Dixon was the third generation owner of the coal and iron firm of William Dixon Ltd, which had been built up by his grandfather and father. He assumed control on the death of his father, William Dixon, in 1859. The firm had long been in the vanguard of developments in the iron industry and in Dixon’s hands it went from strength to strength. Govan Iron Works, popularly known as “Dixon’s Blazes”, lit up the Glasgow sky for many years.
A shadow was cast over the firm by the Blantyre Colliery explosion in 1877, Scotland’s worst pit disaster, in which 207 men died. Thirty-four widows and their children were subsequently evicted from their tied cottages. Dixon only lived for another three years following the disaster. Although his death at 56 years old was apparently down to the significant quantities of coal dust exposed to, it is often also said he was devastated by the impact of such loss of life in his workplace.