WIDESPREAD sadness has been expressed at the death of Kenneth Robert Saunderson. Ken (as he was known) passed away peacefully on June 8 2017 at his home in Enniskillen after a long illness bravely borne.
Ken was born ‘between the bridges’ on January 25 1942 at 4 Castle Street, Enniskillen, the only child of Bertie and Norah (née Fleming). His father was head printer at The Impartial Reporter and his mother had set type for the newspaper before her marriage to Bertie. Ken was educated at Enniskillen Model School and Portora Royal School where, as he would admit, he paid more attention to the rugby field than to his studies.
On leaving school Ken joined Enniskillen Savings Bank under the tutelage of the inimitable John Kerr and where he was employed as junior clerk. With Mr Kerr’s encouragement he successfully completed the bank examinations to become an Associate in 1963. He was appointed Accountant of the Bank in 1967 and, on Mr Kerr’s retirement in 1971, he became the youngest Actuary of the 76 savings banks in the UK. Later, with the amalgamation of the Enniskillen and other NI savings banks with Belfast Savings Bank to form the Trustee Savings Bank of Northern Ireland, he was appointed Manager of the Enniskillen branch. The TSB subsequently went public and was bought by Allied Irish Bank in 1991, with the two banks being merged into First Trust Bank. He remained Branch Manager in Enniskillen throughout all these changes, including the opening of the new First Trust Bank in East Bridge Street until he took early retirement in 1995.
Ken married Vera Breen from Cornafanog in 1966 and they had two daughters, Jayne and Sarah. They made their home in Elliott Place and later at Old Rossorry. Vera sadly died in 1990. Ken subsequently married Joanna McVey and they first made their home at Drumclay with Joanna’s two daughters, Liz and Lucy, later moving to The Battery House on the Forthill.
Ken had a varied range of interests all his life and to each he gave his enthusiastic best.
His passion for Rugby Football, nurtured at Portora, continued throughout his life. He was closely involved with Enniskillen Rugby Club for many years, as Treasurer and Fixture Secretary, and as Captain in 1964. He played for every XV in the club, retiring from the active game after injury in 1989. He was honoured by the club, serving two years as President. His other great sporting interest was golf, which he claimed to have played very badly but with an ‘enthusiasm exhibiting the triumph of hope over experience’. He was founding Captain of Castle Hume Golf Club and later served as the club’s President for two years.
Ken’s mother’s ambitions for her only son led to his being coached in the dramatic arts at the tender age of six, when he was taught ‘recitations’ by Miss Millicent Trimble, the redoubtable daughter of William Copeland Trimble. Ken’s subsequent performances for the ladies of the British Legion were a source of unintended hilarity, as young Ken faithfully replicated Miss Millicent’s fruity pronounciation. Later he would join Enniskillen Amateur Dramatic Society and four decades of involvement at every level is testament to his commitment to amateur drama. As performer, director, producer, set designer and builder, he was involved in every production (bar one or two) until 2016. His greatest triumph was as director of ‘Calendar Girls’ in 2013 which was a complete sell out long before the performance dates – a first for EADS. Twice President of the society, he was also its Treasurer for many years. Ken was also involved in a number of Enniskillen Light Operatic productions, both on and off stage, bringing his invaluable experience wherever it was most needed.
Ken’s mother also hoped to foster the young Ken’s musical abilities with piano lessons from Miss Maura McGovern; however this hope was short lived and Ken soon turned his efforts to a more exciting instrument – the trumpet. His performing career took off at the age of 18 when the great Robert Wilson auditioned him for his Rhythm Sparks combo and Ken subsequently spent many nights ‘on the road’ playing at dances throughout the county and beyond. Later on he became a member of Jazzwyse, playing traditional jazz and pop classics and the group were much in demand during the late eighties/early nineties. Ken’s trumpet playing was always delivered on a wing and a prayer and his singing voice could not be described as lyrical but he made up for any shortcomings with a charismatic presentation that made his renditions of ‘Basin Street Blues’, ‘Mac the Knife’, ‘Blueberry Hill’ and ‘I’m the King of the Swingers’, thoroughly memorable.
Ken’s family association with The Impartial Reporter continued throughout his life. After his retirement from the bank he became a director of William Trimble Ltd, the newspaper’s publisher, then his wife’s business and where he took an active role in the financial and strategic side of the business and he was delighted and proud when his daughter Sarah took over the editorship of the paper.
In spite of ill health in recent years, Ken was able to continue his involvement with EADS up until last year and also to enjoy attending rugby games. He was also a member and Past Master of Star in the East Masonic Lodge No 205.
Ken’s greatest joy was his family. He leaves his wife Joanna, daughters Jayne and Sarah, step daughters Liz and Lucy, sons in law Richard, Eamonn, Noel and Paul, and grandchildren - his ‘smilers’, as he called them - Jack, Meredith, Rory, Helen, Zoë, Aimée, Isabel and Emma.
A largely attended funeral service was conducted by Very Rev. Kenneth R. J. Hall, assisted by Rev. Olie Downey and Rev. Chris Mac Bruithin at St. Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen. Members of Castle Hume Golf Club and Enniskillen Rugby Football Club respectively formed a guard of honour and acted as pallbearers going into and out of the church. Pallbearers also included members of Enniskillen Amateur Dramatic Society and Star in the East Masonic Lodge No 205. The organist was the Cathedral’s Director of Music, Glenn Moore, and the choir was conducted by Jayne Haslett, Assistant Director of Music. The funeral service was followed by cremation at Lakelands Funeral Home, Cavan. The funeral arrangements were carried out by Austen Stinson, W. T. Morrison, Funeral Directors, Enniskillen.