Dinah Elizabeth Sowter (later Dinah Elizabeth, Lady Pearce) was married to William Pearce (1833 – 1888), director of the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company in Govan, on the Clyde. When William died, aged just 55, he left an estate in excess of a million pounds to his wife. This was a quite extraordinary sum at the time, exceeding a billion pounds in today’s money.

Dinah was a famously generous lady who in her own lifetime supported a variety of philanthropic causes. Much of her philanthropy took place in Scotland, where her husband had built his fortune. She established the Pearce Institute in 1906 containing a library and public meeting spaces that continue to serve the people of Govan today. She also pioneered a ‘Fresh Air Fortnight Scheme’ which gave hundreds of children from poor areas of Glasgow the opportunity to convalesce at the coast or the country. In the North East, she is remembered for leaving a large endowment to St John’s College, Durham University. St John’s was established as a theological college in 1909 and became a full constituent college of Durham in 1919.


Govan Remembers WW1. (2015). Lady Pearce 1836 – 1918, Available here (Accessed: 17/05/2018).

The Pearce Institute. (2018). Lady Pearce – Pearce Institute, Available here (Accessed: 17/05/2018).

Whiting, C.E. (1932). The University of Durham 1832-1932, London: The Sheldon Press, pp. 173-174.

Wikipedia. (2018). Dinah Elizabeth Pearce. Available here (Accessed: 17/05/2018).

Wikipedia. (2018). Sir William Pearce, 1st Baronet. Available here (Accessed: 17/05/2018).