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The History of Clan Henderson

Source: Wikipedia


There are multiple origins for the Scottish patronymic surname of Henderson, meaning "son of Henry" or "son of Hendry", with three being the most well-known.[3] The Hendersons who lived in the Scottish Borders were often found in the variant of Henryson.[3] Although these Hendersons were not a significant power in the Borders they were still classed as a riding clan.[3] Henryson was a common name in the 14th century and beyond.[4] Notable documented individuals include: 1373-1377, William Henryeson was chamberlain of Lochmaben Castle;[3][4] John Henryson was burgess of Edinburgh c. 1387-1395.

There were also Hendersons who were septs of the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe and septs of the Clan Gunn in the far north of the country.[3] There is no known connection between the Hendersons of Clan Gunn and Clan MacDonald or the Hendersons of the Scottish Borders.[3]

16th century

The clan spread from Dumfrieshire to Liddesdale, however they do not appear in the list of border clans that were named by Parliament in 1594, when it was attempting to suppress the Border Reivers.[3] From the Dumfrieshire family of Hendersons descended James Henderson or Henryson who became Lord Advocate in about 1494.[3][4] He was later appointed to the Bench.[3] From 1510-1512, he acquired lands in Fordell, Fife including the original tower of Fordell Castle.[3] Fordell became the designation of the Lowland Henderson chiefs and it is from them that the present chiefs are descended.[3] He was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513.[3]

17th century and civil war

One of the most prominent of the Clan Henderson was Alexander Henderson of Fordell who was born in about 1583.[3] He was educated at the University of St Andrews where he became a Master of Arts and a Professor of Philosophy before 1611.[3] He later became the minister of the parish of Leuchars and was violently opposed to Charles I's attempts to reform the Church of Scotland.[3] He was especially opposed to the new prayer book and travelled to Edinburgh where he presented a petition to the Privy Council, stating that the book had not received the sanction of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland or the Parliament.[3] Henderson and Johnston of Warriston together drafted the National Covenant which was first sworn and subscribed in Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh.[3] Henderson was unanimously elected moderator of the General Assembly in Glasgow in 1638 and was therefore at the forefront of church politics during the troubled reign of Charles I.[3] Henderson was also responsible for drafting the Solemn League and Covenant in 1643.[3] When the king sundered himself to the Scottish army it was to Henderson that he sent to discuss with his disaffected subjects.[3] Henderson met with the king but failed in his attempts to make him accede to the Church's demands.[3] Henderson died due to ill health in August 1646 and was buried in Greyfriars church yard, the scene of his greatest triumph and where there is a monument to him.[3]

Meanwhile, John Henderson, 5th of Fordell fought as a staunch royalist for the king during the Scottish Civil War.[5][6]

Hendersons of Glencoe

The Hendersons of Glen Coe, in the Highlands, take the English version of their name from the Gaelic MacEanruig, claiming descent from a Pictish prince, Eanruig Mor Mac Righ Neachtain, or big Henry son of King Neachtain. Neachtain (Nechtan mac Der-Ilei) is said to have reigned between 700 and 724.[3] It is not known when the Hendersons came to Glen Coe but it is said Dougall MacHenry, the last of their chiefs in the direct line, fathered an heiress, who according to tradition had a son by her lover Aonghus Óg of Islay, and that their son was Ian (John) Fraoch.[3][7] Ian Fraoch's son was Iain Abrach whose patronymic was MacIain and that became the designation of the chiefs of the MacDonalds of Glencoe.[3] The Hendersons were the hereditary pipers and armor-bearers of the chiefs of the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe.[3][8]

The Henderson Stone -- Clach Eanruig in Gaelic—is a granite boulder in a field a little south of Carnach in the Glencoe area.[9][10] Historic tradition in the area includes two separate stories involving the Henderson Stone and a warning from a Campbell soldier of the impending massacre of 1692.  One version of the story involves a soldier speaking a warning to the stone, in the presence of a local resident: "Great stone in the Glen, though you have every right to be there, if you knew what was to happen tonight you would not stay there on any account."[11] The other version involves a Campbell piper playing a song at the stone, meant as a warning to the residents.[12] Tradition has it that the local who heard the cryptic message escaped, but was unable to warn many others.[13]

In 1692 when the Massacre of Glencoe took place, it is said that the chief's personal attendant and piper, Big Henderson of the Chanters, was among those killed.[3]

Hendersons of Caithness

Another group of Hendersons originated in Caithness in the far north of the Scottish Highlands.[3] In the late 15th century, a family difference led Henry Gunn, the youngest son of the Clan Gunn chief, to branch off, forming the Henderson family line in Caithness.[14]

Hendersons of Fordell

The Chief of Clan Henderson is Alistair Donald Henderson of Fordell, an environmental engineer specializing in air pollution control who lives in Brisbane, QueenslandAustralia. The Chief is recognized by Lord Lyon, King of Arms, and is a member of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.[15]


Clan Castles

  • Fordell Castle which is about one mile north of Inverkeithing in Fife was held by the Hendersons for over 300 years.[2] It is not known when the original castle structure was constructed, but the main entrance tower is believed to date from the 1400s. James Henderson, 3rd of Fordell, started to extend the castle in 1566.[16] The castle burned in 1568.[17] During the Civil War of the seventeenth century, the castle was sacked by the forces of Oliver Cromwell after the Battle of Inverkeithing in 1651, after which troops were garrisoned at the castle and mill.[2][18] The castle later passed by marriage to the Duncans of Camperdown.[2]

  • Otterston Tower is close to Fordell, about two miles west of Aberdour.[2] It is an L-plan tower house although a mansion was later added and remodeled.[2] It was held by the Hendersons in the early sixteenth century and it was they who built the tower, however, it had passed to the Mowbrays of Barnbougle by 1589.[2]

  • Broomhill House to the south of Edinburgh was held by the Hendersons between 1508 and 1648.[2] However, a castle followed by a mansion has since been demolished.[2] The lands later passed to the Bairds of Newbyth and then to the Trotters of Mortonhall.[2]



The Henderson/MacKendrick tartan is found in modernancientweathered, and muted colors, and there are also Henderson dress and dance tartans.


Septs and surname variations of the Clan Henderson include:

Gaelic variations:

  • MacEanrig / Eanrig

  • MacEnrig / Enrig

  • MacIanruig / Ianruig

  • MacIanrig / Ianrig

  • MacInrig / Inrig

  • MacCanruig / Canruig

  • MacCanrig / Canrig

Latin variations:

  • (filius) Henrici

  • Henrisoun / Henrisone

Anglicized variations:

  • (Mac) Anrig / Andrig / An(d)rigson

  • (Mac) Enrig / Endrig / Endrigson

  • (Mac) Henrig / Hendrig / Hendrigson

  • (Mac) Kenrig / Kendrig / Kendrigson

  • (Mac) Kanrig / Kandrig / Kandrigson

  • (Mac) Canrig / Candrig / Candrigson

  • (Mac) Anri(c)k / Andri(c)k / An(d)ri(c)kson

  • (Mac) Enri(c)k / Endri(c)k / En(d)ri(c)kson

  • (Mac) Henri(c)k / Hendri(c)k / Hen(d)ri(c)kson

  • (Mac) Kenri(c)k / Kendri(c)k / Ken(d)ri(c)kson

  • (Mac) Kanri(c)k / Kandri(c)k / Kan(d)ri(c)kson

  • (Mac) Canri(c)k / Candri(c)k / Can(d)ri(c)kson

  • (Mac) Anry / Andry / An(d)ryson

  • (Mac) Henry / Hendry / Hen(d)ryson / Hen(d)rysoun

  • (Mac) Kenry / Kendry / Ken(d)ryson

  • (Mac) Anrie / Andrie / An(d)rieson

  • (Mac) Henrie / Hendrie / Hen(d)rieson / Hen(d)riesoun

  • (Mac) Kenrie / Kendrie / Ken(d)rieson

  • (Mac) Anree / Andree / An(d)reeson

  • (Mac) Henree / Hendree / Hen(d)reeson

  • (Mac) Kenree / Kendree / Ken(d)reeson

  • End(h)erson

  • Henderson

  • Hendron

  • Hendren

  • Henders

  • Hendry

  • Henerson

The surname spelling variations arose from regional pronunciation differences, and sometimes perversely creative spelling.[19] Some individuals used multiple surname spellings, and sometimes different surname forms. For example, a traveling Henderson might use the surname MacEanruig in the Scottish Highlands, Henderson in the Lowlands, McHenry in Ulster, and Henry in England.

Notes and references

  1. Jump up to:a b c d e f Clan Henderson Profile Retrieved 8 April 2014.

  2. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j Coventry, Martin. (2008). Castles of the Clans: The Strongholds and Seats of 750 Scottish Families and Clans. pp. 270. ISBN 978-1-899874-36-1.

  3. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac Way, George and Squire, Romily. (1994). Collins Scottish Clan & Family Encyclopedia. (Foreword by The Rt Hon. The Earl of Elgin KT, Convenor, The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs). pp. 166 - 167.

  4. Jump up to:a b c d Laing, David (1865) The Poems and Fables of Robert Henryson at xlvi-xlvii, xxxvii-xl (Appendix No. 1: List of Persons of the Name of Henryson, from the Middle of the Fourteenth to the End of the Fifteenth Century).

  5. ^ "English Civil War - Newark besieged". Historia - A collection of coins with their historical context. Archived from the original on 13 April 2014. Retrieved 10 April 2012. Sir John Digby, the High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, had seized Newark on behalf of Charles I in late 1642. He was assisted by Sir John Henderson, a Scottish soldier, who it was felt would bring military expertise to the Royalists cause. Henderson was appointed Governor of Newark.

  6. ^ Bennett, Martyn (20 July 2008). "Structural - Standing buildings". The English Civil War. Nottingham: Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire. Retrieved 10 April 2012. The Governor's House, Newark: this building was where the governors of the town lived and worked Colonel Sir John Henderson 1642-3, Colonel Sir Richard Byron, 1643-4, Colonel Sir Richard Willys 1644-5 and Colonel John Lord Belasyse, 1645-6.

  7. ^ Donaldson, M.E.M. (2nd ed., 1923) Wanderings in the Western Highlands and Islands p. 289 n.7 ("The Macdonalds of Glencoe were more usually called the MacIains, or Clan Iain Abrach (of Lachaber), their progenitor being Iain Og an Fhraoich, or young John of the Heather, hence his race became the 'Sons of John.'  This 'young John' was a son of Angus, Lord of the Isles, by the daughter of one Dugald MacEanruig (hence Henderson) of Glencoe, which thus became a Macdonald possession . . . .”); Gregory, Donald (1836) History of the Western Highlands and Isles of Scotland pp. 66-67 (“The founder of this tribe was John, surname Fraoch, natural son of Angus Og of Isla, and brother of John, first Lord of the Isles.  His mother is said to have been a daughter of Dougald MacHenry, then the leading man in Glencoe, where John Fraoch afterwards settled as a vassal, under his brother, the Lord of the Isles, and where his descendants yet remain.”); Macdonald, Hugh (1847) “Fragment of a Manuscript History of the Macdonalds. Written in the Reign of Charles II.” Collectanea de Rebus Albanicis pp. 282, 296 (“Angus Ogg of the Isles … had a natural son, John, by Dougall MacHenry’s daughter, she being her father’s only child.  This John by his mother enjoyed the lands of Glencoe, of whom descended the race of the Macdonalds.”).

  8. ^ Prebble, John (1966) Glencoe: The Story of the Massacre (ISBN 9780140028973) p. 39; Donaldson (1923) p. 298; McKean, Fred. G. (1906) McKean Historical Notes  pp. 111, 224.

  9. ^ Ordnance Survey, Six-inch, Argyllshire, Sheet XXXI ( survey date 1870, published 1875), available at Ordnance Survey Name Book, Argyll vol. 49 p. 19 (1868-1878) (Clach Eanruig: “This well known name is applied to a granite boulder about 3 ½ feet in height, situated in a field a little south of Carnach, and deriving this appellation from the tradition that one of the soldiers named Henderson or Henry, billeted with a family in the above village, took one of its members to this stone, the night previous to the Massacre (of Glencoe (1692), and addressing it, gave warning of the approaching danger, his companion understanding, saved himself by instant flight. Sign ‘Henry’s Stone’”).

  10. ^ “MHG36 – Henderson Stone (Clach Eanruig), Glencoe,” Highland Historic Environment Record; Canmore ID 74223, Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, available at

  11. ^ Dorson, Richard "Sources for the Traditional History of the Scottish Highlands and Western Islands" in Journal of the Folklore Institute (Aug 1, 1971) vol 8(2), p 147, 156, 159 (quoting John Alexander Stewart Wilson (SA 1959/59 A2,3)); see also Wilson, Ginger “Saighdear a thug rabhadh do chlach ro Mhurt Ghleann Comhan”(1959) Track ID: 34418 - Original Tape ID: SA1959.059,;  Lang, Andrew (1907) History of Scotland vol. 4 pp. 44-45; Campbell, Duncan “Haidheachd mu shaighdear a dh'fheuch ri rabhadh a thoirt do...” (1953) Track ID: 5979 - Original Tape ID: SA1953.077,; Livingstone, Sandy “Fiosrachadh mu Chlach Eanraig an Gleanna Comhan” (1958) Track ID: 38821 - Original Tape ID: SA1958.081,; MacInnes, Duncan “Fiosrachadh mu Chlach Eanraig agus Mort Ghleanna Comhan” (1958) Track ID: 68111 - Original Tape ID: SA1958.082,

  12. ^ Prebble at 208; MacDonald, Rev. Norman “A Mhnathan a' Ghlinne Seo” (1956) Track ID: 70433 - Original Tape ID: SA1956.054, at 297.

  13. ^ Argyll Ordnance Survey Name Book; Wilson (SA1959.059) ; MacInnes (SA1958.082); MacDonald (SA1959.24.B9) ; Lang at 45.

  14. ^ See Gunn, Robert R. (1925) The Gunns p. 42, 52; Henderson, John (1884) Caithness Family History p. 283.

  15. ^ "Chief or Representative List". The Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs. Archived from the original on 17 May 2020. Retrieved 17 May 2020.

  16. ^ See Laing (1865) p. xli; Gifford, John (1992) Buildings of Scotland: Fife p. 226.

  17. ^ "Diary of Robert Birrel" p. 16 in Dalyell, John Graham (1798) Fragments of Scotish History ("The 3 day of Junii [1568], being Thursday, James Hendersone of Fordell has hes place of Fordell brunt by ane suddaine fyre, both the old worke and the new.").

  18. ^ Simpkins, John Ewart (1914) County Folk-Lore, vol. VII p. 45 (citing Buckner, J.C.R. (1881) Rambles In and Around Aberdour and Burntisland p. 53).

  19. ^ See Chalmers, George, (1824) "Preface" to Robene and Makyne, and the Testament of Cresseid, by Robert Henryson" p. xi n.12 ("In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the name was variously written, Henrison, Henrisoun, Henryson, Hendrison, and Henderson, which last became the established form").

Further reading

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