Miss Henderson’s final curtain call

Provost Pat Reid unveils the plaque dedicated to Agnes Henderson
Provost Pat Reid unveils the plaque dedicated to Agnes Henderson

She was a “larger than life” actress and comedienne who is still fondly remembered more than 30 years after her death.

Now the life of Agnes Henderson has finally been commemorated in her home village of Bonnybridge.

Well known for producing plays and pantomimes, as well as raising thousands of pounds for charities, Miss Henderson was also an accomplished thespian in her own right.

Born in 1897, she ran a tobacconists and penny library in Bonnybridge Main Street in the years preceding the Second World War.

A memorial plaque was unveiled outside the premises, which are today home to a barbers, by Provost Pat Reid on March 7.

In a short speech to those assembled, Mr Reid said he understood that Miss Henderson had been described as the “Dawn French of her age”.

He added that it was important to remember those that had made significant contributions to their communities.

He also paid tribute to the Greenhill Historical Society, which arranged for the plaque to be erected.

Committee member Rae Wilson told The Falkirk Herald that it was an article in the society’s ‘Bonnyseen’ magazine that had re-ignited her memories of performing as a child in Miss Henderson’s pantomimes.

She said: “She was an absolute character, someone who was once met, was never forgotten. It seemed that everyone in Bonnybridge knew her.

“She was quite remarkable.

“During the war, she somehow managed to provide material to make several costumes for every individual character, despite rationing.

“Each show had multiple scene changes, with a different costume for each one.

“People said they were better than shows in Glasgow. Every performance would be packed out. She sold tickets to everyone that asked for them – she didn’t seem to realise that the hall had a capacity. As a result people would have to stand in the aisles.

“She also raised a fantastic sum for charities.

“If she had been around today she would have been recognised with an MBE at least.”

Miss Henderson’s productions were staged in the now demolished Bonnybridge Public Hall, and would often be taken on tour around other Stirlingshire towns and villages.

Mrs Wilson continued: “Each show would do at least two or three nights at Falkirk Town Hall.

“They were amateur shows – but they were very, very professional.

“It’s hard to imagine now just how highly regarded they were.”

The shows were regularly reviewed in The Falkirk Herald.

In the edition dated April 21, 1945, the newspaper reported on her production of the popular pantomime ‘Dick Whittington’ and noted she was “well known in amateur theatricals throughout the county”.

The report continued: “Miss Henderson is to be congratulated on the splendid production. At the finale on Sunday evening she was led on to the platform, where she received a grand ovation.

She thanked the players for their support and remarked that the pantomime had shown that Bonny-bridge had talented artistes.”

Miss Henderson’s community efforts did not end with amateur theatrics however.

Phil Swierczek, Greenhill Historical Society secretary, commented: “Agnes used to run bus tours for people in the village, and for many a trip to the seaside was their only holiday of the year.

“Agnes had a gentlemen friend, locally known as Baldy MacFarlane, who owned a motorbike and sidecar.

“Local folklore has it that he and Agnes would often go for runs to the countryside.

“On one occasion, on the return journey along Seabegs Road, the sidecar parted company with the motorbike and Agnes narrowly missed landing in the canal.

“No doubt she had a good laugh about it as she had a renowned sense of humour.

“Such was the regard in which she was held by those that knew her we decided to erect a plaque in her honour.

“We’re delighted that so many people remember her.”