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Dawson, James (1806–1900)

By the demise of Mr. James Dawson, which occurred in Camperdown on Thursday night at the advanced age of 94, Victoria loses one of her oldest residents and the Western district one of the earliest pioneers. The venerable citizen who has just passed away, gifted with a constitution which rendered his life proof to the ills to which humanity is heir, was hale and hearty up to within a few months ago, when he became invalided, and his end came peacefully, undisturbed by the qualms of pain. Crowded into the life of nearly 100 years were events which, both in the new world and the old, are looked upon by the present generation as historical. Notwithstanding his years, Mr. Dawson was able to recount the many stirring episodes which he had either taken part in or seen enacted in bygone days, and the listener could not feel other than interested. James Dawson was a native of Linlithgow, Scotland, where he was born in 1806. His father occupied the position of Provost of the town for a number of years. Mrs. Dawson, whose maiden name was Johanna Park, was a niece of the African explorer, Mungo Park. Seized with a desire to visit Australia, Mr. Dawson sailed, in the year 1840 for Victoria, arriving in May. Naturally inclined for pastoral pursuits, he purchased an estate on the Upper Yarra. Knowing the difficulty which was likely to be met with in a new country in the matter of building houses, Mr. Dawson brought from Scotland with him on the ship, a house—not intact, but in pieces, which were put together, and served as a comfortable dwelling. Kangatong Estate, near Port Fairy, was secured, and Mr. Dawson interested himself in the welfare of the district. He made strenuous efforts to obtain the use of Crown reserves for the settlers, and had the gratification of seeing his labours rewarded with the success they deserved. It was principally through his instrumentality that Mount Rouse was secured as a public reserve. Kangatong Estate was sold to the Messrs. Baird Bros., and for a time Mr. Dawson's career as a pastoralist ceased. Upon the sale of Kangatong he resided at Keilor, the home of Mr. Edward Wilson, one of the Melbourne "Argus" proprietors, with whom Mr. Dawson was very intimate. After a sojourn of a few years at Keilor, Mr. Dawson removed to Camperdown, and for a time leased Mr. O. Shaw's Wurrong Estate. Subsequently he lived in Camperdown, his daughter marrying Mr. W. A. Taylor, of Renny Hill. In 1884 he paid a visit to Scotland, and after a sojourn of two years there, returned to Camperdown. The appointment of Protector of Aboriginal was conferred upon Mr. Dawson, and a better friend to the natives it would have been impossible to find. The blankets allowed periodically by the Government were always forthcoming at the expected time, and the expectant blacks were seldom disappointed. Their guardian lost no opportunity in suggesting alterations and improvements in the lot of the aboriginals, and his kindnesses were always appreciated. In 1880 Mrs. Dawson succumbed, after a short illness, and her remains were interred in the Camperdown cemetery. Mr. Dawson identified himself with the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, occupying the position of honorary superintendent. He spared no pains to make the society one of usefulness which it was intended by the originators it should be, and discharged his office faithfully. He was a taxidermist of no mean ability, the excellence of his work testifying to that fact. From his early youth his leaning towards sport with the gun manifested itself, and many a happy hour was spent in quest of game. Animals which fell to his aim, and considered of sufficient importance to keep, were carefully preserved, and these have found a place in the Museum attached to the Mechanics Institute. The large collection which the Museum contains—all his own handiwork—has been presented by Mr. Dawson to Camperdown, and forms a presentation which is a feature of local institutions. Associated with some of the lifelike occupants of the cases are stories which their captor has oft reiterated. Mr. Dawson never tired in relating the history of their capture; of the lengthy excursions made to their haunts; of the care exercised in approaching the game; of the joy which the sportsman experiences at success. Mr. Dawson was a man of great force of character—ready, when occasion arose, to throw heart and soul in with any movement having for its aim the good of the people; but refraining from taking a prominent part in political and public affairs. His support was always willingly given for charitable and deserving objects.

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Citation details

'Dawson, James (1806–1900)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/dawson-james-27633/text35069, accessed 21 August 2019.

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