Alexander DAWSON Junior

Alexander Junior was the third of eleven children born to Alexander Senior and Hannah Dawson nee Sutton. He was born on 11 February 1884 at Gladstone in the Ringarooma district in Tasmania.

Alexander’s siblings were:

  • William John Alexander  1882 – 1884 – died by drowning in Gladstone
  • Albert William 1883 – 1981
  • Catherine Mary 1886 – 1973
  • Henry George 1891 – 1916 – died in WWI
  • John McKay 1892 – 1915 – died in WWI
  • Olive Maud 1894 – 1972
  • Myrtle Amy 1894 – 1975
  • George Byron Matthew 1896 – 1982
  • William Percy 1898 – 1945
  • Frederick Roy (James) 1900 – 1982
  • Half sibling Eileen Blanche CAREY 1905 –

On 27 March 1884, his Lordship Bishop Sandford visited Gladstone. One of his duties there was to administer rites of baptism to Alexander Dawson’s infant child. This was probably Alexander Junior.

The Dawson’s were a mining family first at Gladstone and then they moved to Queenstown.

At age 17, Alexander’s father passed away .

Alexander senior passed away from inflammation of the lungs due to working multiple extended shifts in succession. This was not normally permitted due to the poor quality air in underground mining known to cause lung complaints. But in this case it was overlooked because they’d lost all their belongings in a housefire associated with the nearby bushfires. Alexander was trying to rebuild his home and contents for the family. They lived in a poorer area of Queenstown known as The Pigsty, adjacent to the current football ground. [1]

His wife was left to bring up 10 children of which only one was an age to get a job at the mines. Hannah married again fairly quickly as she had five children under the age of seven when her first husband passed.

At some stage in late 1908, Alexander spent at least one evening with Irene Nellie Somers/Clark and in July 1909 his daughter, Irene was born on Bruny Island. This has been proved through DNA matches. Alexander had no knowledge of this daughter as far as I know.

Married life and children

His marriage to Sarah Jane HAWKINS occurred on 17 July 1912 in Queenstown, Tasmania.

Their first child Alexander Charles was born in September 1912 but unfortunately died three weeks later on 7 October at Preston Street, Queenstown.

Just five days later Alexander was involved in the famous North Lyell Disaster. A Royal Commission into the disaster was held in December 1912 and Alexander was called as a witness.

Alexander Dawson deposition about 1912 Mt Lyell mining disaster

Two of Alexander’s brothers were also involved in the disaster – Albert and Henry.

Alexander and Jane’s second child Ronald was born in 1913 and their first daughter Eileen in 1916 at Austin Street, Queenstown.

Alexander was still mining at Mount Lyell North in 1917 when he was brought up on charges of personal negligence in endangering the safety of two miners working in the mine.

In October 1923, their second daughter Olive was born in Queenstown.

His wife, Jane (also known as Jenny), died on 7 November 1924, from an allergy to a bee sting. [2]

Two weeks later Alexander was charged with indecent behaviour in Little Orr Street, Queenstown.

After Sarah died, Alexander continued to work to feed & clothe the family. The eldest son Ron (Adrian’s grandfather), from age 11, looked after his two sisters in his father’s absence. Alexander was known to ‘touch the bottle along’ after Jenny’s death. After Alexander’s death, Ron continued to care for his sisters until they found their own lives as adults. [3]

Ron with his sisters Eileen and Olive

Alexander died in 1933 from fatal injuries after falling at a sideshow and not regaining consciousness when taken to hospital. A fantastic obituary was written in the local paper. An inquest was held and the coroner gave the verdict of accidental death.

Both Jane and Alexander are buried in the Queenstown cemetery


  1. Adrian Dawson, email received 7 December 2021
  2. Adrian Dawson, email received 7 December 2021
  3. Adrian Dawson, email received 7 December 2021

West coast travels

With COVID I haven’t driven further than about an hour from home but as I am starting back with volunteering at Rosny Library this Friday, I thought a longer trip to do some family history research would be good. As my regular readers know, my dad is my problem child with family history. Virtually all the oral history and paper work handed down is incorrect and DNA testing has now put me on the right track. Hence the trip to the west coast of Tasmania.

As I have written about in earlier posts, dad’s grandfather was supposedly Robert Edward Smith, son of a half Samoan whaling captain. But DNA testing has proved otherwise. His grandfather is now most probably Alexander Dawson who was a miner on the west coast near Queenstown.

Alexander and his two brothers Albert and Henry have been mentioned in newspaper reports related to the 1912 mining disaster at North Lyell in Queenstown/Gormanston area. So my trip was to see if I could find out anymore about these miners. I had researched that Alexander, his wife (not dad’s grandmother though) and first child are all buried at the Queenstown cemetery. Alexander’s father, also an Alexander, is buried at the Pioneer cemetery in Queenstown.

I visited the West Coast Council offices to see if they had a map showing me exactly where in the cemeteries I could find the graves – they also had photos which they gave me permission to use on my blog. Here is map to Queenstown cemetery where

Alexander Dawson died age 48 on 6 December 1933

Jane Dawson died age 31 on 7 November 1924

Alexander Dawson died aged 3 weeks on 10 December 1912

Queenstown Cemetery  Section L – Plot 13

This is the Dawson grave at the cemetery now.


I wonder what Jane was feeling being 8 months pregnant at the time of the mining disaster, waiting to find out if her husband survived or not!

You will also notice the red/orange dot on the map relates to the miners who died at the  mining disaster. There is also a memorial in Queenstown itself for the miners.

But to look for Alexander’s father would be too difficult as the Pioneer Cemetery on Conlan Street is very overgrown with blackberries and there are very few headstones to be found. This is all the information I could find from the council offices.

Alexander Dawson  No other details

Queenstown Pioneer Cemetery  Section B – Plot 33

I did visit the Queenstown library where they had a fantastic copy of the cemetery with the names of all those buried marked at their gravestones but no other information than that.

When in Zeehan, I visited the West Coast Heritage Centre. On the second floor is one room about the mining disaster but nothing specific about the Dawson brothers other than a couple of mentions in notes from J. Ryan the pit boss. In note 5 mentioned specifically as diamond drill men are Alf and Harry Dawson, while in note 7 there is A Dawson and A.N Dawson.

On my last day in Queenstown, I visited the Galley Museum where they also have one room set up about the mining disaster. There were lots of images donated by locals many years ago and not necessarily named but I did have luck here. Photos of both Alfred and Harry (Henry) Dawson as they were coming out of the tunnel. It looks like there are also photos in the newspaper Tasmanian Mail for that time period. I have also included a photo of the haulage where the victims were brought down and the North Lyell Hotel which miners would pass twice a day.

Readers: What have you found out about your family when going on a holiday? Maybe it was like mine – deliberately looking or maybe it was an accidental surprise.