John Murdoch Henderson (1902-1972)
The John Murdoch Henderson Music Collection
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The Life and Times of John Murdoch Henderson
Part III - A Grand Evening Concert

Following the death of James Scott Skinner in 1927, Henderson became a founder member of the Skinner Fund Committee, whose first aim was to keep alive the memory of "The Strathspey King." Chaired by Provost Donald Munro, the committee was made up of Lord Provost Rust, President, Alex Simpson, Treasurer with Henderson as Secretary.

"Skinner, of all the Scots composers of the past, has the greatest wealth of good tunes - popular and lasting melodies - to reach the feet, heart and head." - "The Scottish Music Maker" JMH, 1957.

"In 1930 Violet Davidson, the popular Aberdeen soprano, and for several years J. Scott Skinner's fellow artiste, originated the idea which led to the institute of a world-wide appeal for funds to erect a fitting memorial to this giant in Scottish music. Concerts were held at Banchory, Stonehaven and New Deer to augment the funds accumulated from private donations. So gratifying and spontaneous was the response - even the Prime Minister, Mr. J. Ramsay MacDonald, being numbered among the subscribers - that a truly handsome memorial was erected at the Strathspey King's grave and unveiled by Sir Harry Lauder on the 28th November, 1931. The balance of the funds was utilised to erect a tablet in Banchory near the spot marking his birthplace and to institute four silver challenge trophies - two in Aberdeen, one in Inverness and the fourth in Elgin - for classes in J. Scott Skinner compositions at the music festival in these centres." JMH, 1935.

The Memorial, 1931

A Grand Evening Concert. . . .

The New Deer concert was arranged by Henderson and performed on the evening of Thursday 30th April, 1931.

The bill that night featured a popular array of local entertainers: Miss Violet Davidson, "The Popular Soprano," Mr Willie Kemp "The Favourite Aberdeen Comedian", Mr John Dickie, "Flagioletist," Mr William Johnstone, "The Celebrated Tenor," Mrs Shand, accompanist, and Miss Alice Dalgarno, "The Acrobatic Dancer" from New Deer.

Henderson conducted the fiddlers of the Whitehill Strathspey and Reel Society, opening the show with one of Skinner's favourite sets - "The Bonnie Lass O' Bon Accord", "The Iron Man" and "Speed the Plough."
The same set of tunes was played at Henderson's own memorial forty years later.

The Bonnie Lass O' Bon Accord (JSS)
Aberdeen S & R Society

The Iron Man (JSS)
Aberdeen S & R Society

Speed The Plough (Trad)
Duncan Wood

Williamina Davidson Bell
1866 - 1938

"Mina" Bell, a farmer's daughter from Clayfolds by Stonehaven, was working as a house maid in Aberdeen when she inspired Skinner's "Bonnie Lass O' Bon Accord".

In Skinner's memoirs, serialised in the People's Journal, February to April, 1923, he recalls that in December 1884, after holding a dancing class in the Silver Street Hall, Aberdeen, he and some friends were invited to a house in nearby Union Terrace.

"There I found a girl performing the menial task of a servant, who it was plainly to be seen was a 'cut' above the ordinary servant lass of those days. I was both interested and surprised and my surprise was heightened when the floor was cleared for dancing, for Williamina proved herself a splendid 'tripper of the light fantastic toe'."
. .

In 1957, when Henderson published "The Scottish Music Maker" in celebration of Skinner's work, the book contained eighty-four airs, "that is," as Henderson put it, "one for every year the composer entered!"

The Memorial, 2002

Another Grand Evening Concert. . . .

The musical notes engraved at the foot of the memorial are the opening bars of Skinner's Bonnie Lass o' Bon Accord, one of the Skinner tunes played at a fund raising concert at the Cowdray Hall, Aberdeen, on the evening of 25th May, 2002. Performed by The Aberdeen Strathspey and Reel Society the concert was in celebration of the 75th anniversary of Skinner's death and in aid of the Skinner Memorial.

"The memorial at Allenvale Cemetery has now been cleaned and re-lettered to stunning effect. An added bonus is the planting of numerous rose bushes around the memorial by Aberdeen Council. It is now once again a fitting tribute to one of Scotland's greatest exponents of the fiddling art."
Aberdeen Strathspey and Reel Society, July 2002.



A Buchan Farmer's Son

Henderson the Musician

The James Scott Skinner Memorial
Allenvale Cemetery, Aberdeen,
was unveiled by Scottish music hall legend
Sir Harry Lauder, 28th November, 1931.


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