DOIDGE, Sir Frederick Widdowson
Politician and journalist.
A new biography of Doidge, Frederick Widdowson appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
F. W. Doidge was born in Cootamundra, New South Wales, on 26 February 1884, the son of Edwin Doidge, a New Zealander. Doidge had little formal education, not enjoying good health, and on several occasions had to be sent to New Zealand to recuperate. He left Sydney in November 1902 in s.s. Elingamite which was wrecked on the Three Kings. Doidge got away in the second officer's boat and, after a trip of about 30 hours, during which a woman passenger died, it reached Houhora and brought the first news of the disaster.
Doidge had worked on his father's newspaper, the Cootamundra Liberal, and so took up journalism, working first on the Patea and Waverley Press and later on the Auckland Star. During 1908 and 1909 he represented this paper in the Parliamentary Press Gallery and eventually became chief of the Star reporting staff. He played an important part in the formation of the New Zealand Journalists' Association in 1912 and was elected its first president.
Early in 1915 the Star nominated him for the post of official New Zealand war correspondent, but he was not successful and joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force early in 1916. Doidge went overseas later in the year, serving first in the N.Z.E.F. Headquarters in London and later in Divisional Headquarters in France. In 1918 he was demobilised to serve with the British Ministry of Information, where he came under the notice of Lord Beaverbrook. He joined the circulation department of the Daily Express, later being associated with the management of the Sunday Express and of the Evening Standard. He was a director of London Express and Evening Standard companies. Doidge took a leading part in Beaverbrook's campaign for Empire Free Trade, but in 1934 he became manager of Lane Publications, the Express book department. In 1935 he retired on pension and returned to New Zealand.
Later that year he stood for the Rotorua seat as an Independent, coming second to the Labour candidate, and leading the official National candidate. The following year he was again unsuccessful as National candidate at the Manukau by-election. He was for a time a member of the Dominion Council of the National Party and took an active part in its formation. At the 1938 general election he contested the Tauranga seat, defeating the sitting Labour member easily. He held the seat with large majorities in the following three elections.
When the National Party won the 1949 election, Doidge was included in the Holland Cabinet as Minister of External Affairs, and of Broadcasting. He represented New Zealand at the meeting of Commonwealth Foreign Ministers held at Colombo in 1950, which considered proposals for what is now called the Colombo Plan to assist Asian countries economically, and to prevent the spread of communism. Doidge was the New Zealand spokesman in the discussions about the Japanese peace-treaty terms and the ANZUS (tripartite pact concerning security) Pact, and also attended two meetings of the United Nations Assembly.
In June 1951 he was appointed High Commissioner for New Zealand in the United Kingdom and resigned his seat to take up his duties in September 1951. He held the post until his death on 26 May 1954. He was created K.C.M.G. in January 1953. Doidge married Lyle Eirene Clark in 1909; there was no family.
Doidge was a good debater, master of the telling phrase, a man who took pains to understand any matter with which he had to deal. The wide knowledge of world affairs he possessed enabled him to make sound decisions as Minister of External Affairs.
by James Oakley Wilson, D.S.C., M.COM., A.L.A., Chief Librarian, General Assembly Library, Wellington.
- The Times (London), 27 May 1954 (Obit)
- Evening Post, 27 May 1954 (Obit).