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John Henderson: Final farewell to street bookseller who enriched lives

AC/DC booms from West Hampstead church at Spider's funeral

27 June, 2019 — By Tom Foot

A HEAVY metal anthem boomed out at the final farewell to West Hampstead street bookseller John Henderson, with Emmanuel Church’s Father Jonathan Kester saying that “no celebration is complete without some AC/DC”.

It was a fitting tribute to Mr Henderson – also known as Spider – who was a popular face in West End Lane, where he sold books outside West Hampstead Thameslink station for about 20 years. About 100 people attended the service at the church in Lyncroft Road on Saturday.

Fr Kester said: “John was not just a part of West Hampstead, he enriched it. He helped make it the very special place that it is.”

Mr Henderson died, aged 47, on May 23 in the Black Path, near the railway station where he sold books.

Two of his children met for the first time following his death. Many people in West Hampstead have bonded over shared memories of the popular character and his three-legged dog, Sugar.

There was a big cheer from the congregation after a dog started barking when Sugar was mentioned at the service.

John Henderson with his dog Sugar

Mr Hen­derson’s partner Kerry told the service that John would be “sadly missed, especially by me”, adding: “He gave me strength to get up in the morning.”

Their 21-year-old daughter Rosie, who shortly before he died had arranged to meet up with him for the first time since she was a small child, said: “The last conversation I had with him was when my mother forced me to talk to him on the phone. If she hadn’t done this I would never have had the chance to tell him how I feel.”

She added: “Dad, I love you so much. I’m going to see you in heaven one day.”

An open mic at the end of the service allowed friends to speak about how John had helped them. The service heard that he had remained a constant in West Hampstead despite “so much change in the area”.

One close friend, who lived with John, shouted out: “Let’s get up and rock ’n’ roll – that’s what John would have wanted.”

There was music from Van Morrison, Celine Dion and Lewis Capaldi while the AC/DC track Who Made Who? was played as mourners left the church.

After the service, Kerry released a dove from West End Green while a wreath was laid at his book­stall plot after a wake at the All­iance pub.

Floral tributes to ‘Spider’

The dove released in West End Green returned to its owner a few hours later in Hackney.

More than £6,000 has been raised from well-wishers for the Foetal Alcohol Spectrum  Disorder charity, which two of his children are ambassadors for.

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