Dugald Semple

Dugald Semple.

Dugald Semple (1884 1964), was a Scottish advocate of "simple living", a naturalist, prolific author, and fruitarian.[1] He is sometimes credited with cofounding the vegan movement in 1944 (with Dorothy and Donald Watson and other friends) without using the term 'vegan'.[2] Semple's mother hailed from a farm near Beith, and his father worked as a tailor. He was born in Johnstone near Paisley, Scotland.[3] Cathie Amos was his wife who predeceased him, dying of heart failure in 1941,[1] Dugald died in Fairlie.[3] They had no children, although Cathie had a son named Ian who was killed in World War I.[1]


Dugald won a bursary to Paisley Grammar School and served an apprenticeship as an engineering draughtsman. In 1907 he moved into a tent, and later an old omnibus located on Linwood Moss.[3] In 1916 he was a conscientious objector and thus exempted from war service on condition that he continued lecturing on food economy.[3]

Davie's o'the Mill ruins in 2011.
Ruins of the mill.

Dugald Semple, vegan and 'Scottish Apostle of the simple life,'[4] farmed at Davie's o'the Mill near Beith in North Ayrshire from the 1930s until around 1950, when it was a smallholding. Dugald was a hippy before hippies officially existed and started living in an army tent from 1907. He was sometimes known as the 'Hut Man' from living in his 'hut on wheels' or caravan [5] and therefore probably did not live in the house. He later lived in Fairlie.[6] Semple preached self-responsibility and care for others.[6] Curiously for a vegetarian he appears in a photograph of Davie's o'the Mill to be keeping chickens.[7] He regularly appeared on radio programmes, including Out with Romany and Hutman of the BBC.[8] He lived with his wife Cathie in London for two years when he was the secretary of the Vegetarian Society.[1]

A regular visitor to Ailsa Craig, he was known locally as the 'Bird Man' and was an enthusiast for outdoor living, publishing a book entitled A Free Man's Philosophy. He welcomed walkers and cyclists who often camped on his land.[7]

In 1963 Dugald detailed his journey towards Vegetarianism:

I began rather drastically over 50 years ago [~1910] by cutting out not only all meat or flesh foods, but milk, eggs, butter, tea and coffee. Cheese I have never eaten; indeed I hate the very smell of this decayed milk. Next, I adopted a diet of nuts, fruit, cereals and vegetables. On this Edenic fare I lived for some ten years, and found that my health and strength were greatly improved. […] While I was in London (during World War I), I found it necessary to add some dairy products to my meals, but on returning to Scotland I gradually eliminated these again.[9]

In later life he lived in a modern cottage and even owned a car.[10]


The Fruitarian Society was plagued with disputes over the definition of Fruitarianism from as early as 1907. The Scottish Vegetarian Society featured an article in their 1907 journal entitled "Fruitarianism" by Dugald Semple in which he wrote:

Dugald Semple's autograph

"By fruitarianism is meant a dietary consisting chiefly of nuts and fruits. Cooked cereals and vegetables are not necessarily excluded, although the exclusion of all cooked foods, should means and knowledge permit, will lead to better results. For this dietary it will be noticed that not only is flesh and meat omitted, but also the animal products milk and eggs. The use of these products by vegetarians has long been one of the chief objections to vegetarianism, especially in medical circles".[1][11]

Dugald stated, to make the point about 'Lacto-Vegetarianism' stated that he had never tasted cheese, and therefore it could not be considered as an essential 'binding agent' for body and soul![12]

In 1912, Dugald stated that he did not believe that milk and eggs were natural foods for man: "Eggs were meant to produce chickens and not omelettes; and cow's milk is a perfect food for a calf, but most assuredly not for a grown-up human being."[13]

In his 1915 book, Joys of the Simple Life, he wrote an essay entitled 'Alone with Nature', stating that "I left off eating flesh-meat and drinking tea ten years ago, and for over eight years have rarely used milk, eggs, salt, sugar, dairy butter, white bread, or condiments of any kind. My health has improved considerably and I have never regretted the change."


Committee positions

In 1938 Dugald was the President of the Scottish Vegetarian Society (SVS) and Vice-President of the Vegetarian Society.[14] In 1944 Dugald is recorded as the chairman of the Vegan Society[15] and vice president of the International Vegetarian Union.[9] In 1953 he was Honorary President of the Scottish Vegetarian Society. In 1954, Dugald was still president of the SVS, one of several Vice Presidents of IVU.

Lecture Tours

The Victoria Advocate newspaper of Texas reported that he lectured on his beliefs and way of life in the USA, Canada, and America.[5]

From the August 1910 issue of the Vegetarian Messenger "Mr. Dugald Semple, the Scottish apostle of the Simple Life, is arranging lecturing tours for the coming winter. He is prepared to give lectures for a modest fee, and we are sure that his services would be appreciated by vegetarian and allied societies. His address is Wheelhouse, Bridge of Weir, Scotland."[14] The address appears to refer to his horse drawn caravan that can be seen in the photograph of Davie's o'the Mill.[7]

Title page of 'The Sunfood Way to Health'

Dugald was a delegate from Great Britain to the 1938 10th World Vegetarian Congress held in Norway, attending as President of the Scottish Vegetarian Society and Vice-President of The Vegetarian Society. He delivered a speech on "Vegetarianism and Peace -

" Mr.Semple said that the question of peace was one of the most important problems with which the various countries of the world were concerned at the present time, and people were naturally interested in what we, as vegetarians, had to offer in place of war and preparations for war. The situation throughout Europe was tragic because war was no longer confined to armed forces but meant the slaughter of innocent women and children. The relation between food and war may come as a surprise to many people, but Socrates pointed out the relationship many years ago. When Plato first outlined the ideal life for his country he suggested that it might be necessary to introduce flesh-foods into his community. Socrates replied by saying that when you introduce flesh-foods it means that you are not going to have sufficient land to grow food and to raise cattle at the same time, and then you will go to your neighbour's territory and cut a slice off his land, and he will object, and then you will go to war with each other. That was the lesson we saw in the last great war and we observe today that many nations which are not self-supporting have a tendency to quarrel with their neighbours.

In Great Britain, before the war, there was only 7.6% of the population living on the land, as against 20% in Belgium, 25% in Holland and 30% in Germany. Today we have only 4.6% of the population in Britain living on the land. It means that the more we get away from nature and congregate people in towns and cities, there is more crime, disease and war. We cannot get away from nature without suffering thereby. We have got to live closer to the laws of our being. We must have a healthy body, but that is not enough. We are suffering today from an unbalanced proportion of activities - we seem to know how to do everything, and yet we do not know how to walk properly. We can link up the world by means of electricity, but we cannot link it up with love and human sympathy. Our attitude towards animals must be completely changed. We must cease to refer to them as "dumb" animals and "livestock." We must remember that they are our co-partners in civilization.

Vegetarianism is not merely a matter of food reform - it is a philosophy of life, and war will only cease when we cease to live as beasts of prey. So long as we prepare for war we shall get war. We must not only study Darwin but also Kropotkin. Those animals which are carnivorous are becoming less and the vegetarian animals are increasing. Vegetarianism is the first great step. The killing of human beings is akin to the killing of animals and so the exploiting of animal life leads to the selfish exploitation of human beings."

Dugald quoted Robert Burns, appealing for a more widespread appreciation of the real values in life - more sunshine for the body, more love for the soul, peace for every living creature the world over.[14]

In 1953, at the 15th World Vegetarian Congress held in India, Dugald stated: What a tragedy it would be if Mother India was to become estranged from her sympathy with the rights of animals, which although it may have been carried to extremes, nevertheless has been a noble example to the flesh-eating and vivisecting nations of the West. Yes, let us do our utmost to save India from the soulless materialism of imperialistic nations. Let us show that war and disease are the result of disobedience to spiritual and natural law. That if we harden our hearts against the everyday cruelty off flesh-eating and blood sports, we cannot wonder that the whole; so-called civilised world is preparing for another world catastrophe. East and West must meet if we are to hasten the coming of the New JerusaIem. We go forth to show that science is an affair of the heart as well as the head. That the poor Indian need not live on such a meagre diet, and that we must realize that without love the people perish. The basic error, as Maitra, editor of the Indian journal, once told me, "You people live beside yourself, we live from ourselves. It is only more life in the soul that can unite all people."[16]

In 1955, at the World Vegetarian Congress in Paris, Dugald Semple was listed as a speaker.[14]


Morris Krok, born in Johannesburg, South Africa and whilst seeking solutions for his health problems was influenced by natural healing writers of the 20th century such as Dugald Semple, Vincent Priessnitz, Louis Kuhne, etc.


Civilian rationing began at the end of World War I, on 1 January 1918, with sugar, then meat, butter, and margarine. The Government of the day consulted Dugald and a colleague in order to educate people concerning how to ration available produce and other food and to propose acceptable substitutes for meat, which had become familiar in their diets.[14]

No Stipend League

Dugald organised a Scottish 'No Stipend League' against the Church of Scotland's practice of levying a tithe on landowner's for the minister's stipend. He was particularly offended because the levy applied to landowners regardless of their faith.[6]


In 1953, Dugald wrote 'Most people do not die, they kill themselves with their knives and forks.'[17]

Dugald Semple died in a nursing home in Fairlie, North Ayrshire aged 79; the cause of his death was not disclosed.[1][5]

Published works



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Cathie & Dugald Semple Retrieved : 2014-03-26
  2. Edmundson, J. ‘Joys Of The Simple Life’ – By Dugald Semple – Now 100 Years Old, o1/23/2015, accessed 02/01/2015
  3. 1 2 3 4 Abrams, Page 186
  4. Scottish Vegetarian Society Retrieved ; 2011-09-17
  5. 1 2 3 Victoria Advocate Retrieved : 2011-09-19
  6. 1 2 3 The Scotsman Retrieved : 2011-09-19
  7. 1 2 3 Reid (2000), Page 47
  8. Abrams, Page 188
  9. 1 2 Vegetarian Society History Retrieved : 2011-09-19
  10. Abrams, Page 189
  11. The Fruitarian Society. Retrieved : 2011-09-19
  12. Vegan News Retrieved : 2011-09-19
  13. No Animal Food Retrieved : 2011-09-19
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 Scottish Vegetarian Society Retrieved : 2011-09-19
  15. Vegan Society Retrieved : 2011-09-19
  16. IVU Retrieved : 2011-09-19
  17. Glasgow Herald Retrieved : 2011-09-19


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