It was a dark time - now I want to revive granny's legacy

By Angie Brown
BBC Scotland, Edinburgh and East reporter

  • Published
Barrie Henderson
Image caption,
Barrie Henderson has found a way to revive his granny's legacy

Barrie Henderson was devastated when his late grandmother's business - the UK's longest-running vegetarian restaurant - went into liquidation last year.

His granny Janet founded Scotland's first vegetarian cafe almost 60 years ago, and it went on to become an institution in Edinburgh.

Now Barrie is preparing to bring back the Hendersons name in an attempt to revive her legacy.

Barrie, 36, grew up working at the Edinburgh institution and had been a manager before it closed last year. His father, Oliver, and aunt, Catherine Home, were the directors.

Barrie told BBC Scotland: "When Hendersons was liquidated I felt like the rug had been pulled from under me and I didn't know what to do.

"It wasn't about the money, it was about my granny's legacy and family history, and it hurt a lot.

"I didn't know what to do and I kept looking back at my life and thinking and reflecting on how I could have done things differently.

"It was a hard time and very dark. My identity, history and life had been jettisoned."

Image caption,
Barrie has planted vegetables and fruit in a garden at the back of his new restaurant in Edinburgh's Barclay Place

Barrie said he was inundated with messages from regular customers and friends after the business closed.

The father-of-one said: "So many people messaged me saying it was so sad and saying I should start again, how there were not many veggie places, and how the lockdown wouldn't be forever.

"It was these forces pushing me that made me realise I could do it.

"I grew up with Hendersons and I want my son to grow up the same way knowing about granny's legacy. I don't want her memory to disappear from Edinburgh."

Janet Henderson was 20 when she was introduced to vegetarianism by an aunt in Vienna in the 1930s.

Image source, Catherine Home
Image caption,
Janet Henderson first became interested in vegetarianism after a stay with family in Vienna in the 1930s

When she returned to Scotland, Janet married James, a farmer who was known as Mac, and began selling organic produce to wholefood shops from her four-acre vegetable garden on the family farm in East Lothian.

The Hendersons Farm Shop opened in Hanover Street, Edinburgh, in 1962, then the following year Janet opened up a vegetarian restaurant in the basement.

"From what I hear, my granny was a workaholic, she was on the counter every lunchtime and in the kitchen in the mornings," says Barrie.

"She was strict, stern and creative and really passionate about people having a good diet. I'm very happy her memory will now live on."

He plans to open a new restaurant in Barclay Place later this month after borrowing money from friends.

Although Barrie ran Hendersons before it was liquidated he was not financially invested in the firm, so is able to start a new business using the same family name.

Image source, George Weir
Image caption,
Hendersons cook Myra tending pots in the restaurant's kitchen in the 1960s

In a bid to make his new venture work he said they would be returning to dishes from his granny's "salad heavy" menu, using a lot of raw organic ingredients.

This will mean using locally-grown produce rather than the more exotic vegetables that had been getting used latterly in the restaurant.

Barrie's father, Oliver Henderson, said Janet would be "really proud" that her legacy was being carried on.

"She would have been very upset last year when we had to close," he said.

"We all thought it was closed for good, so for Barrie to find a way to bring it back to life, and my mother's legacy to live on, is wonderful."

Image source, Barrie Henderson
Image caption,
Barrie Henderson with his grandfather, Mac, and sister, Alexandra, in Hendersons 20 years ago

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