Obituary: Alexander Henry (1818-1894)

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Below are a selection of obituary notices following the death of Alexander Henry on 27 January 1894.

Death Of A Noted Edinburgh Gunmaker

Alexander Henry

In the death of Mr Alexander Henry, a well known Edinburgh volunteer and gunmaker has been removed. He was born in Leith in 1818, and served his apprenticeship as a gunmaker with Mr Mortimer in Edinburgh, and in due course started in himself. About the year 1859 Mr Henry took steps, along with other Edinburgh citizens, to bring the formation of volunteer corps in Edinburgh, and in the following year the 1st Citizens’ Company was formed. For a time Mr Henry served private, becoming armourer-sergeant. In 1870 he was offered the appointment of quartermaster in the Queen’s, with the rank of lieutenant. Four years later he received the honorary rank of captain, and when he retired in 1880 a district order was issued in which the Major-General Commanding the Forces North Britain regretted that Captain and Quartermaster Henry, of the Queen’s Rifle Volunteer Brigade, was retiring from active service with his corps. The Major-General wished to take the opportunity of recording appreciation of Captain Henry’s valuable services, not only to his regiment, but the army at large, more especially with regard to his scientific researches concerning the Government rifle, and to his liberality in offering prizes to stimulate good shooting among the Volunteers. At the first Wimbledon gathering, in 1860, he got a place in the Queen’s 20, and tied for the silver medal. Although the gun barrel which made Mr Henry’s name known was invented in 1859, it was not till 1871 when it had stood the test of exhaustive trials that it was adopted by the Government, when it superseded the Snider breechloader. When it was ultimately adopted by the British army, the Henry barrel was conjoined with the Martini breech action. A complete rifle invented by Mr Henry was adopted by the New South Wales Government. For nine year, till 1885, Mr Henry served in the Town Council as representative for George’s Ward. He was also a Justice of the Peace and a Freemason. Two sons and three daughters survive him. He was ill for about fortnight, and died on Saturday night at his residence in Bellevue Crescent, Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Evening News, Scotland, Monday, 29 January 1894

Alexander Henry grave stone

Alexander Henry is buried at Warriston Cemetery, Edinburgh – see right.
(Photograph courtesy Richard Brown)

I regret to notice the death of that well-known Scotchman Mr. Alexander Henry, the inventor of the gun barrel the revolutionised the small-arm for defensive and sporting purposes. I knew him well when he was in the heyday of his fame, in the early ’70’s, when his name was in every one’s mouth, and when his native city, Edinburgh, was immensely proud of him. He always felt hurt at the compromise which the Government effected by conjoining his barrel with the Martini stock, and never failed to uphold the opinion that in setting aside his complete rifle they had greatly impaired the efficiency of the army as an attacking force. He had the satisfaction, however, of seeing his rifle adopted by the Government of New South Wales. Mr. Henry was a man under the medium size, compactly built, bearded like the pard, and with a keen blue eye which bespoke alike humour and intelligence.
The Newcastle Weekly Courant, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, 3 February 1894

The father of Scottish volunteering has passed away in the person of Mr. Alexander Henry, of Edinburgh, the famous gun inventor. Mr. Henry began his apprenticeship in firearms in his seventeenth year, and by 1859 had invented the barrel of the Martini-Henry rifle, which arm has recently been discarded by the British army in favour of the magazine rifle. Like many successful inventors, he had to wait long before the official mind at the War Office awoke to the utility of his invention, and it was not until 1874 that the rifle was first issued to the British army.
The North-Eastern Daily Gazette, Middlesbrough, England, 3 February 1894

Mr Alexander Henry, gunmaker, whose name is known to all who have heard of the Martini-Henry rifle, died in Edinburgh on January 27, aged 76. He is said to have, been the father of the volunteer movement in Scotland, and he himself served as a volunteer for 30 years. He invented the rifle barrel which bears his name in 1859, but it was not till 1871 that it was adopted by the British Government in connection with the Martini breech action. The new rifle was first served out to the British Army in 1874, and gradually replaced the Snider rifle. Mr Henry also invented a complete rifle, which was adopted by the Government of New South Wales. He sat in the Town Council from 1876 to 1885, was a justice of the peace, and an active Freemason. He leaves a family consisting of two sons and three daughters.
Otago Daily Times, New Zealand, 24 March 1894