In memory of
We are a member of
IVU (International Vegetarian Union)
Harry Mather (1924-2010)
Harry was born near Paris in June 1924. He grew up in France with his parents Harold and Mary, and two brothers Frank and Roland. In 1935, at the age of 11, he moved back to Bolton in England with his brother Frank who looked after him. A few years later Frank was enlisted in the war, and it was then that a number of tragedies fell in to his life.
His elder brother Roland contracted osteomyelitis, thought to have come from an infection at the dentist, and a perfectly curable disease in this era. Sadly the illness was fatal and he passed away shortly afterwards.
Then in 1940 his parents evacuated France, thought to have been the last evacuees from the war, sailing on board the Ettrick. His parents turned up unexpectedly at his school in Bolton, and they told him that the Germans were boasting how they had bombed the Ettrick but they must have been wrong as they had just come over from France on that ship. It was a sad twist of fate that revealed that it was its sister ship, the Lancastria, that had been bombed, which the Germans had confused.
It was however the Lancastria, being used to evacuate troops from France, that had on board his brother Frank. My father for years believed that Frank had swum ashore and passed as a Frenchman waiting for the end of the war, but later had to accept his brother’s fate. The Scottish Parliament passed a bill to recognise the heroes of the Lancastria and issued an official medal.
Harry was an exceptionally intelligent man. He was incredibly studious and strived to better himself, most particularly in academia. At Cambridge University he studied History, Commerce, and French, and decided to study Russian for a challenge. His linguistic talent was remarkable. He could speak seven languages, four fluently including Esperanto. He obtained degrees in Languages and also Commerce.
In later years he found himself in the middle of a vegan congress. A Russian speaker had lost his translator and when asked if there was anyone who could speak Russian, my father answered the call. He had to stand in front of a large audience, translating a language that he had not practised for 20 years and he did so with a flawless accuracy.
Harry met my mother Miriam in 1960 and at this time her father was a vegetarian. Together they explored vegetarian guest houses, travelling extensively including to Israel. They married in 1965 and both became vegetarian shortly after. This soon became the central focus of his life, although he was also involved in the Esperanto Society for many years.
Shortly after becoming vegetarian he met a man at a vegetarian meeting in Bournemouth who told my father that he was a vegan. That lovely man was Wilfred Crone, who later became a pioneer of the fruitarian movement. He was Harry’s closest friend. We visited Wilfred every week where we ate a fruitarian meal, shared stories and played card games.
My father soon became vegan, and in 1983 he wrote a book called Looking for a Green World. In 1985 he took over the position of editor of Vegan Views which he edited until 2008. He was, as someone described to me, a rarity. Someone with ideas and visions of a cruelty-free, vegan lifestyle who was willing to share this knowledge with the world. He attended countless meetings, AGMs, conventions, and Vegan Camps, and to date I have never met a vegan who didn’t know him.
He was, until recently, unaware of the extent of all the great work he had done - he really had helped to make a difference. He even (I found out only recently) turned down the offer to be a patron of the Vegan Society out of modesty, and was later convinced, by me, to agree to be a patron of the Vegan Organic Network. When I sent word of my father’s frail condition, we were inundated with emails, cards and good wishes from people telling us how he had inspired them and how they had gone on to set up Vegan Societies in their own countries and carry on the good work. Some came from as far as South Africa and Mauritius.
However, he was not interested in self glory. It was about his beliefs and principles which he shared whilst he was ‘looking for a green world’.
He was incredibly healthy. He was riding his bike until only a couple of years ago, and was working on his land and growing vegetables until he was 82 years of age. He went to the doctors because he needed a signature to renew his passport at the age of 78, and the doctor took a look at him and said who are you, I’ve never seen you before. My father replied, I have never seen you before either, however I have been registered with you for 30 years and I need you to sign my passport photo.
My father brought us up vegan and taught us one basic principle - if you love animals don’t eat them because that causes them to suffer. He was the best dad, patient and kind. He was always there for me and he always knew what to say when I needed someone. When I was young and afraid he was there to comfort me and make me feel safe.
Harry Mather was a loving husband to Miriam, and the best father Valerie and I could ever wish for. He was a compassionate vegan, a pioneer, a visionary, an inspiration and a guide. He was hard working and modest. He was truly the most selfless, principle-centred, altruistic man you could ever meet and I am proud to have been his son.
David Mather's article above first appeared in the Vegan Views 'book' in 2010.
Miriam Mather's article below appeared in Vegan Views No 122 in 2011.
Memories of Harry
I met Harry when I was 21, in the office where we worked together in London. My father had recently become vegetarian and was very thrilled about it – he had always disliked meat. I had been suffering with rheumatism and bad back pain, and Dad suggested I went to the Nature Cure Clinic in Baker Street, a forerunner to current day alternative therapy centres. I saw Dr Bertrand Allinson there, whose father founded the famous bakery firm. He said I should become vegetarian so Harry and I started exploring the various veggie restaurants during our lunch breaks. We saw various celebrities eating there, including Pete Murray, a Radio Luxembourg disc jockey.
After we got married in 1965 (see photo below), we went to Israel by cruise ship for our honeymoon, and travelled by bus throughout the country. We were impressed with the veggie food we were able to get and stayed at various veggie guest houses and kibbutzim.
After two years we became vegan, and when we had our two children we brought them up this way too. They thrived on this regime. When Val went to school we sent her with a packed lunch and the headmaster took us to task and wanted her to have school lunches. We heard about the Rudolph Steiner School which was well disposed to our way of living, so we sent her there instead, and in due course David went there too.
When the children were young a small publication was started called Vegan Round Robin. I think this was instigated by Arthur Ling who founded Plamil, as his kids were young then too. This was used by parents of vegan kids who wanted to share their vegan experiences with others, and was a great help and assurance to many. Harry and I contributed regularly too.
Harry and Miriam with Valerie and David circa 1980
When the kids were young we used to go to Vegan Camps and gatherings and this too boosted our continuing experience of the vegan way of life and helped us all to meet other likeminded people. David met a vegan girl and they got married and had two kids of their own, who have also been brought up as vegans.
A group of young vegans started Vegan Views in 1975. Harry also contributed, and he eventually took over as editor in1985, successfully editing it until 2008, two years before his demise at the ripe old age of almost 86. When V.V.’s new editor Sarah met Harry a few years back, she was very impressed with his quiet, unassuming nature and his dedication to veganism and a healthy way of life. When a new editor was needed she worked tirelessly to get together a group of helpers, among them Malcolm Horne, who was one of the original founders, and our son David.
I am looking forward to reading the new Vegan Views. I know that Harry would have been very happy that so many people are continuing to support such a good cause, one which meant so much to him.
Miriam Mather (ex wife and good friend of Harry's)
© Vegan Views 2014