In Memory and Gratitude: Donald and Dorothy

Lives of determined conscientious objection may not draw fame. But what if they did? Wouldn’t our culture be the healthier for it?

Donald Watson was a woodworker who spoke respectfully of friends who went to fight in World War Two. Donald reprehended Hitler’s vile designs, yet evidently rejected war as a plausible way to end war. The government allowed Donald to serve in an alternative position, teaching young woodworkers. Donald couldn’t kill. No war horses would be bred for or by Donald. Nobody’s children would be physically or mentally maimed.

Keswick on the map, from

Donald  married Dorothy Morgan some time after the war ended. The pair settled in Keswick, Cumbria. They became active members of the Cumbrian Vegetarian Society. But by then, they, together with Elsie Shrigley and about two dozen like-minded people, had already launched the vegan movement.

When Donald Watson passed gently of old age in 2005, the BBC reported on the longtime advocate’s satisfaction in being "instrumental in starting a great new movement which could not only change the course of things for Humanity and the rest of Creation" but also change our "expectation of surviving for much longer on this planet.”

And the more we learn about the role of animal use in climate disruption, the more urgent Donald’s point becomes.  

People worldwide are now asking what and how to “cut back” in order to curb global heating. But the vegans called for deeper change. They made the case against killing. They made the case for undoing the age-old concept that other conscious beings were put on Earth for our own conquests, uses, and whims.

Donald’s funeral was held Monday morning, 28 November 2005, at Crosthwaite Church, which is dedicated to Saint Kentigern. The guests then went to eat at the Lyzzick Hall Hotel. The service was requested by Janet, the only child of Donald and Dorothy.

Crosthwaite Church in Keswick.

Speaking at Donald’s funeral, Janet mentioned a day that Dorothy and Donald both attended a dance. During the event the two started discussing the founding of a new society; and Dorothy came up with the word vegan as a possible name for it, on the basis that its letters are the beginning and conclusion of vegetarian.

In 2011, I visited North Yorkshire and Cumbria at the invitation of Patricia Fairey, who had attended Donald's funeral, and told me the story about the dance. Patricia and I planned a day trip to visit the final resting place of Donald and Dorothy. 

The November fog brought its natural beauty to the Keswick day. Then the mid-morning landscape appeared out of the rain in striking green. 

We arrived at the Crosthwaite Church, near the River Greta, overlooking the Lake District mountains and the Newlands Valley. The name of the nearby fells Cat Bells may have come from “Cat Bields” – shelter of wildcats.

A church has stood on this site since the sixth century A.D., and the present church architecture dates from 1523. The stained glass in the windows is mostly from the 19th century although fragments of the ancient glass remain.

Donald and Dorothy were not among the notable people listed by the church as buried there. No headstones mark their graves. But Patricia called a church representative in advance, and received spatial clues to help us find the spot. And after some focused meandering, we did find it.

Finding Donald Watson’s grave  – plus a surprise (for me): Dorothy is buried there too.

Wanting to leave flowers on it, I recycled a few freshly discarded ones, left by previous visitors.

Flowers: recently cut but discarded; I pulled some out to place on Donald’s grave.

By midday, the fog and rain returned.

Other Points of Interest on the Journey

Not far from Crosthwaite is the Castlerigg Stone Circle. We stopped to look.

A group of sheep grazed near the circle. Swaledale sheep, meant for the production of mutton (adult lamb flesh) and wool, and to maintain the landscape that’s so appealing to Cumbria’s visitors, who frequently mention the “happy sheep” of Keswick. 

But Donald Watson wryly spoke of the custom of telling children about sheep who “give” wool – without telling the children that this “giving” would continue only until the sheep were killed because keeping them alive no longer served the purposes of their human owners.

Swaledale sheep grazing at Castlerigg Stone Circle.

The fog ultimately claimed the afternoon, and as a cold mist turned into rain, we visited the town square. Tucked between the Skiddaw, one of Britain’s highest mountains, and the smaller Latrigg, Keswick is a popular point of convergence for cyclists, kayakers, walkers and climbers.

Bell Close, Keswick Town Square.

It's the market village in the Lake District National Park in Cumbria. Canon Rawnsley, who served as vicar of Crosthwaite Church from 1883 to 1917, co-founded Britain’s National Trust, which now owns much of the land in the area.

The vista off Lake Road, Keswick, Cumbria.

Two employees of the Lakeland Pedlar pose with Patricia.

Finally we stopped for supper in a restaurant Patricia had visited some years ago, called The Lakeland Pedlar. There we warmed ourselves with apple and parsnip soup – and received a 10% discount as members of the Vegan Society.



All photos of Keswick were taken on Sunday 27 Nov. 2011 by Lee Hall and Patricia Fairey. Kindly ask in advance about copying or using selected text or pictures. Do feel free to link and share this page. Thank you! 

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