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Our ancestors in Glencoe are as old a family as any clan in the Highlands. Through them we claim descent from Eanruig Mor Mac Righ Neachtan — Big Henry, son of King Nectan (King of Picts in 710) — who settled the southern shore of Loch Leven. Although it would be difficult to pinpoint when the MacEanruig Chiefs first held the land embracing Glencoe, they held the Chiefship there for three centuries before King Robert the Bruce granted lordship of Glencoe to Angus of the Isles for his support at Bannockburn in 1314.

The last Henderson Chief at Glencoe was Dugald MacEanruig. The chiefship passed as a result of his daughter’s marriage into Clan Donald. Iain, Her son and progenitor to the MacIans, established the MacEanruigs as the hereditary pipers for the MacDonalds of Glencoe. At the time of the Massacre, our Gaelic-speaking ancestors were the bodyguard to the Chief of Glencoe.


When Henry Gunn decided to separated himself from the constant fighting between the Gunn and the Keiths in the mid-15th century, the Hendersons emerged in Caithness.

The Shetlands

William Magnusson of Buness and Gardie was underfoude of Unst in 1582. Tradition attributes a descent from Hendrich Hendrichson who served as Great Foude and Chancellor of Zetland under a commission granted by King Christian I of Denmark. (A parallel tradition changes the name to Count Hemison.)
William’s son Henry Williamson was to give the patronymic Henryson to all subsequent generates, beginning with his eldest son Magnus, who was the first to be styled “Henderson” in the Shetlands and who became the patriarch of a large family traceable down to the present.


By the 16th century, we find that Henryson had acquired a section of the border country in Upper Liddesdale. Although the Hendersons were recorded as living in the Middle Marches during this period, work is underway to identify this branch’s place in our history. Evidence suggests that many border Hendersons went to Ulster and beyond.


Robert Henderson was the Burgess of Edinburgh who acquired the lands of Fordell in the latter part of the 15th century. It was James Henderson, who became Lord Advocate of Scotland in 1494, for whom the lands of Fordell were erected into a barony in 1511. These Hendersons were staunch supporters of their King and fought and died in his service.

One of the more famous members of this branch was Alexander Henderson (1583-1646) who is regarded as the greatest leader of the Reformation in Scotland after Knox. One of the most respected Presbyterian leaders, he is credited with the drafting of the National Covenant in 1638 along with the legal skill of Archibald Johnston of Warriston. This is also the line in which our current chief, Dr. John William Philp Henderson, is descended.


While Hendersons were not a large or particularly cohesive family in the Scottish Borders, evidence suggests that many border Hendersons moved first to Ulster and then on to the United States and other countries. Many members of the society have pedigrees which trace back to Ulster, so we will eventually know more about this branch.