Melrose man takes part in Royal Easter tradition

John Henderson photographed with Maundy Money purses presented by HM The Queen at Winsor Castle
John Henderson photographed with Maundy Money purses presented by HM The Queen at Winsor Castle

A man from Melrose was invited to take part in a 900-year-old traditional Easter ceremony at Windsor Castle last week.

John Henderson, of Wembley Terrace, was one of 18 men an women from Scotland who received Maundy Thursday Purses from the Queen in recognition of their ‘service to church and community’.

The presentation was the first to be held at Windsor Castle since the 1950s.

The Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, handed out commemorative Maundy coins in a traditional service at St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle.

In another first, while Maundy money recipients are traditionally selected from a single diocese, this year they were chosen from across the country.

Ninety men and 90 women, representing Her Majesty’s 90 years, were presented with the coins the first occasion that the service has been held at St George’s Chapel since 1959.

Each recipient received two purses, one red and one white. This year the red purse contained a £5 coin, again commemorating the Queen’s 90th birthday, and a 50p coin commemorating the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings.

Johns said that he really has no idea how or why he was chosen, but that he suspects it has something to do with his position as an Elder of the Church of Scotland, which he has held for more than 30 years.

“I also sat on Church of Scotland boards and councils, up until about 10 years ago.”

Nowadays John continues to operate with what he calls “an ecumenical bias” to his work.

He has been heavily involved with researching the points of interest, history and walking instructions on the St Cuthbert’s Way, and other routes.

He says his aim is to help such walks act as pilgrimage routes, while also “offering up the wonderful natural beauty of the countryside as well.”

Maundy Thursday commemorates the Maundy (when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples) and the Last Supper , as described in the Gospels.

Some experts theorize that the English name ‘Maundy Thursday’ arose from ‘maundsor baskets’ or ‘maundy purses’ of alms, which the King of England distributed to certain poor at Whitehall before attending Mass.

Of the event itself, John said: “The British really know how to do ceremony.

“There were Yeomen of the Guard there, as well as the Bishop of St George’s, as well as its choir.

“And the reception afterwards was in the state rooms of Windsor Castle, which was famously burnt down in 1992, but which has been marvellously well restored.”

John says he knows exactly what he’ll do with his money.

“I have the purses and the money, and even though they are technically legal tender, I don’t think anybody spends them. I’ll keep them and frame them, because I guess it’s just like a different kind of honour to be given them.”