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William Donaghy Memorial

In previous years, the heavily gorse bushed slopes above the left bank of the East Dart made finding this significant stone somewhat of an achievement, but at the current time of writing in 2020 controlled burning of the moorland, known as swaling, has made it much more accessible from either the track below or the ridge above. This is a large, rounded boulder with a memorial engraved with small lead lettering on a panel cut into its west face. It has a fascinating and mysterious tale attached.

In November 1913, William Donaghy, a teacher, left his school in Warrington, and went missing. Three months later, a farmer discovered his body beside the stone beneath Hartland Tor. He had died of exposure due to the extreme cold the area had experienced. Upon his persons, they found a guidebook (suggesting he was doing a traverse of the moor), twenty pounds in gold coins, and a cloakroom ticket from an Exeter railway station. When police redeemed the ticket, they found a revolver and ammunition amongst his belongings. There has never been an explanation as to why he left home.

We found an article on the Yelverton & District Local History Society website that said when he was found he was wearing a black and white spotted tie and a Swiss wristwatch. Nothing odd about that, granted, but fast forward twenty years, when the body of Walton Howard was found near Rowter Marsh (at little more than 2 kilometres to the west), he was wearing the same watch and tie. It turned out that he had also been a teacher at the school in Warrington! Sometime later, at Beachy Head, in Sussex, a man named George Miller was found at the foot of the cliffs wearing the same watch and tie. He had also been at the school in Warrington! Could these have just been bizarre and tragic copycat suicides? The reason is still a puzzle, and we doubt if we will ever know the truth.

The memorial stone and inscription can be found on the north-west slopes of Hartland Tor, necessitating a descent towards the river, and then walking about 70 paces southward from a holly tree.

William Donaghy Memorial
The map above is not a navigation tool and we recommend that the grid reference shown below is used in conjunction with an Ordnance Survey map and that training in its use with a compass is advised.
Grid Ref:
SX 6399 8007
Dartmoor Forest
Tor Classification:
Rock Type:
Simon Dell
Yelverton & District History Society: A talk given by Simon Dell, mentioned in the Society Archive
Brian Sugg (1986): The William Donaghy Memorial Dartmoor Magazine number 5 pp.3-4

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