One name that is hard to avoid if you live down Bainsford way is Dawson. There is a street and a park as well as the Dawson Community Centre, the Dawson Mission and, of course, the former Dawson Park school, now renamed and relocated to Stenhousemuir.
As usual there is a good historical explanation for this and not surprisingly the story starts with the great ironworks at Carron. Those who have read Brian Watter’s marvellous book on Carron will be familiar with the explanation but for some this might be their first introduction to a family which dominated the affairs of the company and the district for much of the 19th century.
By the early 1800s Carron was firmly in the hands of the Staintons, particularly Joseph who had worked his way to the top following his arrival from Keswick in Cumberland. As his power increased he brought many of his relatives north to take up important roles among them his cousins Joseph and William Dawson. In 1825 Joseph succeeded Stainton as manager and he in turn was followed by his brother William in 1850. Between them they dominated the works for 50 years.
It was a time of huge financial success and the family accumulated a small fortune some of which William used to purchase the lands of Gairdoch and the estate and mansion of Powfoulis. He and his daughters Anne and Dinah Margaret shared a strong interest in evangelical religion stemming from the ‘Keswick Convention’ which had come north with the family, though it has to be said that both Joseph and William were not averse to a bit of financial jiggery pokery in their business dealings.
William Dawson died in 1874 and not long afterwards the company passed into the hands of ‘professional’ managers rather than family members.
However, the sisters remained major shareholders and the ‘Dawson Trust’ (which survives today) was established under their control.
From then on they devoted their money and time to good causes including the ‘Dawson Mission’ which started life in a tent in West Carron in 1900. It was replaced by a small hall of corrugated iron with help from the sisters who also provided a ‘Bible woman’ to serve the district.
In 1960 the Mission moved to its present site across the main road from the works.
When Falkirk’s first infirmary was officially opened in Thornhill Road in 1889 it was Anne Dawson’s husband Sir Thomas Dawson Brodie who did the honours and the two extensions were successively opened by Lady Anne in 1900 and Dinah Margaret in 1906.
Anne had died in 1903 and the following year her surviving sister by now known as ‘Miss Dawson of Powfoulis’ provided the money for the new ‘William Dawson Park’ which opened in the presence of the great and the good of the district. A number of churches in the area also benefited from the funds including Bainsford and Larbert Old where there are two fine stained glass windows in memory of the family.
When Miss Dawson died in 1910 the mansion of Powfoulis was gifted to the Church of Scotland and opened as their first Eventide Home in 1926 becoming a hotel in the 1950s.
Most members of the Stainton and Dawson dynasties lie buried in the Carron Enclosure in Larbert Old Parish Churchyard with the sisters commemorated by a plaque in the ‘Greek Temple’ erected for William Dawson.
The enclosure is a reminder of the part played by the families in the industrial and social history of the Falkirk district and needs and deserves a bit of a facelift!