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Dawson, James (DNB00)


DAWSON, JAMES (1717?–1746), Jacobite, was one of the eight officers belonging to the Manchester regiment of volunteers, in the service of the Young Chevalier, who were hanged, drawn, and quartered on Kennington Common, 30 July 1746. The eldest of the four children of William Dawson, apothecary of Manchester, by his first wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Richard Allen of Redivales in Bury, Lancashire, and a first cousin of John Byrom [q. v.], he was born at Salford in or about 1717, and educated there under the care of a Mr. Clayton. Being intended for the church, he was admitted a pensioner of St. John's College, Cambridge, on 21 Oct. 1737, at the age of twenty, and matriculated in the following December. But ‘soon getting acquainted with the young rakes of the university, he run all manner of lengths with them, 'till at last, for various misdemeanours, he was expell'd, or rather not waiting for the sentence of expulsion, which he was conscious to himself he had incurr'd, and would certainly be pronounced against him, he ran away from his college.’ There is, however, nothing to show that he had ever been subjected to any punishment for irregularity in the university court held by the vice-chancellor. ‘Being sensible he should not be received by his father, & the young Pretender coming with his army to Manchester about the same time, he join'd himself to that party. Being of a bold and daring spirit, and of a good family, the young Pretender gave him a captain's commission. He was so hearty in the cause, that he beat up for voluntiers himself, and took abundance of pains to prevail on the young fellows in Manchester to enlist. In all their marches he appeared at the head of his company, and when the young Pretender made a general review of his army at Macclesfield, he passed before him with the usual formalities. He likewise at Carlisle, mounted guard there, and was called captain, and was among the rest of the officers at the surrender of the town.’ He was tried and convicted of high treason on 17 July 1746. Had he been pardoned, the day of his enlargement (so runs the tale) was to have been that of his marriage. His betrothed, Katherine Norton, ‘a young lady of good family and handsome fortune,’ followed him to the place of execution accompanied by a gentleman nearly related to her and one female friend. ‘She got near enough,’ as stated in a letter written the day after, ‘to see the fire kindled which was to consume that heart she knew so much devoted to her, and all the other dreadful preparations for his fate, without being guilty of any of those extravagancies which her friends had apprehended. But when all was over, and that she found he was no more, she drew her head back into the coach, and crying out, “My dear, I follow thee—I follow thee! Sweet Jesus, receive both our souls together,” fell on the neck of her companion, and expired in the very moment she was speaking’ (Howell, State Trials, xviii. 374–5). The incident has been made the subject of a well-known ballad by Shenstone.

[Byrom's Journal and Remains (Chetham Soc.), vol. i. pt. i. p. 178, vol. i. pt. ii. pp. 561, 638; Barlow's Cheshire and Lancashire Historical Collector, ii. 27–9, 32, 33–6; Legends of Lancashire (1841), p. 159; Harland's Ballads and Songs of Lancashire, 2nd edit. pp. 63–70; A Genuine Account of the Behaviour, Confession, and Dying Words of F. Townly, &c., pp. 12–13, 18, 20; True Copies of the Dying Declarations of Arthur, Lord Balmerino, &c., pp. 34–6; Authentic Copies of the Letters … delivered … by the Nine Rebels, pp. 19–20; Egerton MS. 2000, f. 102.]

G. G.