Dr Martin Reynolds

Dr Martin Reynolds in King’s birthday honours

16 June 2023

MissionAssist volunteer Dr Martin R F Reynolds has been awarded an MBE in recognition of his services to British and Irish indigenous languages. During Martin’s 23 years of voluntary service he has raised awareness of a rich cultural and religious heritage which is of value to scholars, students and language learners, as well as churches.

Guernsey French, Guernésiais, is one of the lesser known languages of the British Isles. A translation of the Gospel of Matthew was originally published in 1863 but had been lost for over 100 years until it was discovered bound into the back of another translation a few years ago. The Bible Society Representative in the Channel Islands, Cathy Morling, expressed her support and appreciation saying, “Martin’s project to oversee the digitisation of this rare translation so that it can be freely accessible to all online and in an app is such an important piece of work.”

Martin joined MissionAssist (formerly Wycliffe Associates (UK)) in 1999 as a Keyboarder, meticulously copy typing out-of-print books, in languages that he himself could not read, in order to produce a digital version for the benefit of other people. He progressed to the role of Digitisation Editor, and then became a Project Manager. Subsequently, Martin took on the role of coordinating the entire team, which currently stands at over 200 volunteers.

The Worldwide Electronic Bible and Book Service (WEBBS), under Martin’s exceptional and dedicated leadership, has digitised precious resources in Welsh, Irish, Manx, Scots Gaelic and Romany, as well as Guernsey French. “Before his work no Irish Gaelic Scripture were available in a modern format but now they can be accessed across the world by Irish Speakers and those learning the language”, explained Catherine Little, General Secretary, Bible Society Northern Ireland.

During the Scottish Gaelic Bible digitisation project, Donald I Macdonald from the Gaelic-speaking community in Scotland witnessed Martin’s thorough approach and painstaking commitment to accuracy. He commented, “Martin gathered together not just one version, but all the various full and partial translations and metrical renderings of the Gaelic scriptures made over the years. The results, freely available online, will be of benefit ‘don àl a tha ri teachd’ (to generations yet unborn).”

“What Martin has done cannot be quantified in monetary terms – it is quite simply priceless.”
Donald I Macdonald

As WEBBS Manager, Martin takes the time to understand the purpose and importance of each and every one of the many requests for the MissionAssist digitisation service. Neil ‘Studge’ Rees, Translation and Digital Publishing Advisor, Bible Society, recalls that Martin and his team have a great track record in helping with Welsh language resources. The 1955 edition of the Welsh William Morgan Bible (1620 Revision) was digitised, followed by the William Salesbury New Testament of 1567 in time for its 450th anniversary in 2017, and also a historic, multi-lingual dictionary which was an incredibly challenging project.

Martin’s service has provided the digital files from which books have been printed, apps have been built and audio has been recorded so that Welsh learners can read and listen along to a native voice pronouncing the words. Arfon Jones, an experienced Welsh translator, said, “As someone who has had the privilege of proof-reading and checking the team’s work, I am constantly amazed at how thorough it is.” The accuracy of the digitisation gives confidence that the electronic file is a faithful version of the original paper copy.

Chris Sheard,  Secretary of the Manx Gaelic Society explains the value of the Digitisation Project from their perspective: “Martin’s work has been immensely valuable to us as it has kept the Manx Bible, our largest and best resource for the language, in the public domain at a time when the last of our stock of printed copies had been sold and the cost of reprinting as a hard copy would have been prohibitively expensive for us. For his impressive contribution of time, effort and technical expertise in aid of the Manx language we are truly indebted to him.”

“Martin sees the value of all the languages of the British Isles. No only do texts written in these languages enrich our culture, but they are also a means of honouring the communities they represent”, explains Daryl Richardson, CEO of MissionAssist.

Once a book has been keyboarded and checked, it is handed on to the organisation who manages the text, whilst Martin and his team move on to the next book.  To explore the regional languages that Martin and his team have worked on, take a look at the the following selection:

The London Gazette, issue 64082, 16 June 2023, notice 4379322.