Celebrating South Australia


31 January 1882 Peter Dawson

 31 January 1882   Peter Dawson

Peter Dawson was born in Adelaide on 31 January 1882. He began his singing lessons with C.J. Stevens, founder of the Adelaide Choral Society. He won first prize for bass solo at the Ballarat Competitions and was later sent to London to study under Sir Charles Santley. 

In 1904 the Edison Bell Company asked him to make a recording of the song Navahoe for which he received £1. In those days, if a song were successful, the artist had to make dozens of master recordings as the wax cylinder on which the original impression was made was not very durable and only a limited number of copies could be taken from it. For one very popular song Dawson had to sing it over and over again for five days at 5s a time. He took home £75. In order not to jeopardise his operatic career he often appeared in music halls and made popular song recordings under pseudonyms. One of his best known songs, Boots, was a poem of Rudyard Kipling's for which he wrote the music. In all he wrote over thirty songs as well as composing other music.

He died in Sydney in 1961. Although he lived in England for most of his life, except for a period of eight years spent in Australia during World War II, he is proudly claimed as a South Australian.

Sheila Coombs, 'Peter Dawson',100 Famous Australian Lives , Paul Hamlyn, Sydney, 1969, pp. 290-295.