Kieran Henderson: 'Hero' of Buncrana who leaves behind remarkable legacy
WHILE his life may have been cut short aged just 45, Kieran Henderson leaves behind a remarkable legacy in his home town.
The father-of-three, who died from a rare form of stomach cancer, has almost single-handedly put Buncrana on the world map through its links to a famous hymn.
While working with Inishowen Tourism, Kieran came across the story of John Newton, a slave trader who found sanctuary in Lough Swilly more than 250 years ago following an Atlantic storm.
The near-death experience saw him turn to Christianity and help fight to abolish slavery. It also inspired him to pen the words of Amazing Grace to describe how God had "saved a wretch like me".
Kieran immediately realised the marketing opportunity, particularly in the US among African Americans, and set about putting a series of ideas into practice.
A decade on, signs in this once-forgotten corner of Ireland now welcome visitors to 'Amazing Grace Country', where they can find a beautiful park, a stunning view point, an annual festival and plans for a walkway connecting the town's seafront.
Colleagues on the Amazing Grace initiative described Kieran as a "hero" who saw the potential of Inishowen's historical connection with a global story to attract tourists and enhance the area.
"His vision, dedication and hard work was the driving force behind the development of beautiful new amenities for Buncrana. In November, the initiative was awarded the runner-up trophy in the all-Ireland Pride of Place competition - a well deserved honour for a quiet and modest man who was so greatly loved."
Buncrana Chamber of Commerce also said the town had lost "one of its silent heroes".
"An unassuming gentleman, a go-getter who got things done, but more importantly a family man who will be missed by many."
Kieran's pride in Buncrana was born of course from his upbringing in the town, the middle child of five boys born just off Main Street.
After studying in Limerick and working with a technology company in Falcarragh, he spent almost a decade away from Ireland in San Francisco.
However, he decided to return home to bring up his young family back in Donegal, where he was most recently employed by the CloudRanger tech firm in Letterkenny.
Away from work Kieran was a black belt in karate, having won national titles and represented his country internationally.
This active, healthy lifestyle made his terminal diagnosis last year all the more shocking, and among the many tributes in recent weeks was a cousin who described the "cruel irony that a one in a million cancer would take a one in a million man like Kieran".
"You were the very best of us Kieran," he said. "A giant of a man, a friend, a fighter, and an inspiration."
Kieran Henderson died on January 15 and is survived and sadly missed by his wife Marie, children James, Ultan and Sally, father Jim, brothers Martin, Liam, Sean and Hugh P and family circle.