William Snodgrass was there one minute and gone the next.
Which might not be unusual in a missing person’s case except he was on the ferry between Wellington and Nelson at the time.
William Wallace Snodgrass was born in Liverpool in England in 1870, the son of Robert Snodgrass and Dorothy Barker. He attended school there until, aged 10, his family moved to Nelson, New Zealand.
In 1896 he married Sarah Annie Frankham and they had three daughters and two sons - one of whom was All Black Wallace Frankham Snodgrass.
Snodgrass worked as a member of his father’s merchant firm R. Snodgrass and Sons in Nelson. He also became a city councillor and then contested the mayoralty several times before being elected mayor from 1917 to 1921.
He was appointed to the Legislative Council by the Governor-General in 1921, reappointed in 1928 and again in 1935.
He was also president of the Nelson Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Nelson Harbour Board, Patriotic Society, and War Funds Council.
He had received an MBE for his patriotic work during World War I and the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal.
All of which he would be remembered for - except for the strange way he vanished.
Snodgrass was aboard the Arahura, a steam powered passenger and cargo ship that routinely ran between Wellington and Nelson.
On March 20, 1939, Snodgrass was travelling to Nelson. He had supper with the Master, Captain Hay and retired to his cabin. He was sharing it with a Walter S Dillon who said when he went to bed Snodgrass was in his bunk reading.
But in the morning Snodgrass was not there. All his clothes and belongings were still in his cabin.
Ironically during his time as Nelson's mayor he often spoke out and campaigned for a better ferry service between the two islands.
Oddly three years later his daughter, Florence, also died at sea. She had married Colonel C. S. J. Duff, Commander of the New Zealand Artillery and had been serving in the WAAF in England. She lost her life when SS Port Hunter was torpedoed and sunk by U-582 in the Atlantic north-west of the Canary Islands on 11 July 1942.
We usually say where someone is buried but of course, official records list Snodgrass as lost at sea.