When Shetland Folk Festival stalwart Davie Henderson died suddenly at the age of 63 in the early hours of Sunday 12 January, the profound sense of shock, disbelief and loss felt across Shetland reverberated much, much further afield.
The huge outpouring of respect from all quarters, both for him and for what he had achieved, spoke volumes about the kind of person he was.
Shetland had just lost one of its most prominent and dedicated musical champions and local ambassadors.
There are so many words that could be applied to Davie Henderson – fun loving, generous, helpful, supportive, dependable, conscientious, forthright (his Facebook ‘rants’ were the stuff of legend) – the list would go on and on.
Over and above his family, his main loves in life were of course music, and the people who made it, the Shetland Folk Festival and travelling – his “peerie trips awa” as he termed them.
Often his love of music and trips away came together. I count myself lucky to have travelled around the world quite a bit with him. It could be quite an experience travelling with Davie.
I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the duo that became quite widely known as the ‘Two Davies’ – travelling together to music conventions, trade fairs and festivals as part of my job and his role with the Shetland Folk Festival – primarily booking their visiting acts.
All Davie’s trips to such events on behalf of the festival were financed from his own pocket – such was his personal commitment to that organisation.
Socially Davie had the stamina of a small herd of water buffalo. He had many priorities on trips away – but having an early night certainly wasn’t one of them.
For me personally such trips can never be quite the same again without him. He loved travelling, and positively impacted on so many folk along the way – endearing himself to just about everyone he met.
Davie and the Shetland Folk Festival were literally made for each other and his name will always be synonymous with it. His passion for the festival and music literally knew no bounds.
He’d spent well over 20 years on the committee – its longest serving member ever – and prior to that he’d also served as a general festival volunteer. It’s no exaggeration to say the festival committee were his second family.
Davie was involved in all facets of the festival during that time; his main priority however was going the extra mile to ensure that visitors– both artists and audiences alike – felt relaxed, completely at home and thoroughly enjoyed themselves throughout the event.
He worked tirelessly with his fellow committee members to ensure that every festival was a memorable experience for EVERYONE concerned – locals too of course. His motivational, infectious personality and never-ending sense of fun ensured they rarely failed.
The festival, its committee and indeed everyone involved with it in any way will inevitably miss him desperately and he’ll be a hard act to follow – but the festival’s development over the years into the world renowned, award-winning event it now is, is a legacy he can certainly be proud of. It will go on despite his loss.
He wis of course also a passionate Celtic supporter, and a season ticket holder at Celtic Park – again making regular trips away to support them. He kicked every ball with them, and here again many looked forward to his regular Facebook posts on the subject, especially his lively banter with opposing fans – much of which would be unmentionable here.
He also loved Up Helly Aa and always made sure he was home to take part in Lerwick and others throughout Shetland…but here again the occasional drama befell him.
I especially recall one Brae Up Helly Aa a few years back. Davie was in a squad, of course, but during the evening he had a bit of a mishap. As a precaution his squad called the ambulance and it took him to the Gilbert Bain Hospital. He wis admitted there still wearing his guizing suit…dressed as a nurse!
Another of Davie’s many strong traits was the ability to laugh at himself in such situations.
But over and above his fun loving persona, Davie had a serious side too. And the most important thing to him in life was his family.
He was devoted to them above all else, was immensely proud of them all and spoke of them constantly. Our thoughts at this time are especially with Kevin, Michelle and Steven and their families, and of course Davie’s partner Janice and her family. Their loss is the most profound.
This particular week Davie would have been especially proud of his son Steven, his wife Fiona and their new-born son Charlie – a positive ray of light in an otherwise dark time for the family.
It’s been especially hard for them given the length of time between Davie’s passing and the funeral taking place, due to post-mortem formalities in Aberdeen.
Even so they also have Davie’s strength of character and sense of humour. For instance I had to laugh when Kevin said: “Trust the owld man – even after he dies he still manages to wangle a trip away oot o it”.
It’s often said, especially when remembering somebody with affection, that he or she was a real ‘one-off’. This is true of course – everyone is indeed a ‘one-off’ in their own special way. But in a world of such one-offs Davie Henderson most certainly stood out from the crowd.
It’s still impossible to comprehend he’s no longer among us – but if he had a personal epitaph I guess it would read “Nae Regrets”.
Happy onward travels Davie.
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