Vigor Brown

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Vigor Brown
Vigor Brown, 1910.jpg
Vigor Brown in 1910
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Napier
In office
1908 – 1922
8th Mayor of Napier
In office
In office
In office
Personal details
Born (1854-06-18)18 June 1854
Died 2 September 1942(1942-09-02) (aged 88)
Political party Liberal

John Vigor Brown (18 June 1854 – 2 September 1942), known as Vigor Brown,[1] was a New Zealand Member of Parliament for Napier, in the North Island. He was Mayor of Napier for a total of 18 years. He was a well-known figure in his adopted city, a successful businessman, and involved in many clubs and organisations.

Early life[edit]

Brown was born in London in 1854. For his parents, Jessie Gilmour and John Brown, it was their third boy and last child.[2] Both parents had Scottish ancestry. His father worked for a bank, and was later a commercial traveller. The family briefly lived in France before emigrating to Victoria, Australia. John Vigor Brown, his brothers and their mother arrived in Melbourne on 22 January 1862 on the Water Nymph. It is assumed that his father was already there. They made their home in South Yarra. He was educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School.[3]

Professional career[edit]

Brown learned the trade of a wholesale merchant (clothing) at the firm Sargood, King and Sargood in Melbourne. He came to Wellington in 1875.[4] For two years, he worked for the Wellington firm of A. P. Stewart and Company as a travelling sales person.[5] His next employment brought him to Napier, where he remained for the rest of his life. He became branch manager for Archibald Clark and Sons, an importing company.[3] He resigned from that position in May 1898[6] and took on the management of Neal and Close, where he was managing director at a later point. He formed his own company, J. Vigor Brown and Co. He was further managing director of White Swan Brewery, and Hawke's Bay Soap and Tannery. He was a director of the Napier Gas Company.[5] He was the local agent for the United and Phoenix Fire Insurance Companies.[6]

Local body politics[edit]

He was voted onto the both the Napier Harbour Board and the Napier Borough Council in 1898.[3][6] He was chairman of the Harbour Board from February 1904 until April 1911.[7] He was a member of the Chamber of Commerce.

He was elected Mayor of Napier in April 1907.[1] He was mayor for three periods: 1907–1917, 1919–1921 and 1927–1933.[8] The 1931 Hawke's Bay earthquake fell into Brown's last period, and temporary governance arrangement included a Napier Citizens' Control Committee, followed by a two-man Government Commission. J. S. Barton and L. B. Campbell were farewelled by the mayor in May 1933, when their term ended and the municipal affairs once again rested with the borough council.[9][10] The resulting mayoral election was contested by the incumbent and C O Morse, the chairman of the Earthquake Relief Committee.[11] The election caused great interest, and Morse and Brown received 4110 and 1808 votes, respectively. At the time, mayoral elections were held every two years, but the 1931 election had been skipped due to the earthquake.[12][13] While mayor Brown was involved in the new Hawke's Bay Rugby League and helped them secure access to McLean Park in 1911.[14]

Member of Parliament[edit]

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
1908–1911 17th Napier Liberal
1911–1914 18th Napier Liberal
1914–1919 19th Napier Liberal
1919–1920 20th Napier Liberal
1920–1922 Changed allegiance to: Reform
1910 calendar showing Liberal Party MPs; Brown is in the left column second from the top

The Napier electorate had been held since the 1899 election by Alfred Fraser. Fraser stood again in the 1908 election, but although he was with the Liberal Party, Brown also contested the electorate as a Liberal.[15] Brown won the contest with a majority of 1035 votes (3803 votes to 2768).[16][17]

In the 1911 election, Brown was challenged by H. T. Hill. Both men were supporters of the current Liberal government. Brown and Hill received 3858 and 2825 votes, respectively.[17][18]

Brown successfully contested the 1919 election for the Liberal Party,[19] but the party's leader, Joseph Ward, failed to win re-election in the Awarua electorate. When Thomas Wilford became leader later in 1920, Brown objected[20] and transferred his allegiance to the Reform Party.[21]

Brown served in the New Zealand House of Representatives for fourteen years from 1908 to 1922.[22] He contested the 1922 election as the official candidate for the Reform Party[21] and of the four candidates, he came last.[23]


Brown married Caroline Balaclava Cook, daughter of the late John Cook of Auckland, on 27 November 1880 at St John's Church in Napier.[2] They had four daughters and two sons before Caroline died from peritonitis on 6 September 1891 at the young age of 36. He remarried on 19 September 1894 to Violet McConechie Bogle. There were no further children from this second marriage.[3]

In 1910, Brown had a 31' launch built for the family, named Water Nymph after the ship used for his emigration to Victoria during his childhood.[24]

His second wife predeceased him on 23 February 1924. Brown died on 2 September 1942 in Napier, where he had lived since 1877. After his death, his family took on the surname Vigor-Brown.[3]


  1. ^ a b "History". Napier City Council. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  2. ^ a b "Marriage". Hawke's Bay Herald XXI (5845). 3 December 1880. p. 2. Retrieved 10 December 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Axford, C. Joy (1 September 2010). "Brown, John Vigor - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Retrieved 8 December 2010. 
  4. ^ Hamer, David Allan (1988). The New Zealand Liberals: the Years of Power, 1891-1912. Auckland University Press. p. 361. ISBN 1-86940-014-3. 
  5. ^ a b "Obituary". The Evening Post. CXXXIV (56). 3 September 1942. p. II. Retrieved 10 December 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c Cyclopedia Company Limited (1908). "Mr. J. Vigor Brown". The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Taranaki, Hawke’s Bay & Wellington Provincial Districts. Cyclopedia Company Limited. p. 316. Retrieved 10 December 2010. 
  7. ^ "Ladies, Gentlemen and Others". NZ Truth (334). 18 November 1911. p. 4. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  8. ^ "Previous Mayors". City of Napier. Retrieved 6 November 2010. 
  9. ^ "History of Napier City Council". Napier City Council. Retrieved 1 November 2010. 
  10. ^ "Napier Commissioners". The Evening Post CXV (111). 13 May 1933. p. 12. Retrieved 8 December 2010. 
  11. ^ "Contests at Napier". The Evening Post CXV (93). 21 April 1933. p. 8. Retrieved 8 December 2010. 
  12. ^ "Results Elsewhere". The Evening Post CXV (103). 4 May 1933. p. 13. Retrieved 8 December 2010. 
  13. ^ "Many new members chosen". The Evening Post CXV (103). 4 May 1933. p. 13. Retrieved 8 December 2010. 
  14. ^ David Evans
  15. ^ "Hawkes Bay". The Evening Post. LXXVI (107). 2 November 1908. p. 2. Retrieved 10 December 2010. 
  16. ^ "Napier Seat". The Evening Post. LXXVI (123). 23 November 1908. p. 7. Retrieved 10 December 2010. 
  17. ^ a b "Hawke's Bay Province". Otautau Standard and Wallace County Chronicle VII (344). 12 December 1911. p. 1. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  18. ^ "Election Campaign". The Evening Post. LXXXII (123). 21 November 1911. p. 3. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  19. ^ "The Napier Seat". Wairarapa Daily Times 45 (13985). 22 November 1919. p. 5. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  20. ^ "Leader of the Liberals". The New Zealand Herald LVII (17596). 8 October 1920. p. 6. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  21. ^ a b "General Elections". The New Zealand Herald LIX (18223). 17 October 1922. p. 6. Retrieved 18 December 2014. 
  22. ^ Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. p. 186. OCLC 154283103. 
  23. ^ Hislop, J. (1923). The General Election, 1922. Government Printer. p. 2. Retrieved 6 December 2014. 
  24. ^ "Parade of Classic & Wooden Boats Lake Rotoiti North Island, New Zealand". Lake Rotoiti Classic and Wooden Boat Association. Retrieved 10 December 2010. 
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Alfred Fraser
Member of Parliament for Napier
Succeeded by
Lewis McIlvride
Political offices
Preceded by
Samuel Carnell
Mayor of Napier
Succeeded by
Henry Hill
Preceded by
Henry Hill
Succeeded by
J B Andrew
Preceded by
J B Andrew
Succeeded by
C O Morse