ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing»
  • Books & Novels

Brian Jacques - The King of Redwall is no Longer on the Throne.

Updated on May 27, 2015

Audiobook of Redwall: Book 1 by Brian Jacques

A famous writer coming from heaven and going to earth:

Birth - his date and his parents:

His birthplace was Liverpool, England and he was born on June 15, 1939. James Alfred Jacques was his father’s name and he lived as a haulage contractor, Ellen Ryan was his mother’s name.

His passing

At age of 71 on Sat., February 5, 2011 of a heart attack.

Brian Jacques' birth name:

Full name – James Brian Jacques.

I found out when I was writing this Hub, that his last name is pronounced “Jakes”.

Game boy and Brian Jacques (right)

Brian Jacques (right) on November 8,2007.
Brian Jacques (right) on November 8,2007. | Source

Brian's family tree:

The branches got around, but the roots stayed in one place.

James Alfred Jacques was also born in Liverpool in 1907. Brian’s grandparents were named Thomas Jacques and Ada Smith. They came to Liverpool in the 1890’s from the St. Helens areas. Even though it was searched for, there is no record of the Jacques family having French ancestry because they had roots in Lancashire.

The reason for the check on French ancestry is because of Brian’s French surrounding surname. This made him believe that he had it. He was also wrong when he believed that his roots were from County Cork, Ireland because he found others with the Jacques surname were from there. This misunderstanding was simple for Brian to produce since an ample portion of people from Liverpool have ancestry from Ireland.

In 1908, Liverpool celebrated the birth of Ellen Ryan. She had roots in various Irish counties but she came from a Liverpool Irish family. In 1872 in County Wexford, Ireland, her father was born – Matthew Ryan. Also born in Liverpool, in 1882, was Elizabeth “Cissy” McGuiness. She was Ellen’s mother and Brian’s maternal grandmother.

Liverpool's John Moores University:

“My favourite teacher was Mr. Austin Thomas. He looked like Lee Marvin. Big Man. A Captain in World War II. He came to school on a big push bike with the haversack on back. He was a man's man. Always fair. I was fourteen at the time when Mr. Thomas introduced the class to poetry and Greek literature. It was because of him, I saved seven shillings and sixpence to buy The Iliad and The Odyssey at this dusty used book shop.”

His life and times at school:

Brian Jacques left school when he was only 15, this was normal in his time, because he thought that voyaging as a merchant sailor would be valiant. He had been attending St. John’s School until he decided to do this. After going to New York, Yokohama and San Francisco he became tired of voyaging as a sailor because it was a solitary life. Then he revisited his city of birth, Liverpool, to try different tasks hoping to find one that he liked. He was a railway fireman, a truck driver, a bobby (policeman) and others. Did you know that he had even tried a singing group? The name of it was ‘The Liverpool Fisherman’. This was due to the fact that the Beatles were having a limelight in Liverpool.

He left New Zealand with his brothers and moved back to Liverpool. He lost his older brother Tony, in 1998, who was a carpenter and resided there with children and grandchildren. His younger brother, Jimmy, returned to Britain after being in Liverpool for 12 years. Jimmy and his wife Sandra live with their twin sons, Paul and Sean.

His book "Redwall" was written for his “special friends”, the children of the Royal Wavertree School for the Blind, whom he first met while delivering milk. He began to spend time with the children, and eventually began to write stories for them. This accounts for the very descriptive style of his novels, which emphasize sound, smell, taste, gravity, balance, temperature, touch and kinesthetics, not just visual sensations. He became dissatisfied with the state of children’s literature, with too much adolescent uneasiness and not enough magic.

When his past English teacher, Alan Durband, showed Jacques’ work to his (Alan’s) own publisher the work obtained praise, but Durband had not told Brian. [By the way, the English teacher had also instructed Paul McCartney and George Harrison.] “This is the finest children’s tale I’ve ever read,” Quoted Durband, “and you’d be foolish not to publish it.” Jacques was given a contract shortly after when the publishers invited him to London to meet with him. The agreement was for him to write the five books following "Redwall" in that series.

Brian Jacques in an interview

How his early writing began:

Near the Liverpool Docks was where Brian grew up in Kirkdale. Since his father and brother also had the name of James, he became known by his middle name of ‘Brian’. Because his father adored novels so much, he perused his boy stories of peril by authors such as: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson and Edgar Rice Burroughs. He also read ‘The Wind in the Willows’ with its projection of wild creatures.

Jacques had the ability of putting his thoughts onto paper appear early in his life. He created a story about a bird which cleaned a crocodile’s teeth when he was only 10. This occurred when he was assigned to write a story about an animal. The only problem was that when he declined from admitting that he had not copied it, his teacher caned him for denying it because he was not able to believe that a 10-year old had written it. The worst part is that it was his favorite teacher, Mr. Austin Thomas who happened to look like Lee Marvin. Writing had always been something which Brian cherished. It was only after the previous ‘story’ that he reached the extent of his talents.

Besides writing novels Brian was also attracted to poetry which included famous writers like Tennyson, Goldsmith and Wordsworth.

Brian's English teacher, Alan Durband

 Family photograph 00:58, 28 October 2006 . . Ken Ashcroft of Brian's English teacher, Alan Durband
Family photograph 00:58, 28 October 2006 . . Ken Ashcroft of Brian's English teacher, Alan Durband | Source

Alan Durband plaque

This is a personal photo by Geoff Southern of a plaque for Alan Durband. He was one of Brian Jacques' teachers.
This is a personal photo by Geoff Southern of a plaque for Alan Durband. He was one of Brian Jacques' teachers. | Source

The 'Redwall' encyclopedia

When Brian began writing the 'Redwall' series he also wrote an encyclopedia to go with it. It described characters, places, etc., in the books of the series.

There was even a map showing the topography of places in the series.

Later writing:

Redwall was a manuscript which was handwritten and 800-pages long. The number of pages common for children’s published documents now is 350. The “Harry Potter” novels indeed surpass that but the maximum in those days was viewed as 200, which was supposed to keep a child absorbed. Centered on the triumph of good over evil, with peaceful mice badgers, voles and squirrels defeating rats, weasels, ferrets, snakes and stoats, Redwall set the accent for the whole series.

When he was a truck driver delivering milk in Liverpool, Redwall was written by him for the Wavertree School for the Blind. Writing for his first audience – children - must have been hard because tried to be very graphic by painting pictures with words so that they would use their minds to see it all. He was supporting the cause at Wavertree until his time of parting came.

Alan Durband, his childhood English teacher, read Redwall and showed it to a publisher without telling Brian. There was a contract for the first five books in the Redwall series and several included a dedication to Alan.

Redwall included scenes which hinted to the neighboring human civilization, such as displaying a cart drawn by horses. But it seems that the books that followed are entirely ignoring our species, illustrating an Iron Age community from the misty building castles, ships and bridges to the scale of the animals in the woods, writing information and drawing maps on their own.

Due to people Jacques has come across, the characters in his stories are based upon those people, he said. When he was a young boy spending so much time around the docks of Liverpool he, chose to be Gonff, the self-proclaimed “Prince of Mousethieves”. Mariel was selected to be the character for his granddaughter. Constance the Badgerman is based on his maternal grandmother. The many people which he has met in his journeys merge into the other roles. Groaning with spread luscious feasts are common sites in his stories, explained in mouth-watering detail.

When Jacques would daydream about the dishes in his aunt’s Victorian cookbook he would summon memories concerning rationing during the war. The war also kept readers on top of his description of horrible battles.

Brian Jacques radio show

Facts which may not be known:

He shared his comedy and wit by running a radio show which ran weekly on BBC Radio Merseyside. It ran until October 2006. Also, he played his number ones from the world of opera – being a veritable authority on the three high male voices.

He enjoyed completing crossword puzzles and walking his dog, which was a white West Highland Terrier that went by the name of ‘Teddy’. He read books by authors who had the names of Marion Puzo, Damon Runyon and Richard Condon as a few samples. Spaghetti and meatballs was his favorite dish and the version which he was known to cook was monumental.

Besides writing novels and poetry, Brian also wrote music and he was a playwright. Everyman Theater presented his three stage plays which were titled ‘Brown Bitter’, ‘Wet Nellies’ and ‘Scouse’. ‘Scouse’ is a slang term for someone from Liverpool, named after the cheap, nearly meatless stew that is important in the common diet of the Liverpool working man.

Did You read Brian Jacques' Redwall series?

See results

Immediate family - he had a wife and two sons:

Wife: He had a loving wife named Maureen.

At their permanent residence in Liverpool, he and his wife had two sons. One son was a bricklayer and a carpenter. He went by the name of Marc.

The other son, who still resides there, is named David who was a professor of Art and also a muralist. You can go to Children’s hospitals, soccer stadiums, and trade union offices in Germany, Mexico and even Chile and you will see David Jacques’ work. Plus most of David’s books have featured Brian’s photo.

If you have any questions then go to my profile page on HubPages. The icon which says Website is actually my blog. Click on that and it will lead you to the blog where you can leave the questions. I will answer ASAP.

© 2013 The Examiner-1


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 4 years ago

      I read one of his series' years ago and enjoyed them. I also enjoyed writing this and I very much appreciate your friendly input. Here is to happy birding and happy 'hump' day (that is what we call Wednesday at work here).


    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      A little different to you usual hubs Kevin but very interesting and voted up for sure. I knew nothing of Brian Jaques but that was before reading this gem. Voted up, shared and wishing you a great day my friend.


    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 4 years ago


      I read them in my teens or 20's, I believe that I read every one which was written - since I read them in order and cecked them off. As you said they were vivid and I loved them. I was sorry when they stopped. You are welcome for my sharing the Hub, I am glad that it pleased you. :)


    • brownella profile image

      brownella 4 years ago from New England

      I loved the Redwall books as a kid and I didn't realize the Brian Jacques had passed away, what a loss, his descriptions of the landscape, animals and especially the food were amazingly vivid. Interesting hub, thanks for sharing : -)

    • The Examiner-1 profile image

      The Examiner-1 4 years ago

      Hi Mary,

      I was surprised to receive a comment already! (I already see one error, darn it.) My mother was Scottish and I like Scottish people but I am also drawn to Irish. I went to Scotland once when I was about 10, I think, and looked for the Loch Ness monster. LOL

      Thank you very much your comments and your votes. :-)


    • Mary McShane profile image

      Mary McShane 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale, Florida

      What a nice introduction to someone I'm not familiar with, and with Irish roots too boot! I'm kind of partial to Irishers, if you can't tell by my name. This was a nice insight behind the author into his personal life and writing process. I love this line: "The branches got around, but the roots stayed in one place." Very fitting indeed.

      Well done! Voted up and interesting :)