THAT a proud son of Castlecomer loves his mother with a combination of passion and loyalty hardly makes him unique.
As is the wont of millions of young boys around the world, he has a special relationship with his mum.
But perhaps what makes James Gerrard Saunders, popularly Jimmy, so special is his fantastic relationship with all members of his family, mother, brothers and sisters, including his twin and his pride and joy, his own 21 year old son Jordan.
We are still reluctant to lumber Jimmy with the word unique but the delight with which he speaks about his Saunders Clan is, to say the least, admirable.
Those who can empathise with Jimmy and his devotion to family or indeed may long to have enjoyed his privilege; should enjoy his first book, From The Outside In which tells of the first 13 years of his life at Marymount in ‘Comer.
Heartbreak and joy
The comings and goings of the Saunders family of 10 has been a mishmash of courage, heartbreak, joy and a bond that would survive a belt from any sledgehammer.
At the fulcrum of any family focus would be the moving on of the father figure, the commitment and loyalty of a matriarch who gave unselfishly of herself to ensure the wellbeing of her offspring.
Unsurprisingly, with anthracite mining as the key economic activity in the region, the pits would have been in the background or even at the heart of most family stories in North Kilkenny for generations.
The Saunders family was no different but the debut book has a distinct home, sweet home emphasis.
It centres on a family moving in a different direction following the deadly blow that was the closure of the underground.
There is a sad reminder of the early deaths of brother and sister, Vincent and Ann; times of good cheer when the postman knocked with a postal order from a sibling in exile.
Devoted mother Annie Saunders, now 91, is in good form and gagging to get back to swimming post pandemic.
She was always the ultimate in resilience particularly when home alone with her children.
With her were Jimmy and his beloved twin sister Philomena and their brother Martin Anthony Saunders who passed away last year and to whom the book is dedicated.
A cottage industry with a staff of one was to help pay for feeding hungry children.
Head of the household Annie now became a machinist as her dress-making skills often meant that the turning up of a trousers or the stitching of a dress brought in a bag of potatoes or a few heads of cabbage.
Financial help from family members we respectfully call Wild Geese who had flown the coop to travel was to ensure that any Mother Hubbard cupboard was never bare.
The chapters in Jimmy Saunders’s paperback are in contrast with the high profile that Jimmy enjoyed during a hectic 18-year spell in England.
Family is everything
He was a popular disc jockey, singer, musician, producer and entertainer who shared the stage with world famous English three-piece Imagination and Boy George.
He was involved and is still steeped in hi-tech music, playing bass, rhythm and electric guitar and keyboards as he also delights in jazz.
While he enjoyed his successful stage career, his heart was always in ‘Comer and will be forever and a day.
His long term goal is to make a movie, not about his musical career but around his family, particularly his loving mother.
“I am so proud of my family, great people all of them, and a truly wonderful mother, without whom nothing would be as good as it is. Family is everything.
“Our most recent death was my brother Martin. Aged only 56 Martin’s loss was a huge blow. We had been doing some work at his home looking forward to him going home from hospital but when the work finished he passed away within two days.
A lovely feeling
“When our family home was still in ‘Comer, I made it a tradition to drive there every New Year’s Night, to visit our house, to ramble to the local school and playground where I spent my early years and to wish all my family a happy New Year.
“The ‘Seventies is still in my mind. It is a lovely feeling.”
Other members of the Saunders family are Michael, Jean, Noel and Thomas.
Jimmy and Philomena were the last of the babies. “My twin is my rock. She was really brilliant when I had open heart surgery, a double by-pass,” said Jimmy
“She was a teacher in the United States for 20 years and came home to help mum and ended up looking after the two of us.
“Noel lives in Danesfort, I am in Glendine. Kilkenny City and mum is in Loughboy with Philomena at the other side of the city. Mum and Phil are
“Me? I have just finished writing my first book and am now looking forward to penning a second and maybe a third, with my mother at the heart of it all.
“I started my book some six years ago and ironically it was cocooning during Coronavirus that gave me the time and energy to get the job done.
“I will be 53 on October 22. I will be looking to continue my musical career from January and look forward to upping my efforts to finally beat cigarettes that I have cut down from 35 a day to 10-12 daily.”
The book is on sale at €12.99 in The Book Centre, High Street, Khan’s Bookshop, James’s Street and Bargains’ Bookshop in The Butterslip.
Jimmy’s book is already selling well on both sides of the Atlantic.
The prize pages will be an heirloom to be treasured by the Saunders family for generations to come.