Musical ‘champion’ dies suddenly

Shetland Folk Festival stalwart Davie Henderson died suddenly in Unst on Sunday, prompting tributes from many in the local music scene.

Although not musical himself Mr Henderson had worked for many years as a committee member on the folk festival committee, and has been described as Shetland music’s “ultimate ambassador”. His son Kevin is member of a number of bands including Fiddler’s Bid.

Shetland Folk Festival representatives (from left) Mhairi Pottinger, Davie Henderson and Christine Fordyce with the event of the year award won by the festival in 2010. Photo: Louis DeCarlo
Shetland Folk Festival representatives (from left) Mhairi Pottinger, Davie Henderson and Christine Fordyce with the event of the year award won by the festival in 2010. Photo: Louis DeCarlo

Promoter Davie Gardner said the 62-year-old, and the longest-serving member of the festival committee, had worked tirelessly over the years.

“Last night Shetland lost one of its most dedicated musical exponents and local ambassadors,” said Mr Gardner, who had been due to fly off with Mr Henderson to the Celtic Connections Festival in Glasgow later this month.

“Although Davie Henderson wasn’t a musician himself, he probably did as much and more for Shetland and its music (both home-grown and imported) than anyone else I know.

“Of course the Shetland Folk Festival has flourished and become genuinely world-renowned during his many years as the longest serving and perhaps prominent member of its committee – with him booking all the visiting acts and so much more besides for many years now.”

He added that he had regarded Mr Henderson as an “unfailing champion” who had worked hard and given much of his time to the arts.

“I watched Davie in industry-related action many times over the years – at music conventions, trade fairs, music industry ‘panels’ or whatever. Throughout, he was an unfailing champion not only of the Shetland Folk Festival, of course, but equally so of Shetland itself.”

Tributes were also paid to Mr Henderson from bands which had worked with him over the years.

The Revellers said: “The band are absolutely shocked and devastated to hear of the passing of Davie Henderson – the ultimate ‘Reveller’.

“It will take a very long time to sink in. Not only was Davie a big supporter of Shetland music (of all varieties), but he was one of the nicest guys you could meet and the ultimate party animal.

“We have many fond memories of him and the work he did for the Shetland Folk Festival as well as countless sprees we got inveigled with.

“Our thoughts are with his family and close friends at this time. Rest in peace Davie.”

Meanwhile, the four-piece ensemble Väir credited Mr Henderson with helping get them on the road to success.

They stated: “All our band members counted on Davie Henderson as a good friend and are absolutely gutted to hear of his passing.

“He organised our first gig at Sandwick Social Club and took a chance by getting us a Clickimin slot at the Shetland Folk Festival.

“If it wasn’t for him, there’s a good chance we’d not be playing together. Many bands and artists across the world could say something similar.

“It’s safe to say he was Shetland music’s ultimate ambassador, which is quite an achievement considering he didn’t play or sing.

“What he lacked in musical ability though, he made up for with a strong set of principles combined with a zest for life and mischievous sense of fun.”

Mr Henderson had recently retired from his work at BP in Sullom Voe and – according to Mr Gardner – had much to look forward to, including the birth later this month of a grandchild.

A statement from Police Scotland said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding Mr Henderson’s death. A report is being submitted to the procurator fiscal and a post mortem is being carried out.


Add Your Comment
  • John Eeles (Spadger Sound)

    • January 13th, 2014 14:24

    The news of Davie’s death is a great shock for many of us who know him for his enthusiasm, dedication and character – especially with his involvement in the Folk Festival, and he will be sorely missed. A great and charming man – ferry crossings to the festival will always be remembered with himself and the committee getting to know the inbound (and at times queasy looking) musicians, sharing a drink at the bar, and then undertaking herculean feats of wakefulness during the festival proceedings, helping sort and organise the many ‘backroom’ challenges that were always appearing.
    Sadly missed, and a great loss to Shetland. Commiserations to all.

  • David Green

    • January 19th, 2014 22:18

    I don’t know how many years ago my brother , Malcolm, introduced me to Davie on the Wednesday boat from Aberdeen to the start of the Festival but since then I have grown to know him as a man of charm and integrity and an unbounded enthusiasm for Shetland and the Festival. It was a privilege to be greeted by him as a returning friend on subsequent visits. Shetland has lost a great ambassador.

  • James Anne and Tony Mcdaid

    • January 30th, 2014 14:09

    James Anne and Tony would like to offer our sincere condolences to Davie’s family.
    We had the pleasure of being his drivers when he came to Celtic Connections. We found that we had a lot in common, where we were brought up and our common football interests etc. He will be sadly missed but we will celebrate his life.


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