Plea for mourners to mark life of Labour councillor

Councillor John Henderson speaks to a tenant who had hoped to get a new council house

Councillor John Henderson speaks to a tenant who had hoped to get a new council house

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A PLEA has been issued for mourners to attend the funeral of a well-known Labour councillor and Edinburgh lawyer whose body lay unclaimed in a city mortuary for almost two months.

John Henderson, who died at the age of 90, lived a rich and colourful life, working for many years as a criminal defence agent based on the city’s George IV Bridge after returning from ­service in the navy during the Second World War.

However, he never married, and has no surviving relatives to mark his passing.

His body was kept in the city mortuary until staff could be satisfied that no family members would come forward, following his death in the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary on 20 October.

He had suffered a stroke at home within a sheltered housing complex in the Grassmarket on 2 October. City resident Ken Shaw, 48, became friends with Mr Henderson in later life through a council befriending service and he hopes to jog the memories of those in the city who may have known John.

Mr Shaw said: “He was a remarkable man, mentally he was very sharp right up until he died. I became friends with him four years ago as he had become quite isolated in his later years. You would never be short of conversation with him because he had lived such a life that he had many tales to tell.

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“It’s sad that he has no-one because he would have been quite well known around the city in his heyday. Hopefully people will read this and remember him and turn out to mourn him because he did great things for the city and his country.”

Born in Leith in 1924, Mr Henderson was educated at Holy Cross Primary and Academy. After leaving school he worked for a short time in the Department of Health in Edinburgh’s Eglinton Crescent before joining the navy in the middle of the Second World War.

Stationed in Malta, he served on HMS Quilliam, which was deployed for the Sicily and Salerno landings, during the invasion of southern Italy in 1943.

Later, he was on one of the massive artificial Mulberry harbours towed across the English Channel to the French beaches to speed up the unloading of troops and equipment on D- Day. After the war he studied law at Edinburgh University. Among his class was the American student and future US senator William B Spong Jnr, who went on to represent Virginia for the Democrats.

After graduating in 1949, Mr Henderson spent time in North America, where he travelled widely, and taught history in Canada for a year.

A life-long member of the Labour Party, he served on Edinburgh Town Council from 1961-67 when among his duties was witnessing the ceremony, in Ramsay Gardens in April 1965, to extinguish the city’s last gas lamp.

During his time with the local authority he sat on its schools, water and police boards.

A life-long Catholic, he once drove all the way to Rome in an Austin 7.

A service will be held for him at 10:30am on Friday, 12 December at Edinburgh’s Mortonhall Crematorium.

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