Captain Andrew Henderson (1800-1868)
Commanded the 'India', built by Scott's of Greenock, on her initial voyage to India
1840 Captain Andrew Henderson became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
1870 Obituary 
CAPTAIN ANDREW HENDERSON, the son of Mr. John Henderson, of Shetland, was born at Liverpool on the 10th of January, 1800, and there received his education.
He entered the Royal Navy in January, 1813, and was received on board the 'Princess' guard-ship, in the Mersey, whence, in the following year, he joined the sloop 'Bittern' as a midshipman, and was afterwards transferred to 'H.M.S. Bellerophon', under Admiral Keats.
In July, 1816, he quitted the navy, and went to India with a free mariner's licence, and good letters of introduction from Mr. Gladstone, in whose ship - the 'Liverpool' - he went out, which procured him employment under the firm of Palmer and Co., on board their ship 'General Palmer,' where he gained considerable experience.
In 1821 he was their officer on board the 'Robarts,' bound for England. At Bencoolen the captain and all the other officers died, and Henderson barely survived. The command of the ship was given to him with the offer of taking her to England.
This he declined, and took her back to Calcutta, as being more to the interest of the owners, who properly estimated his conduct; and thenceforth his character as a first-rate sailor and an honourable man was so firmly established that, although only just of age, he rapidly rose in fame and corresponding fortune.
In 1822 he went to South America in the ‘Anna Robertson,’ and was in command of that vessel when she was taken up as a transport for troops for the Burmese war.
In the course of the war in l824 he assisted at the capture of Cheduba, in a vessel of his own design and construction, and thenceforth he devoted himself to the study of the local peculiarities and of the navigation of the rivers of India, and to meeting by nautical engineering the wants of the several cases. It was admitted that his vessels were eminently successful, and few of them suffered even from cyclones.
In 1822 he built the 'Forbes,' of 120 H.P., the first steamer that went to China in 1830, towing a clipper.
In 1831 he built the 'Water Witch,' and made twelve voyages in her from India to China, the vessel being owned by himself and two merchants. They charged no commission, but early in 1837 divided £100,000. This vessel was remarkable for beauty and speed ; she is still efficient, and is known by every one who visits China and the adjacent coasts.
In 1837 he built the 'Ariel,' and formed the Clipper Fund, £50,000 being subscribed by three mercantile firms and two captains.
On his return to England in the same year he was called on by Lord William Bentinck to give evidence before a Committee of the House of Commons on steam communication in India. In conjunction with his lordship and the late Mr. Auber he assisted in forming the East India Steam Navigation Company, and soon afterwards the Assam Company, having about that time designed the river steamer 'Assam,' 140 feet by 27 feet, 100 H.P., and the ocean steamer 'Comprehensive,' of 2,000 tons, and 600 H.P., and 16 feet draught.
In 1839 he designed the 'Andrew Henderson' and the 'Dwarkanauth Tagore' for the Steam Tug Association, and established the 'Assam' on the Brahmaputra in 1841. The 'Sir James Melvill' (now the 'Nepaul'), also on his design, was lately at work between Kooshtee and Debroghur.
In 1840 he took the command of the steamer 'India,' built by Scott, Sinclair, and Co., the first steamer that went round the Cape.
He conveyed then the first mails between Calcutta and Suez, bearing the important news of the massacre at Cabul, and other disasters of the Affghan war. These despatches he forwarded home from Suez, anticipating the regular mails, and enabling troops to be sent many weeks sooner than they would have been. For this important service he received bare thanks, but lost upwards of ten thousand pounds.
Always with the same earnest desire for the establishment of cheap and easy river transit in India, he instituted a system of measurement for tonnage, and a record of vessels and engines, which, as a valuable improvement, was brought before the Board of Trade. He applied his mind and time energetically to this subject, and spent large sums in attempts to obtain the greatest carrying power with high speed at the smallest cost and lightest draught.
He built a vessel, the 'Assam Nautilus,' purposely for experiment, and succeeded in obtaining easily the means of proving the relative efficiency of vessels, and the cost per ton per mile as a criterion of cheap transit, so important on the Indian rivers. In this vessel was placed his patent bow and stern rudder, which greatly reduced the resistance, and increased the facility of steering and turning.
This vessel could thread the most tortuous rivers, and turn in an incredibly short time. He was bitterly disappointed at not seeing this improvement at once carried out ; he spent a very large sum in bringing it to perfection, and always felt convinced the Orissa famine could have been prevented, bad some vessels on this plan been ready to carry rice up the difficult rivers.
Eventually, shortly before his death in 1868, the 'Assam Nautilus' was sold, taken to South America, and has already realised a large fortune for her owner. The necessity for parting with this vessel, not to the Indian government, as he desired, but to a private individual, was too much for his health, already enfeebled by great anxiety and constant disappointment. He never recovered the blow, and passed away after more mental than bodily suffering on the 20th of February, 1868. The India Board were on the point of recognising his services by the award of a pension, but this he did not live to have the gratification of knowing.
He was a man of genial manners and a truly kind heart ; he was universally esteemed and beloved where he was known ; and by all with whom he came in contact his good, gentlemanly qualities and highly honourable character were freely admitted. He was fond of engineering pursuits, and he invested his money too freely in such large affairs as the Birkenhead Docks, &C., which were unproductive. He had talent to make a large fortune, but not selfishness enough to keep it. The kindest tributes to his memory came from high quarters as well as sorrowing friends.
He joined the Institution of Civil Engineers as an Associate in the year 1840, and was very constantly at its Meetings, when he frequently took part in the discussions, and he was also a regular attendant at the yearly Meetings of the British Association.
Sources of Information
- The Engineer 1864/09/30