William Napier (lawyer)

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William Napier (1804–1879), was a lawyer and newspaper editor in Singapore, also Lieutenant-Governor of Labuan.

At least two of Macvey Napier's sons lived in Singapore in its early days. David Skene Napier, a merchant, was one of the first magistrates appointed by Raffles in 1823. William followed in 1831 and was appointed as Singapore's first law agent in 1833.[1] He was also one of the two founders of the Singapore Free Press, and edited that weekly newspaper until 1846, when he returned to the UK for health reasons.

William had befriended James Brooke in Singapore and, on being appointed Governor of the new British colony of Labuan in 1847, Brooke chose him to be his deputy as Lieutenant-Governor. However, Brooke summarily dismissed Napier in 1851 for alleged misconduct. Napier remained in Singapore as Attorney.[2]

William was the first Chairman of the Straits Settlements Association, set up in London in 1868.[3]

William had a daughter, Catherine (1829–1851), by a Eurasian woman from Malacca. In 1844, he married the widow of architect George Coleman and adopted her son, George Vernon Coleman. They soon had a son, James Brooke, but he died young and is commemorated by the largest monument in Fort Canning Park; a daughter, Maria J., was born in 1846, and they had two more sons in England (Robert J. in 1860, and Harry B. in 1861). In 1848, Catherine met Hugh Low, the Colonial Secretary to Labuan, on the sea-voyage from England to Labuan to establish the new government: they were married, en route, in Singapore.[4]

William Napier is commemorated in Singapore by Napier Road.


  1. ^ "40 Law Society and Legal Firsts Facts". Law Gazette. Retrieved 2012-02-19. 
  2. ^ East India Register and Army List, 1855
  3. ^ Buckley,C.B. An Anecdotal History of Old Times in Singapore
  4. ^ Reece,R.W.H. & Cribb,P.J. A Botanist in Borneo (2002)