Page 1: Biography
Feaver, Samuel Russell
Farmer, pharmacist, veterinary surgeon, photographer
This biography, written by Kelvin Day, was first published in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography in 1998.
Samuel Russell Feaver was born on 5 February 1878 at St Leonards, Sussex, England, one of seven children of John Feaver, a chemist, and his wife, Kate Toomer Russell. Sam was educated at Highbury House School, Hastings, and began his apprenticeship as a pharmacist. In 1895 the family emigrated to New Zealand. They arrived in Wellington in August, then travelled by steamer to New Plymouth. Soon they moved to Opunake, a small coastal town in south Taranaki, where John purchased a pharmacy and took up a bush section.
Sam Feaver gained practical farming experience in nearby districts and, with his brother, Richard, began clearing and putting into pasture his father's section. Initially the two brothers lived in a tent. When the homestead was built, they and the rest of the Feaver family lived in it until John purchased a house in Opunake in 1900. For a short period Sam managed a pharmacy in Hastings, Hawke's Bay. On 3 August 1904, at Pungarehu, he married Catherine Louisa Gwladys Layard. The couple settled on the Opunake farm and were to have 13 children.
After his father's health failed in 1912, Sam Feaver moved with his family to Opunake to manage the pharmaceutical, optical and photographic business which John Feaver had been operating successfully since 1895. At this time Sam also established a veterinarian practice.
A considerate man, Sam Feaver consistently placed the well-being of others, and of the animals under his care, before his own. Often, he would apologise to the beast he was treating for any discomfort he might be causing. On one occasion, after being crushed by a bull against yard railings and breaking three ribs, he commented, 'Poor old chap was frightened'. On another occasion he saved the life of a race-horse which had an abscess near its brain: after experimenting with skulls in the slaughter yards, he drilled one hole in its forehead and one under its chin for drainage. For his invention of a small curved scalpel, which could be used to make precise internal dissections, and his work on mastitis, he became a member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.
Sam was prominent in the area and was said to fill any role. In 1900 he had joined the Opunake Mounted Rifles as a volunteer for 12 months. During the 1918 influenza epidemic, in the absence of a local medical practitioner, Sam, together with a hospital matron, ran a 28-bed hospital in Opunake and visited the ill in surrounding districts. He was a commissioner of the Opunake Town Board for two terms during the 1920s and a director of the Opua Road Co-operative Dairy Company from 1919 to 1946. During the Second World War he was a member of the Home Guard, and one of his tasks was to make jam-tin hand-bombs, which were stored in caves along the Opunake Coast. He was a foundation member of the Opunake Hibernian Society and a member of the committee of St Joseph's Church and the church choir. An avid composer of doggerel verses, he would sing them while driving. Some were printed in the Opunake Times.
Shortly before his death at his home on 3 November 1946, Sam Feaver saw his last animal patient. From his bed he tended to a horse that had pushed its head through the open window of the bedroom. He was survived by his wife, six daughters and five sons. Sam Feaver and his father, John, left a legacy of glass negatives, housed in the Taranaki Museum, recording the people and events of Opunake and the surrounding districts from 1896 to 1942.