Born on the 29th December 1905, the daughter of a schoolteacher, Dora grew up in modest surroundings in Liverpool. She had strong memories of her childhood, of the docks and the strange plants in the Sefton park glasshouse and she retained a slight Liverpool accent.
She shone at school, but refused the expected move to university. She was more interested in horticulture, she told her parents. And that was what she determined to do, working first on a chicken farm in Oxfordshire and later farming her own smallholding in Devon on the lines of self-sufficiency.
In Devon, she became involved with the Communist Party and, after the war, went at the party's request to Hungary to work as an English language broadcaster for Radio Budapest. When the Soviet invasion came in 1956, she left Hungary in a hurry, with the help of the British embassy. Her experience led her to also leave the Party.
In 1959, she travelled by cargo ship to India to work in a clinic, free to poor villagers, outside Madras. She then settled in SevaNilayam, a remote place near the ancient temple city of Madurai, in the foothills of the mountains that run down the spine of India. This led to her becoming internationally noted during her last 40 years as the founder and driving force of an organisation providing medical care to the poor in India.