. In May that year Michael spoke at in the Quogue Library in the Hamptons, Long Island and in Queens NY for the Cork Association and later that month a series of talks onboard the Queen Mary 2 on her transatlantic voyage from New York to Southampton. Earlier this year he spoke at the Ballymore Community Association in Cobh County Cork in a lecture entitled, 'RMS Titanic and Cork Harbour'. Another for University College Cork Historical Society he delivered a lecture entitled, 'RMS Titanic, a backward glance'. He was also a guest speaker in Belfast for the Titanic Centennial Conference at Queens University on 31 May 2011
In April 2012 Dr Martin was a guest speaker for the  Fred Olsen Line Commemorative cruise of the Balmoral which retraced Titanic's route on the 100th anniversary of the ships maiden voyage.

During a former professional career and in Dr Martin's current field of work there has been presentations made to numerous conferences and groups. In 2008 Michael Martin spoke to an assembled body of potential students regarding his experiences at College at the request of the Mature Student office. He was MC at a formal conference in Cobh being run by the local Chamber of Commerce entitled ‘Local Government Funding’. From 2007 Michael Martin has been a guest lecturer on a number of occasions at UCC for the International Summer School in Irish Studies.

In October 2006 Michael Martin was a guest speaker at a conference in Cobh on Spike Island and its heritage and tourism potential. Later that month a presentation was made to the full sitting of Cork County Council. In March he visited Kansas as a guest of a tour operator there to address a group on the attractions of Cork Harbour. In July 2005 he was invited to address International Conference of Coastal Tourism at the Trans-national Conference of the Small Atlantic Ports Project held in Luanco, Asturias Spain.

In 2004 Michael Martin was the sole guest speaker at an evening arranged by members of the Irish American community of Emmetsburg Maryland USA, similarly in Philadelphia in 2002. He also delivered a presentation to the historians of Port Arthur in Tasmania in 2002. In the early 1990s a number of presentation were made to conferences regarding representative associations. These included the European Organisation of Military Association’s conferences in Denmark January 1990 and subsequent conferences between 1990 and 1994 in Maastricht, Bratislava, Lisbon, Prague, and Leipzig. Also in 1990 to the Prison Officers Annual Delegate Conference in Galway.

Record and academic achievements.

Michael completed a single honours history degree receiving first class honours and graduated in September 2007. He was jointly awarded the John A Murphy Memorial Prize for best dissertation on an Irish history topic. He was awarded the CACSS designated PhD 2007 scholarship and jointly won the Michael McEnery scholarship with six other recipients. In December 2007 the Postgraduate Scholarship Committee recommended he be awarded the title of College Scholar which was approved by the Governing Body. In 2008-9 Michael was a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. He completed and successfully defended his PhD called 'Breaking Ranks: the emergence of representative bodies in the Irish armed forces' in 2011. Michael was conferred with his Doctorate at University College Cork on 16 June 2011.

He received distinction in diploma in Personnel Management and Industrial Relations from the National University of Ireland. (formerly National College of Industrial Relations) Holder of National Craft Certificate in relation to completed apprenticeship in Navy. Holder of European Transport Managers certificate. Holder of Intermediate Certificate. Served in Navy for 23 yrs ashore and afloat completing variety of military courses. Served with United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). First ever General Secretary of PDFORRA.

Articles and publications

Martin M., Breaking ranks, the shaping of civil-military relations in Ireland (Dublin, 2016)

Martin, M., RMS Lusitania, it wasn't and it didn't (Dublin, 2014).

Martin, M,. Spike Island, saints, felons and famine (Dublin, 2007).

Martin, M., Titanic Trail Cobh (Queenstown) a heritage journey across the mists of time, (Cobh, 2001).

Martin, M., ‘Rock and roll’, Litani Vol. 23, No. 2, February (South Lebanon, 1995).

Martin, M., ‘The Quinn exemptions’, Irish Defender Vol. 2, No. 3, April (Dublin, 1993).

Martin, M., ‘Euromil’ Irish Defender Vol. 1, No. 3, November (Dublin, 1992).

Martin, M., ‘An army marching to the dole: changing attitudes’, Irish Defender Vol. 1, No. 3, November (Dublin, 1992).

Martin, M., ‘Manpower shortages: causes and effects’, Irish Defender Vol. 1, No. 2, October (Dublin, 1992).

Martin, M., ‘Negotiations’, Chéimnigh Eile PDFORRA official newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 8, September (Dublin, 1991).

Martin, M., ‘The art of negotiating’ Chéimnigh Eile PDFORRA official newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 6, July (Dublin, 1991).

Martin, M., ‘Back to the future’ An Cosantoir, Vol. 51, No. 6, June (Dublin, 1991).

Martin, M., ‘Tactics, tactics, tactics’ An Cosantoir, Vol. 49, No.4, April (Dublin, 1989).
Martin, M., ‘Hong Kong blues’ An Cosantoir, Vol. 48, No.11/12 November (Dublin, 1988).

Involvement by invitation on radio and television documentaries

2017 Extensive interviews for French National TV  documentary about RMS Lusitania

2016 Interview on English and Irish Language documentaries , news and features. 

2015 Interview for BBC World News about RMS Lusitania

2015 Interview on RTE Radio 1 National radio 'The History Programme' 

2012 Interview on BBC NI television's newsline

2012 Interview on Irish National Radio station 2fm

2012 Interview on BBC radio Northern Ireland 'Talkback' show

2012 Subject of local newspaper Cork News 'Day in the Life' series

2012 Interview with Irish National Television RTE 'Six One News'

2011 Interview on BBC Oxford Radio

2011 Interviewed on BBC Northern Ireland programme on visit of Queen Elizabeth to Ireland

2011 Presented and wrote script for short centenary film documentary for Ulysses Productions on behalf of Northern Ireland Tourist Board due to be aired in February 2012 as part of the commemorative year. 

2011 Interviewed for BBC 'One Show' to be broadcast on BBC TV in March 2012

2011 Participated in exploratory documentary on Spike for Ghost Hunters International by Pilgrim Films

2011 Interview for RTE Television documentary with George Lee

2010 Interviewed by Kathryn Thomas on Irish national radio RTE 1 about Spike Island

2009 Interviewed on Spike Island for award winning BBC documentary 'The Coast'

2008 Wrote and presented series of programmes for Irish National radio RTE 1 ‘Seascapes’

2006 Interviewed for RTE Irish National Television documentary ‘Oileann’.

2006 Interviewed for RTE television series ‘The Navy’.

2005 Interviewed for Sky News bulletin on Spike Island

2005 Contributor and weekly interviewee for RTE television series ‘The Harbour’

2004 Filmed 60 minute DVD documentary ‘Through the mists of time’.

2003 Wrote and delivered ‘Convict ships of Cork Harbour’ on RTE radio Thomas Davis Lecture series.

2002 Interviewed for video documentary ‘PDFORRA ten years on’

2002 Participant guest of RTE 1 radio documentary ‘Voices of the 20th Century’

2002 Interview on Australian DVD travel documentary.

2000 National Geographic documentary on ‘Exploring the Bismarck’.

1998 20th Century Fox documentary production ‘Beyond Titanic’.


2014 Finalist in Cork Business person of the Year

2012 Made 'Titanic 100 Ambassador' for the town of Cobh and the centennial commerorative events

2007 Joint recipient of the John A Murphy Memorial Prize for best dissertation on an Irish history topic.

2007 Awarded College of Arts, Celtic studies and Social Sciences Designated PhD Scholarship 2007/2008

2005 Received Cobh Mayor’s Award (overall winner) in recognition of promotional work for the town.

2003 Conferred with certificate of honorary citizenship of Baltimore USA by Mayor O’Malley.

Back to top