A tribute to a sole practitioner of yesteryear with strong Christian values

Although it is now many years since members of the legal profession were privileged to see John Thomas Henderson at work on a daily basis in the Edinburgh Sheriff Court, he will never be forgotten by his contemporary practitioners.

John was born in Leith on 19 July 1924, and died aged 90 in Edinburgh on 20 October 2014. During World War II he volunteered for the Royal Navy, in which he served with distinctilon till the war’s end, whereupon he matriculated at the University of Edinburgh, graduating with the degree of BL (Bachelor of Law) in 1949.

In 1952 he was admitted and enrolled as a solicitor in Scotland. For very many years thereafter he practised law, mainly as a criminal defence solicitor in the Edinburgh Sheriff Court, based in his nearby offices in George IV Bridge.

John’s kindly eyes bespoke his devout Christianity, as they belied his highly effective advocacy. Unpretentious to a fault, he never spoke of his wartime exploits, his considerable knowledge of history (in particular naval history and cinematic history), or his diligent service for six years as a Labour Party councillor on Edinburgh Town Council.

Part of John’s latter years were spent, in good weather, taking pleasure in the tranquillity of spending time sitting on the very low stone walls in front of the David Hume Tower or the Hugh Robson Building in Edinburgh University’s pedestrianised George Square, engaging passers-by with whom he was acquainted from academia or the legal profession in recounting benign forensic anecdotes in his mellifluous Scots accent.

Although by no means an affluent legal practitioner (he practised largely legally-aided criminal advocacy), John possessed a benevolent secret. This was that, on a number of occasions, on hearing that a fellow lawyer without fault had fallen on hard times, John would with great secrecy offer unconditional financial assistance. John Thomas Henderson was truly a saintly gentleman.


The Author
George Lawrence Allen, solicitor, Edinburgh 
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