Obituary: John Henderson, ex-councillor, 90

John Henderson was a lifelong member of Labour. Picture: TSPL
John Henderson was a lifelong member of Labour. Picture: TSPL
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John Henderson, solicitor and councillor, has died aged 90.

He was born on July 19, 1924, in Leith and educated at Holy Cross Primary and Academy.

He worked for a short time in the Department of Health in Edinburgh’s Eglinton Crescent before joining the Navy in the middle of the Second World War.

Stationed in Malta, he served on HMS Quilliam, the Q Class destroyer leader, which was deployed in the Mediterranean and then briefly to South Africa before returning to the Med for the Sicily and Salerno landings, during the invasion of southern Italy, in 1943.

In December that year he escaped a horrific incident during a German bombing raid on the Adriatic port of Bari that claimed an estimated 2000 casualties, including all on board a ship with a secret cargo of mustard gas.

Later, he was on one of the massive artificial Mulberry harbours towed across the English Channel to the French beaches to speed up the unloading of troops and equipment on D Day.

He remained in the Navy until the end of the war, returning home to study law at Edinburgh University.

After graduating in 1949, Mr Henderson spent some time in 
North America where he travelled widely, taught history in Canada 
for a year and worked for a 
further year for a bank in the United States.

Back in Edinburgh, he set up as a criminal defence agent based on George IV Bridge, where he worked for many years.

A lifelong member of the Labour Party, he served as a councillor on Edinburgh Town Council from 1961-67.

His duties during this time included witnessing the ceremony, in Ramsay Gardens, in April 1965, to extinguish the city’s last gas lamp for the final time. During his time with the local authority he sat on its schools, water and police boards.

He also stood unsuccessfully for Labour in West Aberdeenshire in the 1966 general election.

Mr Henderson retired from practice in the 1980s.

His other interests included European travel – Vienna was a favourite destination – naval and cinema history and in particular the history and development of Edinburgh.

He lived for most of his life in the Grassmarket. A lifelong Catholic – who once drove all the way to Rome in an Austin 7 – he was a supporter of the Maltese Bishop Charles Scicluna though he was also an admirer of churchmen of other faiths, particularly the former Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway.

Modest, admirable and intellectually astute until his death, he never married and has no surviving relatives.

A service is being held for him tomorrow at 10.30am at Edinburgh’s Mortonhall Crematorium.