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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.




General secretary, New Zealand Alliance.

John Dawson was born on 4 June 1859 at Keighley, Yorkshire, the son of John Wm. Dawson and Mary née Hird. Left fatherless at an early age, Dawson was obliged to leave school and become a factory worker. He joined the Primitive Methodist Church and became a local preacher when he was 17. In 1880 he became a lay evangelist and served in this post for five years. The experience he gained here led him to make a career in the ministry, with the result that in 1885 he entered the Grattan Guiness Missionary Institute (now Cliff College), near Calver in Derbyshire. In 1888 Dawson was ordained by the British Primitive Methodist Conference and directed to join the New Zealand Mission. From 1889 to 1892 he served on the Thames circuit, first as a probationer but latterly as superintendent. He spent the next five years as minister in Christchurch and was then transferred to Wellington where he served until 1909.

In Christchurch Dawson became associated with T. E. Taylor, L. M. Isitt, and the other leaders of the newly formed prohibition movement. He became an active member of the New Zealand Alliance, being its vice-president in 1899 and chairman of the executive for 10 years. In 1909 the Primitive Methodist Conference freed him from his pastoral duties so that he might succeed the Rev. Frank Isitt as general secretary of the New Zealand Alliance, a post he held until his death 16 years later. During this period Dawson became widely known because of his assiduous parliamentary lobbying and campaigning in favour of total prohibition. In this connection he represented New Zealand at international congresses on the alcohol question, twice in the United States and once in Switzerland. In addition to these activities Dawson retained his close association with his church. He was always an ardent champion of Methodist Union and in 1915 was elected president of the United Methodist Conference.

In 1883 at Keighley, Yorkshire, Dawson married Annie, daughter of William Hoyle, and by her had two sons and two daughters. He died at 136 Coromandel Street, Wellington, on 13 September 1925.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • Temperance and Prohibition in New Zealand, Cocker, J., and Murray, J. M. (1929)
  • The Vanguard, 22 May 1926
  • Dominion, 14 Sep 1925 (Obit).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.