Unlike his predecessors who all came from Ireland, Father Dawson was born in Scotland and was ordained there in 1835. By the time he arrived in Canada in the 1850s he had distinguished himself in the service of the Church to such an extent that he received recognition from Pope Pius IX. The accolades continued in Canada, where he was honoured with doctorates from three universities: Queen's, Laval and Ottawa.
During his tenure at St John's and St. Brigid's, from 1870 to 1879, he won the hearts of his parishioners to such an extent that for many years the parish was called "St. John's of Dawson." Father Dawson died in 1895.