PILLIET, Walter Hippolyte
Early settler and journalist.
Walter Hippolyte Pilliet was born in 1840 at Lyons, France. He was the son of Chevalier Jean Hippolyte Pilliet (1793–1881), a French Army officer who had distinguished himself at Waterloo and who later became a General and Aide-de-Camp to King Louis Philippe. His mother, Anna, daughter of Walter Hill Coyney, of Weston Coyney, was an aunt of Sir Charles Clifford. Pilliet was educated in France and at Rugby and served for a short time in the French Navy. About 1855 he came to New Zealand, where he was a cadet on his cousin's Flaxbourne estate in Marlborough. In 1856 he became a clerk in the Hawke's Bay Crown Lands Office, where he acted as private secretary to Sir Donald McLean. Later he occupied a similar clerkship in the Wellington Crown Lands Office. In 1864 he became Warden of the Pelorus Goldfields, but he subsequently transferred to Havelock where he combined the duties of Resident Magistrate, Collector of Customs, Registrar of Births, Deaths, and Marriages, Licensing Officer, Postmaster, Coroner, Warden, and Returning Officer. From 1870 to 1873 he held similar positions in the French settlement at Akaroa, where his knowledge of languages put him at ease both with British and with French residents.
On 11 April 1874 Pilliet was returned to represent the Bays electorate in the Canterbury Provincial Council and he retained this seat until 1876. Afterwards he settled in Christchurch, where he edited the first Sun newspaper. On 9 December 1881 he was elected to represent Stanmore in the House of Representatives. A few months later he was unseated on a petition, but was re-elected and remained in the House until 27 June 1884. During most of his term in Parliament, Pilliet edited the Evening Post. He did not seek re-election in 1884, but remained in Wellington where he died on 7 November 1885 – a victim of the typhoid epidemic.
Pilliet was married twice: first, at Nelson in 1864, to Mary Ann Johnstone, and, secondly, in 1872, to Agnes, daughter of Ebenezer Hay, of Pigeon Bay, Banks Peninsula. He left two sons and three daughters by his first marriage.
Walter Pilliet impressed all who knew him by his ability and tact and there is little doubt that, had he lived longer, he might have attained one of the highest positions in the country.
by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.
- Evening Post, 15 Jul 1961.