City rugby star Mac Henderson made vegetarian food his game

FORMER rugby internationalist and Edinburgh restaurateur Mac Henderson has died, aged 101.

James McLaren "Mac" Henderson was renowned as Scotland's oldest surviving rugby internationalist, and was co-founder of Edinburgh's first vegetarian restaurant, Henderson's Salad Table.

Born into a farming family from Angus, Mr Henderson was brought up in farms in East Lothian but regularly made the trip north to visit family. He attended Elphinstone School in Tranent then Edinburgh Academy, where he started a long association with Edinburgh Academicals.

After two years in an accountant's office in Edinburgh, and playing wing-forward for Dunbar and then Accies, in 1928 he moved to New Zealand where he had an uncle, to work on a sheep farm.

He loved the country and spent nearly three years working at various sheep stations and playing for the Waipukurau club in Hawke's Bay where he made quite an impression as a hard-tackling flanker.

Mr Henderson won every game with Waipukurau in his one season with them, and he enjoyed a similarly successful rise on his return to Scotland.

Mr Henderson returned to Accies from 1931 to 1933 and was capped three times for Scotland in 1933.

After his international success, Mr Henderson was picked for the Barbarians and it was on their Easter tour that his career came to an end with a serious ligament injury to his knee in Cardiff.

His interest in and love of rugby, however, remained throughout his long life and he and his family were honoured by the SRU with a reception at Murrayfield to celebrate his 100th birthday in May 2007.

He met his wife, Janet Millar, while playing tennis at a friend's home at Gullane. She was the daughter of an architect and the couple had a society wedding in Troon in 1932.

Mrs Henderson had been told she couldn't have children, but believed a healthy, vegetarian diet would make her fertile. The couple had seven children; five sons named Andrew, John, Peter, Nicholas and Oliver; two daughters, Sara and Catherine; 14 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Mrs Henderson talked her husband into turning their farm at Spitalrigg, Haddington, into an organic dairy farm and produce was taken from the fields into Edinburgh shops until 1961 when the couple borrowed the money to open a shop at 92 Hanover Street.

Although it was a struggle initially, business was brisk enough in the first couple of years to enable them to convert the derelict basement beneath the shop into a restaurant and the Salad Table was born.

A bakery dedicated to Henderson's brown loaves and rolls opened in separate premises in Canonmills in 1964, and five years later Henderson's Bistro on Thistle Street opened its doors for the first time. Sadly Mrs Henderson died, aged 60, in 1973 following an illness picked up in the Far East.

On his retirement from farming shortly after the death of his wife, Mr Henderson, who was a keen golfer in his younger days, lived in Gullane before moving to a flat in Haddington.

His secret of longevity, he always said, was "all things in moderation, fresh air, exercise and avoiding too much stress".