DONALD WATSON, 1910 - 2005
Donald Watson was the founder of The Vegan Society.
After witnessing the killing of a pig on his uncle's farm, the 12 year old Donald made a New Year Resolution never again to eat meat. At that time he did not know anything about vegetarianism, but he did become active in the vegetarian movement as an adult, and came into contact with other vegetarians, some of whom also avoided the use of dairy products and eggs. He soon came to share this philosophy and tried to set up a non-dairy section within the Vegetarian Society, but only met with hostility from those who still enjoyed their cheese omelettes.
By this time, World War Two was under way, but the vegetarian movement continued, run by the older generation, those medically excused from military service, and conscientious objectors. Donald Watson was a CO, but had to do war service as a firewatcher and firefighter in addition to his day job as a woodwork teacher.
By 1944, Donald had given up trying to form a non-dairy section within the Vegetarian Society, and decided, along with a few like-minded pioneers, to form a totally new society for 'non-dairy vegetarians'. The question arose of what to call it. One evening, he and his fiancé, Dorothy Morgan, were chatting at a social event when they had a moment of inspiration and thought up the word 'vegan' - 'the beginning and end of vegetarian', so the new society, formed in November 1944, was called 'The Vegan Society' from its inception. At first this was only a provisional name until someone came up with a better one, but the word 'vegan' caught on and has now entered, not only the English language, but many other languages as well.
For the first two years, Donald ran The Vegan Society single-handedly from his home in Leicester. He produced a newsletter, Vegan News, which he posted out to 500 readers, he answered countless letters, he lobbied the Ministry of Food for special rations for vegans, like the extra cheese allowed to vegetarians in place of the meat ration. All on top of his teaching work and wartime duties!
As life got back to some kind of normality after the war, The Vegan Society formed a committee to share the work which Donald had done. Donald was on the committee himself for a while, until he married Dorothy, secured a teaching post in the Lake District, and moved to Keswick, where he spent the rest of his very long life. He never again took a very active part in running The Vegan Society, but he and Dorothy were active in the Cumbrian Vegetarian Society for many years, and Donald kept in touch with his many vegetarian and vegan friends and was an avid reader of the magazines 'The Vegetarian' and 'The Vegan' until his death at the age of 95.