He was educated at Wellington College, Berkshire, and in 1959, after a brief spell teaching French, he joined JR Thornton & Co, the Lewes cattle market auction house, in Garden Street.
Julian spent the rest of his working life there and, occasionally, at Hailsham market, graduating from booking in and auctioning the whole array of market goods, from eggs, rabbits, and garden produce, to cattle, sheep and pigs. Along with the general market, there would be a selection of second-hand furniture, including some antiques.
It was this section that interested Julian. So in 1996, with regional markets struggling against supermarket giants, Julian bought out the Thornton partnership, to include the Garden Street site. Rebranding the business as Lewes Auction Rooms, he concentrated on conducting weekly sales of household effects, with some produce and monthly auctions of antiques.
In 2001, the business amalgamated with Gorringe’s, under the name Gorringe’s incorporating Julian Dawson.
Over some 54 years, Julian would climb the rostrum, without fail, every Monday and regularly sell 700-900 lots (which equates to a total of around 2,000,000 lots! Has a weekly auctioneer ever sold more?)
His distinctive auctioning style – rapid (around 150 lots an hour), with his booming, commanding voice, unaided by microphones – was a regular attraction to hundreds of weekly buyers. He very rarely missed a sale, only occasionally for golfing trips, or the odd illness. I did offer to assist for one auction, which included a formidable 980 lots, but was firmly told: “I don’t need any help Philip, it’s like riding a bike to me!”
He possessed a great sense of humour, wit and a great recall of clients’ names, on view days and from the rostrum.
In his time he was probably the best-known personality in the Lewes area. An excellent all-round sportsman, especially in cricket, hockey and golf, where he was president of Lewes Golf Club (but not so at snooker, his highest break being around 16…). He was a season-ticket holder for both Sussex County Cricket and Brighton & Hove Albion FC.
He went on to join and become president of the Lewes Rotary club, especially enjoying the regular lunch meetings at The White Hart, in Lewes.
His last sale took place on Monday, December 19, 2016, followed by a very pleasant wine and canapé evening, attended by some 200 employees, past and present, friends and clients, old and recent, during which many spoke of their fond memories of his tenure of well over 50 years.
Tragically, very soon after retirement, the cruel and indiscriminating disease Alzheimer’s took hold, leading to his death. His beloved wife, Terry, predeceased him four months earlier.