John Donaldson photo Paddy Summerfield

John was a brave and remarkable man...there is real vision in his poems

      - Kathleen Raine


Season of the Butterfly - a synopsis

Link to Extract and Full Text

Son of an impoverished family John spent his early years at an orphanage, his mother, a prostitute, too busy with the other oncoming babies. After ten years of being hungry and sexually abused he was old enough to leave and soon after he joined the army, and was taken prisoner where he experienced more hardship All the while he was able to create constructive thoughts through his writings and poetry.

Now as a middle-aged rich and successful businessman he found that the unnecessary demands of family life and his increasing workload began to complement pressures that were swamped with materialism. The corrupt and competitive issues of his work in the field of lighting design drowned his creativity.

He chose to leave his wealth, his home and his work behind and live in London without any possessions and without any form of status. He felt he needed to persuade the public to have a change of heart and direction, away from the need for power and acquisitions.

He lived, sleeping rough by night, either in 'Cardboard Hall' (ie. among discarded boxes) or 'Rolling Stock Hotel' (trains in their sidings) and worked at part-time jobs for money for food and beer. cold and hunger were constant companions, but he refused to beg. Moving equally between the young and the old, and together with frequent speeches from Speakers' Corner, he urged his listeners to have a change of heart. As a 'down and out' there were many confrontations with the police. He continued to write and these writings he kept with him in a haversack, along with all his other work. His thoughts and words were his protection, and sometimes his undoing.

Through all the trials and tribulations that this life-style involved he never lost hope that life would eventually deal him the 'ace of spades' together with a sense of fulfillment.

The ups and downs of these dramatic years are depicted with humour and a matter-of-factness, interwoven with his philosophical thoughts and his opinions of the current political issues.

Season of the Butterfly - Extract and Full Text

Betty Donaldson 2006-11