Jon Inglis was born into poverty in Newcastle, probably in 1920—21, and was sent to an orphanage at the age of five when his mother, working as a prostitute, could no longer deal with an expanding household of children. At the orphanage, he experienced cold, hunger and abuse, and as soon as he legally could he left to become the challenger in a mobile boxing booth.
He joined the Pioneer Corps at outbreak of World War II and was captured by the Germans during the retreat to Dunkirk; in consequence he spent the whole war in prison camps, where he began writing poetry. He later novelised his early life under the title Forever Endeavour.
After the war, he became a successful and respected businessman, but in the 1970s he left his home, his work and family to live in London with no possessions, spending nights on the streets or sleeping under bridges, and speaking at Hyde Park's Speaker's Corner on the insubstantial nature of power and acquisition. This period was later novelised as Season of the Butterfly, published after his death by his second wife.
Aside from the novels, John Donaldson (as he became known) wrote a very large corpus of philosophical aphorisms, together with poems, and plays. He was a recognised figure around Oxford in his latter years, and the majority of his great quantity of writings are held, though still unpublished, at the Oxfordshire Archives.
The poet Kathleen Raine wrote to John's wife:
"John Donaldson was indeed a brave and remarkable man... There is real vision in his poems... I can understand what was in John's mind when he gave himself totally to seeking to bring about the only revolution that can change the world, A CHANGE OF HEART IN PEOPLE, ordinary people everywhere."