Clan Henderson

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Scotland Project > Scottish Clans > Clan Henderson


Welcome to Clan Henderson

Clan Henderson Team
Team Leader TBA
Team MembersCarol Melo, Doug Henderson, Laura Bozzay, David Hughey, Kenneth Henderson, Susie (Potter) Officer
Clan Chief: Alistair Donald Henderson of Fordell -- an environmental engineer specialising in air pollution control who lives in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The Chief is recognized by Lord Lyon, King of Arms, and is a member of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs (SCSC)
Crest: A cubit arm Proper the hand holding an estoile Or surmounted by a crescent Azure
Motto: Sola virtus nobilitat, Virtue alone ennobles
Slogan/War Cry:
Region: Highland & Lowlands
Historic Seat:
Plant badge: Stem of Cotton grass
Pipe music:
Gaelic name: MacEanruig

Clan Team

Team Goals

The focus of this team's work is to identify, improve and maintain profiles associated with the Lairds and Chiefs of Clan Henderson together with members bearing the name Henderson, the related families and those recognised as septs of Clan Henderson.

Team To Do List

This list will be developed by the Team. If you are working on a specific task, please list it here:

  • promoting the entries of those bearing the name Henderson on Wikitree.
  • ensuring entries appearing on Wikitree are as accurate as possible, correcting mistakes once spotted.
  • encouraging interest in and study of Clan Henderson.


d’Handresson, Eanrig, Eanruig, Enderson, Endherson, Endirsone, Enrick, Enrig, Henders, Henderson, Hendersone, Hendersonne, Hendersoun, Hendersoune, Hendery, Hendirsone, Hendirsoun, Hendirsoune, Hendrie, Hendriesoun, Hendrisone, Hendrisoune, Hendron, Hendry, Hendryson, Hendrysone, Henerson, Henersoun, Hennerson, Hennersoune, Hennryson, Henresoun, Henreysoun, Henrici, Henricus, Henrie, Henriesone, Henriesoun, Henrison, Henrisone, Henrisoun, Henrisoune, Henrisson, Henry, Henryesson, Henryson, Henrysone, Henrysonne, Henrysoun, Henrysoune, Inrick, Inrig, Kendrick, Kenrick, MacCanrig, MacCanrik, MacEanruig, MacEnrick, MacHendric, MacHendrick, MacHendrie, MacHendry, MacHenrie, MacHenrik, MacHenry, MacKanrig, MacKendree, MacKendric, MacKendrich, MacKendrick, MacKendrie, MacKendrig, MacKendry, MacKenrick, MakAnry, MakCanryk, MakHenry, McCandrie, McCanrig, McCanrik, McHendry, McHenrie, McHenrik, McHenry, McKanrig, McKendree, McKendrick, McKendry, McKinriche, M’Canrie, M’Cenrik, M’Henri, M’Henry, M’Inrig, M’Kendrig, NicEanruig, and other variants.

Clan History

Overview The sons of Henry (MacEanruig) are a family as old as any clan in the Highlands. In modern times, Clan Henderson traces lineage through the Chief of the Name and Arms of Henderson, Alistair of Fordell. However, in times more distant Henderson’s can claim descent from a King of the Picts and down through five unique bloodlines evolving from the regions of Caithness, Fordell, Glencoe, Shetlands/Liddesdale and Ulster. Henderson’s from the Glencoe region have strong ties to the MacDonald Clan and were renowned as pipers and bodyguards to the Glencoe MacDonald Chief (MacIan). Henderson’s from the Caithness region have ties to the Clan Gunn.

Clan Branches

Other Names Associated with the Clan

D'Handresson, Eanrig, Eanruig, Enderson, Endherson, Endirsone, Henders, Henderson, Hendersone , Hendersonne, Hendersoun, Hendersoune, Hendery, Hendirsone, Hendirsoune, Hendrie, Hendric, Hendrick, Hendrisoune, Hendry, Henersoun, Hennersoune, Hennryson, Henresoun, Henreysoun, Henriesoun, Henrison, Henrisone, Henrisoun, Henrisoune, Henry, Henryesson, Henryson, Henrysoun, Kendrick, Kenrick, MacCanrig, MacCanrik, MacEanruig, MacEnrick, MacHendric, MacHendrie, MacHendry, MacHenrie, MacHenrik, MacHenry, MacKanrig, MacKendric, MacKendrich, MacKendrick, MacKendrie, MacKendrig, MacKendry, MacKenrick, Makanry, Makhenry, McHenry, McKendree, McKendrick, McKendry

Allied Clans

Rival Clans

Clan Research and Free Space Pages

Source Material

Image Credits and Acknowledgements

Information below this line should be summarized and included on this team page. Detailed information should be transferred to additional Clan pages.


Clan Name Coat of Arms

Thomas Henderson

b 1679

Clan Chief

Coat of Arms

Current Clan Chief

Alistair Henderson

Crest Badge Lands Tartan






(Female Members)

CLAN HENDERSON ?? Coat of Arms Coat of Arms Crest Lands Modern Weathered Dress

Clan Castles Fordell Castle, Ancient stronghold of Clan Henderson


Lochmaben Castle


Lochmaben, although now a ruined, almost haphazard pile of stones being inexorably eaten by the vines and plants that are growing over it, was started in the late 12th century. Of course, it was originally an earthen moat with extensive ditches and rampart defenses. A castle here was first mentioned in 1173, and may have had stone buildings by 1298.

A wooden tower was added to the moat and ditch system in the 1290s. One of the interesting pieces of history about Lochmaben is that it is considered the birthplace of Robert the Bruce. This early wooden castle is attributed to the Bruce family, and Robert Bruce's father had it for a time while he had been a supporter of Edward I. At the time, the elder Bruce was making a claim for the Scottish throne, once Balliol had abdicated.

Lochmaben got it's first stonework in the 14th century, which included an enclosure curtain, supports for a bridge, and the inner moat, which have survived. The castle is surrounded by a moat, and probably had access to Castle Loch, which is nearby.

The castle was siezed by English in 1299, and attacked in 1301. It was surrendered to the Scots after Bannockburn in 1314, then attacked again in 1396 and recovered by the English.

Once a large and well-fortifed castle, Lochmaben was often visited by royalty. Mary, Queen of Scots and her first husband Darnley attended a banquet here in 1565. Still, in 1586 the castle was besieged by James VI and taken. The castle was abandoned, and became ruined. It's current state is deteriorating, and I'm sure that in another few decades, the stone remains will be buried in a soft blanket of green grass. It is in dangerous condition, and a sign warns of 'falling masonry' and not to climb on the rubble walls. The tower is surrounded by a wire fence, although it's easily crossed (there is a gate, but it was nearly under water) to examine the tower and remains of the moat. (See below for more history of Lochmaben Castle)

Clan History

Henderson, Henry and Hendry are names so closely tied and so widespread it is not possible to determine one single line as being the first. Through its Gaelic translation into English, the name MacKendrick is revealed as another variation of Henderson. The Hendersons of Caithness and surrounding areas claim their descent from Henry, son of George Gunn, the chief of Clan Gunn and ‘Crowner’ of Scotland in the 1400s, who was deceived and slain by the Keiths. Meanwhile, there were Hendersons in Dumfries-shire, the opposite end of Scotland.

In 1494, James Henderson became Lord Advocate and founded the line which flourished in Fordell, Fife. Born to this family in 1583 was Alexander Henderson, who drafted the National Covenant of 1638 with Johnston of Wariston. With this and his work towards the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643, and the Confession of Faith, he became the Presbyterian Church of Scotland’s most influential representative of those political years.

Claiming descent from ‘Big Henry’, son of King Neachtain, are the principle family of Hendersons, Clan Eanruig of Glencoe. King Neachtain reigned in the 700s and is said to have built Abernethy, the Pictish stronghold.

When the Hendersons came to Glencoe, the heiress of their last chief had given a son to Angus Og of Islay. Their grandson was Iain Abrach and his patronymic, MacLain, became the designation of the MacDonald of Glencoe chiefs.

In the years with the MacDonalds, it became tradition that the Hendersons, known for their size and strength, formed the personal bodyguard of the chief. Standing six feet and seven inches tall, the powerful Big Henderson of the Chanters was MacLain's piper and protector, and fell with the chief in the cold February night of 1692 in the Massacre of Glencoe, the treacherous outrage ordered by King William of Orange.

"Son of Henry" is a name which is found in various forms all over Europe. In Scotland, it was originally "Henryson" but Henderson was easier to say and has become the norm. The surname Hendry is of course from the same roots. While the name can be found all across the country, there were a number of main branches. In Dumfries, William Henrison became chamberlain of Lochmaben Castle (a possible birthplace of Robert the Bruce) around 1374. He later received a pension from the king of England when he was driven from his lands in the area. A descendant, James Henderson, became Lord Advocate in 1494 and established himself with a fortified mansion in the lands of Fordell near Dalgety in Fife in 1511. Later, one of Mary Queen of Scot's ladies-in-waiting married George Henderson of Fordell. The Lowland Henderson chiefs were designated "Henderson of Fordell". A prominent Henderson of Fordell was Alexander, who became a minister in Fife. He was violently opposed to the new prayer book foisted on the Church of Scotland by King Charles I in 1637. His denouncement of the book resulted in him drafting (along with Johnston of Warriston) the National Covenant which was signed by thousands in Greyfriar's Churchyard in Edinburgh. Henderson later became Moderator of the Church of Scotland and is buried in Greyfriar's. Although Fordell Castle is no longer in Henderson hands, it was restored this century by the late Sir Nicholas Fairbairn, a colourful Solicitor General for Scotland.

The southern Hendersons spread eastwards from Dumfries to Liddesdale, although they never became one of the great Border families.In 1594, when the Scottish Parliament listed the Border families who were accused of being outlaws and "Border Rievers", Henderson was not included.

In the 15th century, Henry Gunn in Caithness in the far north of Scotland, fell out with other members of the family. He is thought to have been the founder of a family named Henderson in that area.

In the Glencoe area, a sept of the MacDonalds Anglicised their Gaelic name "MacEanruig" and formed another distinct enclave of Hendersons. They claimed to have been descended from "Big Henry, son of King Nechtan" a Pictish monarch of around 706AD. A more verifiable descent is from a Dugal MacEanruig who lived around 1340.

There was a John filius Henry in Aberdeen in the early part of the 14th century who became a burgess (freeman of the city) and in 1370, James Henrisson, a merchant in Aberdeen, is recorded complaining about the English wrecking one of his ships.

Thomas Henderson from Dundee was originally a lawyer but became an astronomer in the 19th century and was appointed as the first Astronomer Royal in Scotland.

The Henderson clan motto is "Sola virtus nobilitat" which means "Virtue alone ennobles".

Hendrie, Hendry, MacHendrie and MacHendry surnames are regarded as septs (sub-branch) of the MacNaughton clan. Henderson itself is a member of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs.

Henderson was the 27th most frequent surname at the General Register Office in 1995.


Though a small clan, the Hendersons rose to prominence in Caithness, Glencoe, the Shetland Islands and Fordell in Fife. In Caithness, Clan Henderson associated with Clan Gunn. In Glencoe, Clan Henderson forged a close alliance with the powerful Clan Donald. A separate family grouping arose in Liddesdale and Ewesdale, being one of the smaller families of Border Reivers.

The Hendersons, known for their size and strength, became the personal body guards of the chief of the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe. In 1692, King William III, suspecting the loyalty of Clan Donald, secretly set the Clan Campbell upon the MacDonalds and Hendersons in the Massacre of Glencoe. Standing six feet and seven inches tall, the powerful “Big Henderson” of the Chanters was the MacDonald chief’s piper and protector, and fell with the chief in the cold February night of 1692. After the Massacre, many Henderson families emigrated to Ulster, North America and mid Wales.

Highland Clearances

During the Highland Clearances from 1746 to 1822, many more Henderson families left Scotland for Ireland, England, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and other lands.

Hendersons in the 18th and 19th Centuries

Hendersons in the British colonies of North America played important roles in the drive for American independence from Britain.

Patrick Henry of Virginia urged armed revolution with his cry “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Ulster-born physician James McHenry served as George Washington’s Secretary of War. (The Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States of America, depicts the British naval bombardment of Fort McHenry near Baltimore in 1814.)

Hendersons loyal to the British Crown played important roles in the British settlement of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Hendersons in the Modern World In 1934, British statesman Arthur Henderson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work for world disarmament. Epidemiologist Dr. Donald Ainslie “D.A.” Henderson led the World Health Organization’s successful effort to eradicate smallpox throughout the world.

Henderson Tartan

The Clan Henderson tartan is predominately green with large blue and black bands, and small yellow and white stripes. The tartan is available in five variations: Ancient, Modern, Dress, Muted and Weathered. Although these variations incorporate very different colors, they are all considered the same tartan.


Ancient tartans represent plaids that were made with natural dyes. They incorporate the primary color pattern of the clan. However, they are lighter in shade, especially the blue, symbolizing that unlike modern dyes, time will fade the coloring on the tartan. The ancient tartan is representative of a tartan that has been in the family a long time.


Modern tartans represent plaids that are made with chemical dyes, allowing for deeper and darker colors. It also recognizes the fact that modern dyes will not fade in the manner of the ancient tartans. This tartan is representative of a family newly acquiring the tartan material or it can be considered a display of wealth and prosperity within the family.


Dress tartans replace much of the primary colors with white. In the Clan Henderson tartan, the dress tartan has most of the green replaced with white. Dress tartans stem from the Victorian-era, where custom mandated that women of virtue wear white. Accordingly, the dress tartan is considered a woman’s tartan, and in the Clan Henderson, is not appropriate attire for members of the bodyguard.


Muted tartans provide a color variation from the Ancient and Modern versions. In some clans, the muted version has shades between the Ancient and Modern. The Clan Henderson has a muted tartan with a completely different shade of green, and a slight variation in the shade of the blue. The muted tartan is supposedly representative of a tartan that has faded from wear and the elements. The muted tartan is also considered by some to represent the tartans that would have been buried and hidden when they were banned from wear by the English (1746-1814).

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