Former BBC political correspondents back together on canoe trail

Former BBC political correspondent Mark Devenport is to launch a new adventure by canoe next week in Co Down – and in the process he’ll be reunited with his former colleague Martina Purdy.

Friday, 4th June 2021, 3:35 pm
After making her first profession of vows in St Peter's Cathedral, west Belfast Sr Martina is greeted by the BBC Political Editor Mark Devonport. Picture by Ann McManus

Author and political commentator, Mark, left the BBC last autumn after almost 20 years as political editor.

At the time he joked: “I am ruling out moving to a convent, as my old colleague Martina Purdy has the copyright on that one.”

Martina, who left the corporation after over 25 years to become a nun, is now a pilgrim guide on St Patrick’s Way in Downpatrick.

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Martina Purdy reporting for the BBC at Stormont

When they worked together at the BBC as political correspondents, Martina worked under Mark for a period.

On Wednesday they’ll be in close proximity again when the new canoe adventure is launched on the River Quoile.

It involves a three-mile walk followed by three miles in a canoe. Martina believes Mark is up to the task.

She said: “Mark has had bigger challenges trying to make sense of our politics.

Mark Devenport left from the BBC in 2020. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

“St Patrick’s Way is a great place to de-stress after 35 years at the BBC.

“I know he has a keen sense of history so he will enjoy not just the beauty of the countryside but the amazing heritage.”

Mark commented: “Martina and I were used to reporting on politicians who often seemed to be up the creek without a paddle. Martina assures me I will have two paddles for the adventure on the River Quoile. ”

Dr Tim Campbell, director of Saint Patrick Centre, said he had tested the waters himself on Saint Patrick’s Way: “It was incredibly refreshing. I’ve walked along the Quoile many times but seeing Inch Abbey and Down Cathedral from the water is a totally different experience.”

The canoeing adventure is a partnership between Saint Patrick Centre and Mobile Team Adventure, led by John Hubbucks who like Mark Devenport is an Oxford man.

They will be joined by pilgrim guide and former barrister Elaine Kelly.

Elaine said: “This will be our first pilgrimage by water. The last time I saw Mark he was riding the political waves at Stormont.

“We look forward to showing him a few fun waves at the Quoile. It’s awesome.”

The canoeing adventure includes an IMAX film experience, the story of Saint Patrick, a guided walk and canoeing adventure, as well as a visit to Saul Church, Down Cathedral.

The cathedral’s foundations go back more than 1,000 years, and Saint Patrick’s remains are buried in the graveyard there.

For more details on Saint Patrick’s tours visit or call 02844 619000.

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