Origins of the Clan

Clann Eanruig (pronounced KLAHN YAHN-reegk) is the Gàidhlig (Scots Gaelic) name for the Scottish clan known as “the Hendersons” in English. The words “Scot,” “Scots” (not scotch), “Scottish,” and “Scotland” derive from the Latin word “Scotus” meaning a Celtic inhabitant of Hibernia (Ireland) at the time of the Roman occupation of southern Britannia (Great Britain), i.e., an Irishman. The Scots of Caledonia flourished and soon outnumbered their Pictish neighbors.

The ancient Picts and Scots followed the Celtic custom of matrilineality. This meant that sons could not depend on their father’s status, but instead had to establish domains of their own. Pictish prince Eanruig Mor mac Righ Nechtan (Big Henry the son of King Nechtan) established a distinguished family line. The descendants of Prince Henry were known collectively as “clann Eanruig” meaning the “family of Henry.” The males of the clan took the surname “mac Eanruig” meaning “son of Henry,” which was later translated into English variously as “Henryson,” “Henderson,” “McHenry,” “McHendry,” “MacKendrick,” and such. The females of the clan took the surname “nic Eanruig” meaning “daughter of Henry.” A woman normally kept her own clan surname after marriage, and she could usually depend on her clan’s support in a dispute with her husband. Families could give children the clan surname of either their mother or father. Over time, the descendants of other prominent Henrys also took the family name “clann Eanruig.” Eventually, the most prominent of these families coalesced into a single clan identity.




Though a small clan, the Hendersons rose to prominence in Caithness, Glencoe, the Shetland Islands and Fordell in Fife. In Caithness, Clan Henderson associated with Clan Gunn. In Glencoe, Clan Henderson forged a close alliance with the powerful Clan Donald. A separate family grouping arose in Liddesdale and Ewesdale, being one of the smaller families of Border Reivers.

The Hendersons known for their size and strength became the personal body guards of the chief of the Clan MacDonald of Glencoe. In 1692, King William III, suspecting the loyalty of Clan Donald, secretly set the Clan Campbell upon the MacDonalds and Hendersons in the Massacre of Glencoe. Standing six feet and seven inches tall, the powerful “Big Henderson” of the Chanters was the MacDonald chief’s piper and protector, and fell with the chief in the cold February night of 1692. After the Massacre, many Henderson families emigrated to Ulster ,North America and mid wales.



Highland Clearances

During the Highland Clearances from 1746 to 1822, many more Henderson families left Scotland for Ireland, England, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and other lands.



Hendersons in the 18th and 19th Centuries

Hendersons in the British colonies of North America played important roles in the drive for American independence from Britain. Patrick Henry of Virginia urged armed revolution with his cry “I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Ulster-born physician James McHenry served as George Washington’s Secretary of War. (The Star-Spangled Banner, the national anthem of the United States of America, depicts the British naval bombardment of Fort McHenry near Baltimore in 1814.) Hendersons loyal to the British Crown played important roles in the British settlement of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.



Hendersons in the Modern World

In 1934, British statesman Arthur Henderson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work for world disarmament. Epidemiologist Dr. Donald Ainslie “D.A.” Henderson led the World Health Organization’s successful effort to eradicate smallpox throughout the world.



Clan Chief

The Chief of Clan Henderson is Alistair Donald Henderson of Fordell, an environmental engineer specialising in air pollution control who lives in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. The Chief is recognized by Lord Lyon, King of Arms, and is a member of the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs (SCSC).



Clan Septs

Septs and surname variations of the Clan Henderson include:

d’Handresson, Eanrig, Eanruig, Enderson, Endherson, Endirsone, Enrick, Enrig, Henders, Henderson, Hendersone, Hendersonne, Hendersoun, Hendersoune, Hendery, Hendirsone, Hendirsoun, Hendirsoune, Hendrie, Hendriesoun, Hendrisone, Hendrisoune, Hendron, Hendry, Hendryson, Hendrysone, Henerson, Henersoun, Hennerson, Hennersoune, Hennryson, Henresoun, Henreysoun, Henrici, Henricus, Henrie, Henriesone, Henriesoun, Henrison, Henrisone, Henrisoun, Henrisoune, Henrisson, Henry, Henryesson, Henryson, Henrysone, Henrysonne, Henrysoun, Henrysoune, Inrick, Inrig, Kendrick, Kenrick, MacCanrig, MacCanrik, MacEanruig, MacEnrick, MacHendric, MacHendrick, MacHendrie, MacHendry, MacHenrie, MacHenrik, MacHenry, MacKanrig, MacKendree, MacKendric, MacKendrich, MacKendrick, MacKendrie, MacKendrig, MacKendry, MacKenrick, MakAnry, MakCanryk, MakHenry, McCandrie, McCanrig, McCanrik, McHendry, McHenrie, McHenrik, McHenry, McKanrig, McKendree, McKendrick, McKendry, McKinriche, M’Canrie, M’Cenrik, M’Henri, M’Henry, M’Inrig, M’Kendrig, NicEanruig, and other variants.

The surname spelling variations arose from regional pronunciation differences, and sometimes perversely creative spelling. Some individuals used multiple surname spellings, and sometimes different surname forms. For example, a traveling Henderson might use the surname MacEanruig in the Scottish Highlands, Henderson in the Lowlands, McHenry in Ulster, and Henry in England. The prefixes “Mac”, “Mak”, “MC”, “Mc“, “Mc”, and “M’” are equivalent, and are all pronounced “mahk”. The letter following the prefix may be either capital or lower case. Some Scottish families dropped a “Mac” prefix from their surnames during the Highland Clearances in an effort to curry favor with the Crown. After King George IV visited Scotland in 1822, some of these families resumed using a “Mac” prefix. (The resurgent popularity of “all things Scottish” even induced some Lowland and English families to add an incongruous “Mac” prefix to their surnames).



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