About the Author

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Bruce Henderson is a computer engineer living in Southern California. With the help of his cousins he is researching the history of the Henderson family of southern Caithness. You can contact him at bruce@sigalarm.com

The Ledger – Sinclair Spinning Co.

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During a trip to Scotland a few years ago, I gave into temptation and visited the National Archives of Scotland – a repository of all manner of historical documents maintained by the Scottish government.

They provide a nice web interface to search the archives, and one of the few things that come up if you use the search words “Henderson Caithness” was a ledger book from one William Henderson circa 1802 or so. William is not an uncommon name, but it went on the list to review. I was hoping it might shed some light our family, but ready to spend some time leafing through it to find what I wanted.

What this artifact turned out to be was a record of the Sinclair Spinning Company of Berriedale, Caithness. This fellow, William Henderson, operated a business gathering lint and wool from the local farms, and spinning it into yard and woven into cloth. His ledger records each family he traded with, the amount of goods he took in, and the payment made. In some cases he paid in cash and in others he traded in kind for flour, sugar and other goods. As such, it functions as a partial census of the area, noting each family and their location. Even the amount of wool can give the reader some idea of the scale of each croft. The ledger is some 200 pages in length, covering family crofts from as far south as Helmsdale to as far north as Latheron,

As luck would have it, I did not have to look through this fascinating book for long, because there on the 3rd page was one of William’s first customer – James and his brother Angus. This led me to outline the following notion of who I can pin down to the family that came from Knockfin.

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Since this finding, new information has been shared by the Nan Bethune of Dunbeath, possibly drawing in a number of other Hendersons of the region into the same family. (more on that in the days to come).

What happened to Angus is a mystery. We think that he fathered an illegitimate child, and then disappears from any and all records. We suspect that he may have emigrated to Canada, or possibly joined the Army and never returned to Caithness. William, on the other hand, may have gone on to become one of the factors for James Sinclair, the man behind the Berriedale clearances. But that is still a matter of research.

Landward Episode 23 - Commentary

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The episode has aired now (November 27th in Scotland) and thankfully I was able to find a way to see it, and I would now like to share my comments on the episode with you.

First off, I think it was great! It’s by far the best 6 minutes of Henderson ancient history on television thus far. Most of the folks in the family who saw it wish it would have been longer, which is understandable. But the pacing, the camera work and way they packed that much information into 6 minutes was fantastic.

Word from Landward is that they will provide us with the whole footage some time this spring. I am not sure if it will be possible, but I would very much like to try and put together a “directors cut” of the segment from the portion that aired along with some other elements from the tape.

The detailed comments, and hints about what else was filmed Continue reading Landward Episode 23 – Commentary

Nan and George Bethune on Ballachly “House of Peace”

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Any reader of Neil Gunn’s books knows he makes reference to a long abandoned holy site in Dunbeath that he refers to in “Highland River” as the House of Peace. This was always assumed to be folklore, as there is no evidence of a church remained to the present age.

Now, thanks to the sharp eyes and hard work of the Bethunes, the details of this important archeological site are starting to be revealed. In essence, it is possible that a full excavation of the Ballachly (pronouced Balla-klie) site may reveal that the christian church was present in Caithness years before St, Columba,

From the BBC web site (full video when you follow the link):

A group of archaeologists are trying to establish if Norsemen brought Christianity to Caithness before St Columba arrived on Iona. The question has arisen after a dig at an ancient church site at the coastal village of Dunbeath. Pottery dating back to the 6th Century has recently been found in the area. A University of Nottingham team is to carry out further exploration which they hope could show evidence of an even earlier Christian church.