History of Clan Henderson

[Books] History of Clan Henderson

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With a nod to Nigel Tranter in The Story of Scotland, we must consider the history of Scotland in telling our story of the family of Henderson because we are so intertwined with it. We will place our various root families and events involving Hendersons along a time line so that lore and historical events do not become confused. Storytelling is an important and entertaining part of history, but as we learn about our Henderson family, we will try to separate fact from legend.

The wheat-growers, or Cruithne, as they called themselves, were the earliest Celtic people to live in the lands we now call Scotland. Generally we know them by their Roman name, Picts, and they lived in a land they knew as Alba. While they claimed a continuing ancestry back to Japheth mac Noah at the time of the flood, we are more concerned with their descendants -- you and me.

The Romans called them Picts, or painters, because their language used pictures and symbols seen in their carved standing stone legacy. It may also be because of their woven multi-coloured cloth which other cultures had not developed and which we have today as our tartan. A reason that is most certainly not correct is the old painted-body theory.

Fergus MacErc crossed the sea from Ireland at the end of the fifth century and took over a small area in what we call Argyll. This small band of folk called themselves Scoti and named their small kingdom Dalriada, where they ruled for centuries in peaceful co-existence with the Picts of Alba.

St. Columba was an Irish prince who, in the sixth century, brought Christianity to the land wherein his Scoti relatives resided. His secret of success was adapting the many druidic practices and celebrations to introduce his Christian religion. His Celtic Christian Church was the Church of Scotland for the next of five centuries.

When Kenneth MacAlpin became King of both Dalriada and of Alba in 843, an interesting transformation occurred as the Cruithne began to refer to themselves as Scots and to their Kingdom of Alba as Scotland. As Tranter argues, the Scoti represented only some 5% of the population and therefore, it was unlikely that MacAlpin conquered anyone. It remains that from that time, we have referred to our ancestral homeland as Scotland.

The Norse raids upon the Highlands, islands and west coast of Scotland certainly influenced our Henderson gene pool in Argyll (Glencoe) and Caithness. The introduction of Norman families also brought Norse stock into the family in the Borders, the Lowlands and Central Scotland.

While some families can trace their surname back to the creation of rock, the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 and the subsequent subjugation of King Malcolm Canmore was a significant point in the developing history of clans in Scotland. The introduction of feudalism produced within three generations a total change of English culture and major changes in Scotland. "English" and "Scots" languages merged and were often replaced by the language of the Normans. Hereditary surnames became a clearly defined order as clans became more broadly organized.

As we approach a study of the Hendersons, we often lose sight of when events took place and how the various root families were affected by their location. We also make assumptions about Scotland itself. Too often we make the unhappy and illogical division along the so-called Highland Line in which the terrain in the Highlands is all mountains and the people are all Gaelic-speaking, kilt-wearing crofters and everything in the Lowlands is industrial or farming and the people are all transformed Saxons.

Topographically, none of our roots actually lived on the high ground. They spoke Gaelic and Scots and wore both kilts and trews. In one case, they were Hendersons in town and MacEanruigs at home.

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