Ballina man had great expectations - and made a fortune

GREAT SUCCESS: Edward Henderson, as a young man, never failed to make an impression.
GREAT SUCCESS: Edward Henderson, as a young man, never failed to make an impression.

IT IS said that Edward Henderson was a larger-than-life character, and possibly he was. He certainly never failed to make an impression, good or bad, on people wherever he went.

He was a self-made man; a person who was not frightened at taking a risk.

When he died he left a large family, a considerable fortune, including several farms in the North Creek/Ballina area, a fine home in Ballina, and the very profitable cinema in Ballina, known as the Plaza.

Mr Henderson was the youngest surviving child of John Austin Henderson and his wife Isabella (nee Doneley). He had two brothers, Joseph and Frank Austin, and one sister, Mary.

His father, born in Scotland of Scottish-English ancestry, was the Ballina District Senior Constable and Clerk of Petty Sessions.

His mother had been born in Australia and was the niece of cattle baron Jimmy Tyson. She could claim three convicts in her family tree, including two who arrived in Australia as early as 1798.

Isabella died in 1871 and her husband was devastated. The children were put under the care of a Mrs Geraghty.

In future years, Mr Henderson would declare that he was an orphan and that 'old Mother Geraghty' brought him up. No doubt he felt like an orphan, as he was only four years old when his mother died.

Mrs Geraghty was apparently very strict, as she is reported to have "chased Joe with a stock whip" at one stage. Joseph was the eldest, only 10 when his mother died. He later became a fine builder, as well as the local undertaker.

Mr Henderson took over his father's property at North Creek (now part of Lennox Head) and, at first, grew sugarcane.

He married Elizabeth Holmes in 1888. They were a very young couple, with plenty of ambition.

They soon began to accumulate a large family as well as more properties.

Because of his success and his sometimes overbearing personality, Mr Henderson made enemies.

However, many did not know of some of the things he accomplished.

One example was when the small Ballina butter factory appeared as if it would have to close.

Mr Henderson by that time had become a leading breeder of dairy cattle and was on the board of the local factory.

He offered to act as manager for 12 months, without salary, to see whether he could change the downturn.

In no time he had the factory running in profit.

It later merged with what was to become Norco and Mr Henderson became a director.

As well as breeding cattle, Mr Henderson bred some of the finest saddle and draught horses in the district. He raced his horses successfully and he used the draught horses not only on his property, but also on contract work, including building drains.

He joined the local Light Horse for a short time and this introduced him to many of the local squatting community. They soon found out how fine his horses were.

With the help of his sons, he built his own telephone line and electricity plant.

Unlike his father, who fought to obtain a school in the early settlement, Mr Henderson thought his sons should work on the farm rather than obtain more than a basic education.

However, his daughters were given a fine education, including music and art.

Mr Henderson was very proud of all his children, and never failed to boast of their achievements, perhaps believing himself the reason for their success.

He died in 1953, as did his second wife Elizabeth a few days later.

Topics:  history

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