TRIBUTES have been paid following the shock, sudden passing of an Ayrshire priest aged just 59.

Father Martin Chambers passed away in his sleep on Tuesday, April 9.

His death comes only weeks before he was set to be ordained into a high-ranking position within the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland.

Back in February we reported that the Troon parish priest had been chosen by Pope Francis as the new Bishop of the Diocese of Dunkeld.

The role would have seen Fr Martin become the ecclesiastical head of the diocese, which covers the council areas of the city of Dundee, most of the council areas of Angus and Perth and Kinross, as well as parts of Stirling and Fife.

He was due to be officially ordained into the Bishop role on April 27.

Fr Martin, who lived in Irvine, will be a familiar face to many across Ayrshire, having previously held positions at St John's Church in Stevenston, St Thomas the Apostle in Muirkirk, St Bride's in West Kilbride and St Matthew's and Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Kilmarnock.

In his current role, which he was holding until his ordanation, he was the Parish Priest at Our Lady of the Assumption and St Meddan's Church in Troon.

Fr Martin's death was met with "deep shock and sorrow" at the church where he was much loved.

His death was announced by Diocesan Administrator for Dunkeld Canon Kevin Golden, on Wednesday, April 10.

He said: “It is with deep regret and sorrow that I have to inform you that our Bishop Elect, Martin Chambers, died in his sleep last evening.

"May he rest in peace and may his family and loved ones find consolation in the Risen Lord and the love of family and friends.”

While Bishop Frank Dougan, of Fr Martin’s home Diocese of Galloway, paid tribute to the "man of love".

He added: “It was with a heavy heart and the deepest sadness that I learned today of the death of Fr Martin Chambers, a priest of the Diocese of Galloway and the Bishop-Elect of the Diocese of Dunkeld.

"I know his family and the people of Galloway diocese who knew him and loved him will be deeply shocked and dismayed at his untimely death.

"Together we give thanks for the selfless service he gave to our diocese; we recognise the enormous contribution he made to support some of the poorest communities in Ecuador and we pray for the repose of his soul.

“To know Martin was to know a man of love, enthusiasm, humour and a deep faith which enlivened all that he did.”

Bishop Dougan continued: “On behalf of the Diocese of Galloway I offer our deepest condolences and the promise of our prayers to Martin’s family as they come to terms with his loss, our prayers too are with the people of the Diocese of Dunkeld, who were preparing to welcome him as their bishop in two weeks’ time on 27 April.

"We give thanks to God for the great service of a selfless priest and pray for his eternal rest.”