Mrs Isabella Blyth Martin
Mrs Blyth Martin’s name is well known in Newport, thanks to her generosity in donating the Blyth Hall to the village. Isabella Blyth came from a fairly prominent Dundee family. Isabella was married first in 1866 at the age of 48 to William Kerr. William Kerr owned a house on Tay Street (now 72 Tay Street) and his name was later given to Kerr Street to the rear. When Isabella (Blyth) moved there, the house became known as Blyth House. Following his death in 1877, Isabella remarried in 1878, this time to William Martin. The couple took the name Blyth Martin and they continued to live at Blyth House, which Isabella had inherited from her first husband.
Isabella had lost three of her brothers, Henry, Thomas and Charles Blyth, and her desire for them to be remembered led to her decision to bestow a public hall upon the village in their name. The Blyth Hall was opened in 1877. The following year Isabella’s new husband William gifted the flagpole at the front of the hall.
In 1890, when accommodation was required for the police commissioners of the recently formed town council, Mrs Blyth Martin again came forward and provided the money for an extension to the rear to include the municipal offices. A grand inauguration ball was held in the hall in October 1890, attended by all the most prominent members of Newport society at that time. Mrs Blyth Martin was presented with an illuminated address, (a stunningly beautiful piece of work in book form), and a bust of Mrs Blyth Martin was unveiled, which is still on show in the hall today.
Another very familiar reminder today of Mrs Blyth Martin is the drinking fountain on the Braes. She gifted this to the village in 1882. At that time there was a widespread movement to provide clean drinking water whenever and wherever possible. It was also hoped that such provision would encourage habits of temperance. It’s interesting to consider whether or not Mrs Blyth Martin held such views. Since the fountain’s extensive refurbishment in 2013 it is now well worth a close inspection. It is decorated with herons and stags, and inscribed with the reminder to “Keep the pavement dry”. A further plaque states “The gift of Mrs Blyth Martin 1882”.
St Fillan’s Church
Mrs Blyth Martin was a member of St Fillan’s Free Church and her generosity was felt there too. In 1897 an organ was installed there, her gift to the church.
The following year she died aged 82. Isabella Blyth Martin was a woman apparently of great wealth, but also of great generosity.