Mr Dickson was a native of Markethill, Co. Armagh where he was born into a Presbyterian home and was taught the Scriptures and the fear of God. In 1889 a faithful gospeller amongst Baptists commenced tent meetings in the district. God wrought in a marked way and many, including John Dickson, were saved. The converts were encouraged to commence testifying almost at once and this they did in cottages, schoolhouses, and Orange Halls, God blessing their simple words and saving others. Thus early in Johns heart there was begotten a love for gospel work, which marked him all his days.
He was a carpenter by trade, and accepting a position in Omagh he went there to work. It was while there that he was introduced to assembly matters, and in 1906 was received into the local assembly, forming links with Mr J Quinn and Mr W Rodgers and other godly men, links he cherished throughout life. He learned more of Gods ways and further interested himself in the gospel, "ceasing not to preach". It was soon evident to all that God had more in mind for him than the necessary and honourable tools of the carpenter, and in 1904 he left the cutting and shaping of the timber to go out into the forest of humanity and, by the power of the gospel and the Word of God, to hew timbers and shape them for the building of God, and in this he was highly favoured and blessed.
His early preaching career was in Ireland both North and South, preaching in whatever kind of building he could get the people into. He, with his fellow labourers, often lived in the tent and knew what it was to "endure hardness", but God was with him, people were saved, and assemblies formed, while those in existence were helped spiritually and numerically. The assembly at Drumacanver was one of the first to be planted as result of his work. The table made by him is still being used by the assembly in their new hall.
In 1910, three assemblies in Belfast commended him to the work of the Lord in America, and leaving his native shore he sought to reach out to the multitudes on the American Continent. For well over half a century he laboured with unabated zeal "in season and out of season" companying with men of God like Mr W J McClure, Mr Ben Bradford, Mr Sam Greer, the McEwen brothers, and many more, ever with a single eye to the glory of God and the blessing of others. He pioneered in Nova Scotia with Mr L K McEwen and Mr W N Brennan, and assemblies formed in those days still carry on in the ways of God.
In 1912, he returned to Ireland, and on February 1913 was united in marriage to Miss Margaret McClelland of Belfast. God blessed the union and gave them five children. In 1916 he returned to the USA and continued from that time to preach in an ever widening sphere of service taking in much of the North American Continent. In 1919-1920 he and Mr Brennan were the first assembly preachers to pioneer in Newfoundland: others followed and assemblies were formed. In 1933, he had an outstanding series of meetings in Toronto, Ontario. For sixteen weeks he preached nightly, and such was the interest that a theatre had to be hired to accommodate the crowds. Very many of the converts were later to be found in the Toronto assemblies.
In New England, Texas, Chicago, Detroit, California, and Virginia he also saw special seasons of blessing. As well as being a gospeller and a true shepherd, he was interested to do some writing and in some places was lovingly described as "the brethren historian". He wrote an interesting book about Mr McClure, and his last book was entitled John Knox McEwen and pioneer work in Nova Scotia. He was a big man in many ways, not only physically, but large-hearted as well. He travelled extensively in the USA and Canada, and was well acquainted with most of the assemblies and labourers, and while often grieving over many things, in his heart he had a place for all of these and longed to see them doing well. Being himself a pioneer in early and difficult days he knew the ruggedness of the path for such workers, even today, and many a young preacher in an out of the way place received timely gifts from him with words of cheer. Eternity alone will reveal the full value of such men and their unremitting interest.
He made several visits to Ireland and was ever a welcome visitor; his bright and smiling countenance, his hearty handshake, and his clear remembrance of friends caused him to be endeared to the saints. At conference meetings and the normal assembly gatherings, he was happy amongst his brethren enjoying the good things of God. He made his last visit in 1966, when it was clearly seen that the years were taking their toll. Toward the end of his stay he seemed to want to linger on "the old sod" as if feeling it was farewell, and he was reluctant to go, but he was still busy and helpful. Visiting a seaside town and seeing an assembly open air meeting in progress, he at once stood by, and when asked to give a word he readily agreed. His good appearance and trumpet like voice attracted a fine crowd and it was inspiring to stand aside and listen as the old gospel fire seemed to burn afresh in the now aged preacher and saints thanked God when unsaved people asked to speak to him after the meeting.
Returning to his home in the States he was able for a little while to travel and preach, but while "the spirit was willing the flesh was weak". At Atlanta, Georgia, where he had made his home for nine years, he was suddenly and peacefully called home on 25th August, 1968. At the funeral services a number of his esteemed brethren took part. Many travelled long distances to honour the memory of a true evangelist and faithful servant of God.