Harnett, Dorothy Grace (Waring , Dorothy Gainsborough) (1891–1977), fascist and novelist, was born in Woolwich, London, only child of Col. Henry Waring, a Royal Artillery officer from an east Co. Down gentry family, and his wife Florence. Much of her childhood was spent in Malta and Gibraltar; she learned to shoot at 14. Col. Waring retired (c.1919–20) to the family residence, Lisnacree House near Kilkeel, Co. Down.
Dorothy served in the Red Cross during the first world war. In 1916 she married St Clair Harnett; they had one son, Denis. Despite the brief and stormy nature of her marriage, she tended to refer to herself as ‘Mrs Harnett’ on public occasions, though her novels were published under her original surname (with ‘Gainsborough’ occasionally substituted for ‘Grace’ as middle name) and she was sometimes referred to as ‘D. G. Waring’ in other contexts. This may reflect social convention, personal conservatism, or desire to keep the same surname as her son. She therefore appears below as ‘Harnett’, as it seems to have been her preferred form; in an assessment of her literary productions, ‘Waring’ would be appropriate.
The marriage soon broke up; she was living with her parents in September 1920 when Lisnacree House was raided by the IRA. Col. Waring subsequently commanded the local B Specials. Harnett acted as a civilian searcher; in 1922–3 local nationalists (endorsed by some unionists) accused her of searching women suspects in a degrading manner. She attributed these complaints to Sinn Féin propaganda. In 1923 she sued for restitution of conjugal rights; it was revealed that during a temporary reconciliation she had simulated affection while demeaning her husband in letters to her parents. St Clair also accused her of indiscreet behaviour and caricaturing him in a novel about Irish politics advocating ‘wholesale murder’. Harnett denied infidelity and declared herself entitled to socialise and write as she pleased. The judge concluded that she had no real desire to resume marital relations and seemed sincere only in hatred of her husband. The Harnetts divorced; St Clair remarried in 1927 and had a successful career in the Royal Air Force legal service.
From the mid-1920s Harnett was prominent in the British Fascists, founded in 1923 by Rotha Lintorn-Orman (1895–1935). The BF appealed to reactionaries from military, intelligence, and gentry backgrounds who attributed postwar traumas to subversive conspiracies. It had an unusually high level of female participation. Harnett was appointed area commander of Ulster women's units on 11 July 1927, and in October 1927 organised meetings in Ulster addressed by Lintorn-Orman; she held ‘patriotic’ children's classes in London and Belfast, and told meetings in Britain that the Free State was hatching a Bolshevik-German-IRA plot against Ulster. By 1930 Harnett was a member of the grand council of the British Fascists, and in May 1932 she sided with Lintorn-Orman against amalgamation with Mosley's British Union of Fascists. The Mosleyites seceded, taking most of the active membership. Lintorn-Orman suffered a severe illness in July 1932 and convalesced in Northern Ireland, becoming increasingly dominated by Harnett's stronger personality. In 1932–3 Harnett edited the party paper, the British Fascist. In November 1933 she brought a BF propagandist to Kilkeel, provoking week-long sectarian riots. By March 1934 she had given up the editorship, becoming BF propaganda officer; the BF was forced into liquidation by creditors in 1935.
Harnett was also active in the Ulster Protestant League. In May 1934 at a UPL meeting in Belfast she advocated a defence force led by ‘a man of the people’ like Hitler or Mussolini. Attacks on catholics followed; Harnett was charged with incitement and fined £20. She left the UPL because it equated loyalty with protestantism; her version of imperialism hoped to accommodate ‘loyal’ catholics. In 1936 she spent time in Italy and propagandised against sanctions during the Abyssinian war. She may have had earlier contacts with the Italian government.
In 1938–9 Harnett was a committee member of the Ulster branch of the Link, a pro-Nazi organisation promoting Anglo–German friendship. It was wound up on the outbreak of war; prominent members were later interned, and Harnett appears to have been considered for internment. Instead she participated in civil defence work in Co. Down. Thereafter she disavowed fascist sympathies, though remaining extremely conservative. She became involved with radio, writing a serial for the BBC in 1939, composing four plays, and delivering broadcast talks. She was a panellist on the BBC Northern Ireland radio quiz show ‘Up against it’ (1946–60), which transferred briefly to television.
Harnett began writing short stories in her teens, and in the 1930s and 1940s published about a dozen novels as ‘D. G. Waring’ (sometimes ‘D. Gainsborough Waring’). Predominant themes are the recovery of ex-combatants from the stresses of warfare, and deep love of the Mourne landscape, seen as an oasis of conservative values. (In several novels Mourne catholics invoke benevolent earth magic to strengthen the protestant hero against the powers of darkness.) A British secret-service organisation, ‘Craddock's Own’, fights revolutionary conspiracies, which employ black magic (Harnett was strongly influenced by the conspiracy theorist Nesta Webster, a former British Fascist).
As she aged, Harnett lived alone with her pets in a decaying Lisnacree House, though continuing to give Women's Institute lectures. Her son died in Britain in September 1964 (leaving two children) and in 1971 she entered a nursing home in Newcastle, Co. Down. Lisnacree House was burnt by arsonists in 1972; she received over £30,000 in compensation. D. G. Harnett died in Mourne Hospital, Newcastle, on 25 April 1977.