Martyn braves Firewalk and other challenges for local hospice care

Martyn Battrick from Hawkinge near Folkestone experienced Pilgrims Hospices first-hand when his mother, Mary (Madge) Elliott Battrick, was cared for at the Ashford hospice in 2004.

To give back and say thank you, Martyn is a keen fundraiser for Pilgrims; to date, he has raised more than £500 for local hospice care.

Martyn completed the Pilgrims Way Challenge in June 2021, and will brave a barefoot Firewalk across red-hot coals held in the Ashford hospice gardens on 29 October 2021. He also plans to take on the Three Peaks Challenge for Pilgrims in 2022. His fantastic fundraising will enable the charity to keep providing vital, compassionate care to people across east Kent when they need it the most.

Mary was born in Waterhouses, County Durham on 26 February 1922. During WW2, she was an ambulance and heavy vehicle driver for the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). She met her husband, David, at that time in Hull, Yorkshire, where he was working as a Naval Officer. They married in 1945 and enjoyed a rich and varied life, raising a family and travelling around the world, and living in Plymouth, Devon and Durban, South Africa – where David sadly died on 16 June 1997.

Mary (third from left) with her ATS friends during WW2















On the morning of that day, Martyn took on and successfully completed his biggest challenge to date, the famous Comrades Marathon (a 90km ultramarathon) with an 11 hour cut-off, in his dad’s name.

Martyn said: “If you don’t make it you get nothing; no medal, no ribbon, no certificate – nothing! My time was 10h 44m 01s. I’d seen Dad in hospital the day before and told him I was a little unsure of my ability to do the run (having never run that far before – most was 56km – and I’d never previously failed at anything I had set out to do). We expected Dad to come home from hospital on the Monday, but he died of a myocardial infarct at 04:30 that day, whilst I was walking in the dark to the start of the race. They called me on the PA system but I didn’t hear it.

“Dad’s last words to me as he called me back from leaving when Mum arrived to sit with him were, “Get the medal for me”. I heard of his death at about the 55km mark but resolved to get the medal first and foremost and deal with the sadness later. I got the medal and it was cremated with him.”

Mary and David at home in South Africa (1985)


Mary found it difficult being without her life partner. She returned to England and settled in Folkestone; near to her eldest son, Michael, and her daughter, Barbie (who had also recently returned to England from Durban). David would have been 100 years old on 22 October 2021.

Later in life, after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Mary spent time in Pilgrims Hospice Ashford where she died on 22 March 2004.

Mary with her grandson, David, at the Ashford hospice (March 2004)


Martyn continued: “I was still overseas when Mum went into the hospice, though I had visited her a couple of months before then. After her diagnosis, she moved in with my brother and sister-in-law, Michael and Ros, in Folkestone and remained in their care until she was admitted to Pilgrims.

Mary and David on David’s naval business in Antwerp (c. 1950)

“My eldest son, David, travelled from South Africa to see his grandma in the hospice.

“Michael and Ros visited daily. After Mum had a stroke they and Barbie kept up a 24-hour vigil at her bedside. The medical staff were truly excellent, and could not have been more kind, helpful, and understanding. We were more impressed than we could ever say. Thank you.”

Martyn now enjoys supporting Pilgrims by taking on fundraising challenges for the charity.

He said: “I entered the Pilgrims Way Challenge 2021 with my niece, Samantha (Mum’s granddaughter), and her husband, Steve. We chose the 55km route from Wye to Dover – the 25km and 35km were out of the question for me, I’m an all or nothing man! – and completed it in under 11 hours, including stops. We’ll likely do it again!

“Now we know about the various events Pilgrims offer, we will do more. I’ve already signed up for the Firewalk challenge on 29 October 2021 and plan to tackle the Three Peaks Challenge in mid-2022. We’re supported in our fundraising by family, both here and overseas, and others including staff at Saga in Folkestone, where Samantha works.”

Martyn added: “Pilgrims is a kind and caring organisation, there to comfort and support those who are facing their last days; the benefit of knowing that the best that can be done is in place gives relief and solace to families at a very difficult time.

“As a family, we know from personal experience about Pilgrims’ wonderful work; we fundraise so that this can continue. We also know others who have been supported by the charity, and we have friends who have volunteered for Pilgrims, too. It’s a local charity for the people of Kent – our home.”

Mary with her four children: Martyn from South Africa, Barbie, Robert from North Carolina, USA, and Michael behind (February 2004 )


Pilgrims Events Manager, Robert Grew, explained: “It’s supporters like Martyn and his family that mean Pilgrims can continue being there for the many others that will need our care in the future. By taking on such challenges and raising vital sponsorship, he is enabling others to receive the skilled and compassionate end-of-life care they deserve, just like Mary.

“I’m sure thoughts of his mother will bolster his nerve and spur him across the Firewalk on 29 October. Good luck, Martyn!”

You can keep up with Martyn’s fundraising and sponsor him on his JustGiving page.

Inspired to follow in Martyn’s footsteps and take on a Firewalk for Pilgrims? Register now to face the flames for local hospice care – but hurry! Advance registration closes on Sunday 24 October 2021.

Each year Pilgrims Hospices give care and comfort to over 2,500 people in east Kent who are coming to terms with an illness that sadly cannot be cured. The charity support patients to live life as well as possible until the very end, free from pain and distress.