“That the light of the famous five blasts will ever grow brighter and continue to serve as one of the landmarks of Glasgow.”

For more than a century these iron works with their five blast furnaces lit up the night sky on the south side of the River Clyde, earning the ironworks the name “Dixon’s Blazes.

The first William Dixon (1753-1822) was born in Newcastle, beginning as a young man in the Northumberland coal fields. He came to Clydeside in 1771 “having perceived that the whole Glasgow district was abounding in coal an iron”.

William Dixon (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

He became the manager of a colliery in Ayr when aged just 18. He moved to Glasgow and established the Little Govan Colliery. Originally, he leased the land, but before long he bought it with its vast mineral potential.

He constructed a wagonway, which went by what is now Butterbiggins Road “through the empty lands of Gorbals” to the Eglinton Street area. From there the coal was taken to Springfield Quay east of the site of Kingston Dock.

It was his son William Dixon (1788-1859) who erected an iron works in the area of Cathcart Road. Much of the ironstone was mined in the grounds running towards Polmadie.

Five blast furnaces were erected, for pig-iron and malleable iron. The works played an important role in advancing industrial development. It was here that Henry Bessemer carried out some of the early experiments in steel manufacture and Siemens’ first regenerating furnace was tried out.

William Dixon (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

Unlike Henry Monteith, the other great Glasgow manufacturer he was not a Tory. He was a Liberal member of Glasgow’s first Reformed Council. He stood as a candidate for Parliament but was beaten by fellow Radical Alex Hastie.

Mr Dixon had a dangerous failing, which was a fondness for law. He was constantly proposing new Acts of Parliament. Most of them were approved confirming his judgement and the justness of his cause. It, however, cost him nearly a quarter of a million pounds.

Many of these disputes related to the movement of coal. The Clyde Trust would not carry his minerals to Greenock at what he thought were fair and reasonable prices.

He owned the Pollok and Govan railway, and he sketched out the Clydesdale Junction railway, which led to the Caledonian line. He is said to have been the largest shareholder in the first Caledonian Railway company.

Dixon never hoarded money and spent it with an open hand, and eventually, his extravagance was a serious concern.

Although he had enough money to pay every man 10 times more than he owed, he dealt with such large transactions that the banks and his friends said that he could not go on.

He put himself in the hands of friends.

John Tennant of St Rollox and others put things right, but not until after his death. Every debt was paid off and there was said to have been more than a million pounds left over.

His health had been poor for a number of years before his death. Latterly he spent the Winter and Spring at Cannes and much of the rest of the year in London – and it was there that he passed away.

Dixon HallsDixon Halls (Image: Glasgow City Archives)

William S Dixon was the third-generation owner of the coal and iron firm of what became William Dixon Ltd. His contribution to the business does not seem to have been outstanding. He was apparently a quiet, unassuming gentleman who spent his time mainly between his house in London and his estate near Ayr. He was childless and died in London.

The desire for the light of the famous five blasts to continue to serve as one of the landmarks of Glasgow did not materialise. They were demolished soon after the Second World War.

Nevertheless, the Dixon family legacy continues in the name of the industrial estate, and on Govanhill streets, Daisy and Annette, named after the second William Dixon’s daughters.

Dixon Halls, which he built for the people of Govanhill and Crosshill, is a wonderful reminder of the Dixons and their contribution to the history of the area.