Henderson Chief’s Link With Clan Donald by A. Grahame MacDonald FSA Scot

Dr. John Henderson of Toowoomba, Queensland has been recognised by the Lord Lyon King of Arms as Chief of the Hendersons of Fordel, thus joining the growing number of Scottish chiefs and family heads domiciled in Australia.

Unlike their Highland namesakes, the Hendersons of Glencoe, this Lowland family has no connection with Clan Donald. However, the present Representative has an enviable Clan Donald ancestry through the MacAlisters and the MacDonalds of Kingsburgh.

Dr Henderson of Fordel is directly descended from Ann, daughter of Alexander MacDonald VI of Kingsburgh, sister of Allan MacDonald VII of Kingsburgh whose wife was the famous Flora MacDonald.

Ann MacDonald married Ranald Macalister of Loup, who lived for many years at Skirinish, Skye. They had fourteen children. Their eldest son Alexander succeeded his father at Skirinish and became Factor for the MacDonald Estate of Trotternish. He later became Crown Factor for the MacKinnon Estate of Strathaird, which he purchased in 1789.

In 1764 Alexander married Mary Campbell of Ederline. Their only surviving child Janet married Dr. Duncan Macalister of Tarbert. Dr. Duncan and Janet settled on Glasnakill Farm at Strathaird. They had seven sons and one daughter. Their eldest son succeeded to the Strathaird Estate which was sold back to the MacKinnon family in 1884.

The son of Duncan and Janet who attracts our attention was Lachlan who was born at Glasnakill Farm in 1797. In 1815 he obtained a commission as an ensign in the 48th Regiment of Foot. With his regiment he embarked for Australia at the Cove of York on 25th March, 1817 on the transport “Matilda”, which arrived at Sydney Cove on 7th August of that year.

Lachlan Macalister was later appointed as Officer in Charge of the Mounted Police in the Goulburn Plains District and later at Bathurst for a short period. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant on 25th September, 1822. The 48th Regiment was due to be moved to India. As it was the decision of the authorities to reduce the number of the regiment, officers were invited to accept half pay and remain in Australia. On acceptance, they would be granted 2,000 acres of land. Lieutenant Macalister was friendly with the influential Macarthur family, members of which prevailed upon him to remain.

Selecting his 2,000 acres in the District of Argyle, Lachlan Macalister named the property Strathaird after his grandfather’s estate in Skye. In 1826 he was appointed Magistrate for the District the Mounted Police in that district. During his service with the of Argyle. Three years later he was appointed Officer in Charge of Mounted Police he was involved in several skirmishes with bushrangers and was wounded five times.

In 1833, after a short posting to Bathurst, Lieutenant Macalister had completed his army service (which included being seconded to the Mounted Police) and was entitled to retire with the rank of captain. This allowed him to concentrate on the development of his pastoral interests. His Strathaird property was eventually increased to comprise 19,000 acres.

Captain Macalister married Christina Mclnnes in 1848. Six years later he died at Campbelltown, leaving his widow and two daughters, Mary Anne and Ann Janet. His name is perpetuated in Australia by the Macalister River, named for him by his employee Angus McMillan, who in his explorations, discovered Gippsland.

Ann Janet married her cousin Walter McAlister in 1875. Walter was a son of Ann’s uncle Archibald of Glasnakill Farm, the Keeper of the Spar Cave on Strathaird, Skye. He died during the following year. In 1879 Ann Janet re-married. Her second husband was John Cunningham Henderson, grazier of Goulburn, New South Wales and later of South Western Queensland. One of their sons, William Arthur married married Elsie Maud Philp, daughter of Sir Robert Philp,KCMG., one time Premier of Queensland. Their son, Dr. John William Philp Henderson, now “of Fordel”, married Gwen Heaton. They have three sons: Alastair, Dugald and Lachlan and two daughters: Margaret and Elizabeth.

Apart from a distinguished lineage of Hendersons of Fordel, this family is descended from Chiefs of the following branches of Clan Donald and noted cadet families: MacAlister, MacDonald of Sleat, MacDonald of Clan Ranald, MacDonell of Keppoch, MacDonnell of Dunyveg and the Glens, MacDonald of Kingsburgh, MacDonald of Ostaig and MacDonald of Castleton.