Rev. Dawes was born in 1907 in Southampton, England and at the age of six years moved with his family to Ste. Anne de Bellevue, Quebec. He was educated at McGill University and in 1930, became an ordained minister of the United Church of Canada. Over a period of forth-five years, he ministered to four rural charges. At every charge he was not only a minister, but a teacher of music as well.
In 1932, he and Kathleen Boulton were married; they had three boys and a daughter. Today their sons and grandchildren continue to be actively involved in music.
Rev. Dawes was an accomplished accordionist and pianist. Prior to arriving in Glengarry, Rev. Dawes was a well known musical entertainer at church concerts, socials and camps throughout Eastern Ontario. In Glengarry, he taught piano, organ, violin and guitar. In one of six books he authored is a chapter entitled “With the Highlanders in Glengarry” where he tells of his fond affection for Glengarry Scottish music.
His twelve years in Glengarry at the Church on the Hill seemed to be a highlight of his career, spiritually and musically. Rev. Dawes began teaching music in one room schools in the county, but at the request of parents he began to give private music lessons in their homes. As the numbers increased, arrangements were made to accommodate students in larger groups in towns throughout the county. When the travel and workload became too difficult, lessons were moved to the manse. Students from all religions were welcome. Quotes by former students speak kindly about how his music lessons were “fun to attend” and “gave a gift to students of the value of music.” He never recalled “ever soliciting a student or parent to take lessons.” Today Rev. Dawes’ pupils and their students can be found at the forefront of ceilidhs and musical concerts throughout the area.
One of Rev. Dawes’ strengths was to bring people together through his personality and music. Music resulted in a long lasting friendship between Rev. Dawes and Fr. John McPhail, an accomplished Glengarry violinist. Rev. Dawes was asked to join Fr. McPhail’s St. Finnan’s Orchestra which was composed of people from all walks of life who had musical talent. These people were ahead of their time in the Ecumenical movement, thanks to Fr. McPhail and Rev. Dawes who felt that music had a way of bringing about harmony.