Walking was key to John’s faith

Love of the outdoors and long walks, and a lifelong deeply held faith were key to John Henderson’s pioneering involvement in Scotland’s pilgrimage routes.

By Andrew Henderson
Friday, 26th February 2021, 12:10 pm
John Henderson, who died on Feburary 15, aged 72.
John Henderson, who died on Feburary 15, aged 72.

John was heavily involved in the planning of many walking routes, including the Rob Roy Way, the St Cuthbert’s Way and the Abbeys Way.

He became a director of the Scottish Borders Tourist Board at the same time as setting up his own business providing detailed support for the many visitors from home and abroad who came to enjoy and explore the walks.

In time, this activity expanded to include many new pilgrimage routes.

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John played a key part in their development and was a Trustee and Treasurer of the Scottish Pilgrims Routes Forum until a few months ago.

These new routes were diverse: Iona to St Andrews, the Three Saints Way, the Whithorn Way, the Deeside Way, the Forth to Farne Way and the St Kentigern Way.

He co-authored books with Jaquetta Megarry about several of these, encouraging walkers to understand more about the history, geography, flora and fauna of the surroundings.

His work in walking support has introduced countless people to the pleasures of walking in Scotland.

John was educated at Glasgow Academy, where success in sporting prowess in rugby or cricket, or in academic achievement, particularly with entrance to Oxford or Cambridge Universities was most highly prized.

These pursuits were not John’s interests, and the school reciprocated with a likewise lack of interest in him. He left school aged 16, but soon found his feet in Langside Further Education College.

Success there lead to an apprenticeship with Albion Motors, and then to higher education at Heriot-Watt University, where he gained a BSc in mechanical engineering. During this time he found time to be a Special Constable with Glasgow (he was their youngest) and Edinburgh police.

Marriage and a young family soon came along, and proved a constant and enduring lynchpin for the rest of his life.

He worked for a time in Oxford at the Cowley car plant, before returning to Scotland to work with Strathclyde Council.

In 1977 he moved with his young family to Melrose to take up a post as executive engineer manager at Exacta Circuits. This was the start of a lifelong love affair with the Borders region. After eight years at Exacta he moved to work with Alphsem in Livingston, but his love of the Borders meant commuting for work was the only option.

In 1988 he was appointed senior Project Engineer to a department of the Scottish Development Agency, moving again after four years to become General Manager of SPEED.

In 2000 John decided to branch out on his own, which was really the start of his

second career. He formed a company Supply Chain Support, which provided web

design and support for many different businesses alongside planning and guiding

long distance walking. He also ran a separate photography business for a number

of years.

It was in these last 20 years that he was to become such a big influence and

developer in the Scottish Pilgrimage Routes Forum. Despite so many commitments

he was also able to give some of his time to other voluntary activities. He worked

with the Jedburgh Events Forum and Running Festival for ten years; he was

member, then Chairman of the Melrose Festival and Common Riding Activities; he

was a Trustee of Youth Borders, and he was a long standing elder of the church in

Melrose as well as their webmaster and Presbytery elder. Perhaps as a result of this

service he was a recipient of “Maundy Money” from Her Majesty the Queen in 2016.

He will be greatly missed by so many different people and organisations, but

especially by the family to whom he was devoted. He leaves his wife of 48 years,

Kathleen, their four children and seven grandchildren. The Borders have lost a true son.