Belfast Telegraph

Obituary: Bill Henderson - former owner of the News Letter

Bill Henderson, who was the proprietor of the Belfast daily newspaper the News Letter for more than 30 years, has died. He was 86.

The former Irish Guards officer’s pride and joy was his family newspaper — reputed to be the world’s oldest in the English language — with which the Hendersons had been associated with since 1804.

When the ownership finally passed from the Henderson family, Captain Bill — as he was universally known — stepped down from his executive position with reluctance because of his dedication to the job.

“He was a man of military bearing who always cared for his workers — particularly his journalists,” said staffer of 40 years Billy Kennedy. “He knew every member of staff by their first name and cared for their welfare.”

Always at his desk, Captain Bill was immaculately turned out in a tailored grey suit. He had his favourite table in the Reform Club in Royal Avenue where he took lunch regularly and entertained contemporaries and visiting celebrities.

Captain Henderson, who is survived by his wife and three daughters, was in charge of the News Letter from 1947 at its headquarters in Lower Donegall Street, where he was ever-present as deadlines approached.

He thrived on the tension, the drama and the excitement of seeing the printing presses starting to roll.

One of his proudest moments came in 1987 when he organised the paper’s 250th anniversary — an occasion when he regaled his friends with stories about the great moments in the News Letter’s history.

It was his decision, in 1965, that Century Newspapers — as the family’s controlling company was known — came to launch Sunday News.

He was also a founder, shareholder and director of Ulster Television, where his elder brother, Brum, was managing director.

Captain Bill was a staunch unionist all his life and for five years, from 1953, he was the Unionist MP for Victoria in the old Stormont Parliament.

He was also a Deputy Lieutenant for the County Borough and the City of Belfast.

EDDIE McILWAINE

Belfast Telegraph

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