Henderson, Ebenezer (1809-1879) (DNB00)


HENDERSON, EBENEZER, the younger (1809–1879), author of ‘The Annals of Dunfermline,’ was born at Dunfermline in February 1809, and educated there (Stewart, Reminiscences of Dunfermline). He was son of John Henderson, watch and clock maker, and nephew of Ebenezer Henderson the elder [q. v.] He learned his father's business, but gave his real strength to scientific pursuits, producing by 1827 an orrery and an astronomical clock, both of which were much admired. Between 1829 and 1863 he was in England, mainly at Liverpool and in London. His nominal post at first was clerk and assistant to his brother, an extensive tanner at St. Helens, but for a time he was curator of the Liverpool Astronomical Institution and Observatory, where he also lectured. He continued his astronomical studies, becoming a member of thirteen scientific societies in England, and receiving (at a date now unknown) the degree of LL.D. from an American college. In 1850 he was highly commended by Airy, Arago, and other European experts, for an ingenious combination of wheels designed to show and check sidereal time (see letters to him in Chalmers, History of Dunfermline, vol. ii.) He was busy meanwhile with the archæological and historical notes that ultimately developed into the ‘Annals of Dunfermline,’ and he secured in 1856 the recognition of Dunfermline as a city. The freedom of Elgin and of Dunfermline was conferred upon Henderson in 1858 and 1859 respectively. In 1866 he settled in Muckhart, Perthshire, where he died 2 Nov. 1879. He became a member of five Scottish scientific societies, and wrote papers both for these and for English societies. In his latter years he was instrumental in restoring the old market cross of Dunfermline (1868) and ‘Queen Margaret's Stone,’ on the Dunfermline and Queensferry road, for which he wrote the inscription. His wife's name was Betsy Coldstream Brodie. He had no issue.

Besides smaller works, Henderson published ‘Historical Treatise on Horology,’ London, 1836; ‘Treatise on Astronomy,’ which reached a third edition in 1848; ‘Life of James Ferguson, F.R.S., in a brief autobiographical account and further extended Memoir,’ 1867; and in 1879 ‘The Annals of Dunfermline and Vicinity, from the earliest authentic period to the present time, A.D. 1069–1878’ (Glasgow, 8vo). The last work, though not without instances of unsifted legends and specimens of archæological credulity, is on the whole a monument of patient industry and conspicuous ability.

[Works mentioned above; Dunfermline Free Press, November 1879; information from George Robertson, esq., F.S.A. Scotl., Dunfermline.]

T. B.