GVS was the founder of Katikati. Having first visited New Zealand and decided Katikati was the ideal site, he brought out the first party of 238 settlers on the Carisbrook Castle in 1875. They were followed, three years later, by the second party of 378 immigrants on the Lady Jocelyn. He was elected first Mayor of Tauranga in 1882, and later served as member and chairman of the Tauranga County Council for several terms, was proprietor of the Bay of Plenty Times and held many other public positions.
He enthusiastically advocated a Tauranga – Rotorua railway which was never built. He built his first home, Mount Stewart, on the northern side of Ongare Point, but moved to Martray, a house on Kauri Point built for his aged parents who were members of the second party.
GVS became a patriarchal figure in Katikati in his later years. He died in 1920, aged 87. He is portrayed leaving his home to go to one of the numerous meetings he attended. The epergne, an elaborate silver table centrepiece visible through the window, was given by his friends and tenants when GVS left Northern Ireland in 1875.
Artist Fee (Josephine) Simon grew up in Kenya, moved to England as a teenager and came to New Zealand in 1982 when she was already an established portrait artist. Now living in Auckland, Fee continues to expand her artistic skills in etching and engraving.