NEFA - The North East Folklore Archive

The John Murdoch Henderson Collection - Introduction

John Murdoch Henderson (1902 - 1972)
Musician and Collector of Music, New Deer, Aberdeenshire.
Introduction | Gavin Sutherland - North East Folklore Archive, January 2002

John Murdoch Henderson's Graduation photographA prolific writer, analyst and dedicated collector of music, Henderson was born at Nether Oldwhat Farm, by New Deer, Aberdeenshire, on March 31st 1902. Though his career was in the teaching of the arts and sciences his main interest was the fiddle music of the his North East homeland and the work of the old masters, the Gow family, William Marshall, Peter Milne and James Scott Skinner who later became a good friend.

He began collecting music as a young man and during his life amassed a vast library of books and manuscripts. On his death in 1972 Henderson bequeathed his lovingly assembled collection to "the people of Scotland". Two years later much of the material was deposited with the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh, but the more personal items - his favourite books, manuscripts, photographs and posters, remained with the family until November 1999 when they were entrusted to The North East Folklore Archive by Henderson's nephew, Murdoch Paterson.

Sifting through the extraordinary collection brought to light some real gems including several untitled manuscripts and original copies of 19th century fiddle and pipe tune publications. Cullen fiddle player Duncan Wood was drafted in to review the collection and asses its contents with a view to recording a few selections for the archive. But, thanks to our sponsors, we were able to develop the "Henderson Project" far beyond our initial plans.

The construction of this chapter of the North East Folklore Archive has involved the work of numerous musicians, researchers and writers with an aim to make Henderson's music accessible to the many who share an interest in Scottish music. GS

Image Credit: Henderson graduates MA, University of Aberdeen, 1926


The Murdoch Henderson Papers at the National Library of Scotland

"These papers consist of the transcriptions, arrangements and research notes compiled by John Murdoch Henderson between the mid 1920s and his death in 1972. Henderson's particular interest was in music for the Scottish fiddle, and in addition to extensive work on the older sources of the music, he was an authority on the compositions of his contemporaries, who seem frequently to have sought his advice. In addition to his own material, the collection contains many autograph compositions of 20th century musicians, particularly from the Aberdeen area, including most notably James Scott Skinner." National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts.

For details of the Henderson Catalogue held in Edinburgh by the NLS e-mail:

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