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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke's Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts]



From the date of the constitution of the Borough of Napier to the present time (1906) only seven gentlemen have occupied the Mayoral chair. For length of office the record made by Mr. G. H. Swan exceeds that of any other Mayor in New Zealand. The first Mayor of Napier was Mr. Robert Stuart, who held office from the 19th of January, 1875, to December, 1878. He was succeeded by Mr. J. H. Vautier, who was elected for three consecutive years ending the 29th of May, 1882. Mr. W. I. Spencer next filled the position from the 14th of June, 1882, to December, 1885. Then followed the record term of Mr. G. H. Swan, who was Mayor from the 16th of December, 1885, to April, 1901. During the following year the office was filled by Mr. J. C. McVay. He was succeeded by Mr. F. W. Williams, who occupied the chair for two years. Mr. S. Carnell, the present Mayor, has held office since April, 1904.

Mr. Robert Stuart, the first Mayor of Napier, held office from the 19th of January, 1875, to December, 1878, and was a member, ex officio, of the Hawke's Bay Provincial Council. He unsuccessfully contested the Napier seat in the House of Representatives against Sir Donald McLean, and for some years filled the position of Resident Magistrate at Napier. Mr. Stuart was a Scotchman by birth, and arrived in New Zealand about the year 1850. He settled in the South Island, where he engaged in sheep-farming. Subsequently he retired, and removed to Hawke's Bay, and died in Napier on the 7th of July, 1883, in the fiftieth year of his age.

Mr. John Helier Vautier was the second Mayor of Napier, and held office from December, 1878, to the 29th of May, 1882. He was born in Jersey, in the year 1834, and is a son of the late Mr. John Vautier, farmer, of St. Martin's. He was educated and brought up to the building trade in his native island, and in 1854 went to Liverpool, England, and sailed in the ship “Lightning” for Victoria. After a smart run of seventy-six days, the “Lightning” arrived in Melbourne, and there Mr. Vautier remained until 1855, when he left for Wellington in the brig “Onkaparinga,” reaching that port at the time of the disastrous earthquake which occured about three hours later. Mr. Vautier has very lively recollections of the effect produced on shore by the great shock. Towards the end of 1857 Mr. Vautier went to Nelson, and tried gold-mining at Collingwood, but soon after removed to Napier. Hawke's Bay was then a very sparsely-settled district, and when Mr. Vautier arrived, the hill, or collection of hills, which is now the pride of the borough, was covered with ferns. There was only one hotel in the town, and as the demand for houses and stores was great the advent of a builder was mutually satisfactory. As this demand slackened, Mr. Vautier entered into business as a coal and general merchant, and from this gradually became a ship-owner on a fairly large and remunerative scale. In 1885 he sold out his vessels, and since then has spent his time in looking after his landed properties, and serving the public in a variety of ways. On the occasion of the first Borough Council election, Mr. Vautier was returned at the head of the poll, and he was chairman of the public works committee until he was elected Mayor. He was made a life member of the Napier Harbour Board by the Governor, but on the repeal of the
Mr. J. H Vautier.

Mr. J. H Vautier.

page 312 Act, under which the appointment was made, he became a member by virtue of his office as Mayor; on the expiration of his ex-officio term, he was re-appointed by the Government, and was afterwards re-nominated to the Board from time to time. Mr. Vautier was one of the trustees of the Napier Savings Bank throughout its entire existence of thirty-six years. In the year 1861 he married a daughter of Mr. Edward Touet, a well-known and successful Nelson colonist. Mrs. Vautier died in November, 1893, leaving one daughter and three sons.

Dr. William Isaac Spencer, Napier's third Mayor, held office continuously for three years and a half. He was an army surgeon, attached to the 18th Royal Irish Regiment, and came to New Zealand with the troops that took part in the second Maori war. Subsequently, on account of his eminent qualities as a surgeon and physician, he was induced by the people of Napier to resign his commission, and to practise his profession in their town. Dr. Spencer was also a diligent scientist, who kept well abreast of the times in all matters of science, and who gave occasional lectures on scientific subjects. Two of his sons are following their father's profession, and a daughter is the Lady Principal of the Napier Girls' High School. Dr. Spencer died at Napier in the year 1897, at the age of sixty-five years.

Mr. George Henry Swan, who for sixteen consecutive years was Mayor of Napier, is referred to as a former member of the House of Representatives.

Mr. John C. McVay was Mayor of Napier from April, 1901, to April, 1902, and was formerly chairman of the public works committee of the Napier Borough Council. He was born in Auckland, and is the second son of the late Mr. John McVay, one of Auckland's early settlers, who arrived from New South Wales in the year 1841. Mr. McVay was educated at the Rev. John Gorrie's Academy, and was subsequently apprenticed to the saddlery trade. In 1873 he started the business which is now so extensively known, and in which he employs thirty persons. Mr. McVay has been a borough councillor for over twenty years, and was a member of all the standing committees of the Council, and chairman of those on which the Mayor did not sit. For several years he has been an active member of the Napier Harbour Board. Mr. McVay is president, and was formerly vice-president, of the Napier Park Racing Club, and is a director of the Hawke's Bay Permanent Building Society. Few movements for the advancement of the town and district have been inaugurated in which his ready assistance has not been available. He is a Freemason of many years' standing. In 1871 Mr. McVay married Miss Craig, of Belfast.

Mr. Frederic Wanklyn Williams, who was Mayor of Napier from the year 1902 to 1904, and who for several years represented the borough of Napier on the Napier Harbour Board, was born in Poverty Bay in the year 1854, and is the eldest son of the Bishop of Waiapu. Mr. Williams was educated at St. John's College, Auckland, and the Church of England Grammar School, Parnell. In 1873 he entered the mercantile house of Messrs Kinross and Company, general merchants, Napier, and remained with that firm until 1880, when he established himself in the business from which has sprung the important concern of Williams and Kettle, Limited, and of which he is the senior managing director. Mr. Williams is chairman of the Hawke's Bay Permanent Building Society, was a member of the Education Board for some years, and is president of the Napier Chamber of Commerce. In 1883 he married the daughter of Mr. J. B. Brathwaite, of Napier, late manager of the Union Bank of Australia, and has an only son.