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Saturday, 20 December 2014

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Obituary: Mr Donald Watson, of Keswick

DONALD Watson, who founded the Vegan Society, dedicated to a lifestyle which excludes all animal products, has died at his Keswick home at the age of 95.

He was credited with inventing the word vegan, using the beginning and end of the word ‘vegetarian’ and the society grew until it now has over 250,000 members.

Mr Watson, the son of a headmaster, was born in Mexborough, South Yorkshire and became an apprentice joiner at the age of 15. He became a teacher after completing City and Guilds qualifications and worked at a school in Leicester. In 1951 he moved to Keswick and became a woodwork teacher at the newly-opened Lairthwaite Secondary Modern School, and remained there until his retirement in 1973.

During the war, he was a conscientious objector and a voluntary fireman. In 1944 he decided to co-ordinate the interests of non-dairy vegetarians and formed the Vegan Society.

His daughter Janet said: “He had many critics at the time, even vegetarians, who felt you could not possibly survive on a vegan diet.

“However, he was determined to prove them wrong and has done just that. He was never ill until last year, when he was diagnosed with a heart condition and finally received conventional treatment which gave him another year of a good quality of life.

“My father had a very natural approach to life and believed that with a proper vegan diet, exercise and fresh air, the body would heal itself. He never drank alcohol or smoked and couldn’t understand why people would take such risks. However, he never criticised.”

Miss Watson said her father worked hard to set up the Vegan Society, bringing together people who believed that animals had as much right to life as humans. It grew into an established educational charity and a limited company which opposes the exploitation of animals for food, clothing and any other purposes.

Mr Watson loved to walk on the fells, and was a guided walk leader for some years after his retirement. He shared the hobby with his wife, Dorothy, who died in 1994, and he scaled Latrigg on his 94th birthday.

The funeral service was held at Crosthwaite Church on Monday, followed by burial in the churchyard.

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