Story: Henderson, Andrew Kennaway

Page 1 - Henderson, Andrew Kennaway

Henderson, Andrew Kennaway

1879–1960

Clerk, illustrator, cartoonist, editor, pacifist

This biography was written by Stephen D. Hamilton and was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand BiographyVolume 4, 1998

Andrew Kennaway Henderson was born in London, England, on 25 May 1879, the son of Andrew Henderson, a commercial clerk, and his wife, Alice Otley. Around 1885 the family emigrated to New Zealand, where Henderson senior became the New Zealand Shipping Company representative at Lyttelton. Kennaway’s mother died when he was 10 and he was subsequently cared for by an older sister. He attended Christchurch Boys’ High School from 1893 until 1896, after which he was employed for several years as a bank clerk in Christchurch and Palmerston North.

His real vocation, however, was that of illustrator. In 1903 he illustrated, wrote, edited and published two issues of Fun, a magazine of cartoons and humour, and in 1904 he became a commercial and lithographic artist with the Weekly Press. Two years later, on 20 April 1906, he married Pauline Henrietta Gibson in Christchurch; there were no children of the marriage. From 1907 until 1917 Kennaway had increasing responsibility for the format and illustration of the New Zealand Illustrated annual, the Christmas number of the Weekly Press. During this period he became part of the Christchurch artistic and literary scene, joining the Canterbury Society of Arts and counting among his friends Blanche Baughan and Alan and Marguerita Mulgan.

With the onset of the First World War Henderson declared himself a conscientious objector. Although his views were known to his friends, he did not express them at public meetings. In 1915 a collection of his work entitled Quips and caricatures for the Belgians was published in aid of the Belgian Relief Fund. He survived most of the war with no challenge to his pacifist stand, but in January 1918 he was ordered to present himself for enlistment. After refusing to submit to a medical examination, he was court-martialled on 8 March. Blanche Baughan spoke in his defence at the trial and read a statement prepared by Henderson, who was sentenced to nine months’ hard labour. On his release from Paparua prison he again refused a medical examination and was retried on 5 November 1918, only a few days before the signing of the armistice in Paris. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

After his release in 1920 Henderson worked for a short period as a stonemason in Wellington. He returned to Christchurch, but he and Pauline soon moved to Auckland, where they lived for a while with the Mulgans. Determined to adopt a subsistence lifestyle, they took half-shares with an architect friend in a block of land in the Henderson Valley. They built a studio and a small house with minimal amenities and Kennaway attempted to support the venture by producing a regular cartoon for the Critic, a newly established Auckland weekly. However, the paper quickly failed, leaving Henderson without payment for his work. Life on the land proved more difficult than they had expected. Pauline became seriously ill, partly as a result of their living conditions, and after falling out with their partner in the venture they deemed the situation intolerable and abandoned the land. In 1925 Henderson obtained work as a freelance illustrator in Sydney, working for several daily and weekly newspapers. Pauline convalesced in Auckland for two or three years before joining him in Australia. Henderson visited Frederick Sinclaire in Melbourne in 1931 and was introduced to local socialist groups.

In 1931 the Hendersons returned to Christchurch to live with Pauline’s widowed mother. Kennaway began planning an independent weekly newspaper modelled on A. R. Orage’s the New Age. In early 1934, working with Sinclaire (who was now professor of English at Canterbury College) and his colleague Winston Rhodes, he produced a specimen issue of Tomorrow and used it to solicit support throughout New Zealand. The first issue proper appeared on 11 July 1934 and the paper was published weekly, then fortnightly from March 1936 until May 1940.

Henderson took almost sole responsibility for the editing and management of Tomorrow, which he ran from a small office in Hereford Street in central Christchurch. He received no payment for his work, but made a little income from commissions for illustrations and portraits. Tomorrow rapidly became one of the most important political and literary magazines published prior to the Second World War. Each issue featured a cartoon with accompanying commentary by Henderson, caustically personifying those forces he believed responsible for the state of New Zealand society: the church, the press, militarists and business interests. He also contributed the occasional satirical story or squib, sometimes using the pseudonym Peggy Cunliffe-Crighton. Apart from Sinclaire and Rhodes, other important contributors to Tomorrow included, on the political side, W. B. Sutch, W. N. Pharazyn and John A. Lee; and on the literary side, Denis Glover, Frank Sargeson, A. R. D. Fairburn and Allen Curnow.

In June 1940 Tomorrow ceased publication: its printer had been warned by the police that its continued appearance would contravene war regulations. In effect it was suppressed by a government that had become concerned at the criticism being voiced in its pages on the conduct of the war. Former Labour MP John A. Lee had adopted Tomorrow as his main outlet after being denied access to the New Zealand Labour Party weekly, the Standard, largely because of his criticism of the ailing prime minister, Michael Joseph Savage. After Tomorrow ’s closure, Henderson destroyed its files in order to protect the identity of contributors: several were prominent public servants who feared repercussions over their criticism of government policy.

The closure followed closely on the death of Pauline Henderson in April 1940. Henderson soon moved into a small house he had built in the Christchurch suburb of Opawa. Later in the war he was employed as a censor, working on the private letters of servicemen and -women. In 1942 the Christchurch Co-operative Book Society published Cartoons from ‘Tomorrow’, a selection of Henderson’s work from the magazine. This was followed in 1949 by Fools’ carnival and in 1959 by Drawings by Kennaway.

A quiet, kind and charming man, and a talented artist, Kennaway Henderson died in Christchurch on 17 January 1960. He was given a rationalist departure service at the Christchurch crematorium.