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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


THORN, James


Labour leader and politician.

A new biography of Thorn, James appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

James Thorn was born in Christchurch in 1882 and educated at the Christchurch Boys' High School. He volunteered for service in the South African War and, after his return, went to work in the Addington Railway Workshops. He became secretary of the Metal Workers' Union and, in 1905, contested Christchurch South as a Labour candidate, polling over a thousand votes. In 1907-08 Thorn organised the Canterbury farm labourers. He was elected chairman of the Canterbury Trades and Labour Council and of the Independent Political Labour League, and he again contested Christ-church South in 1908. The following year he left for Britain where he worked as a Labour propagandist until his return to New Zealand in 1913.

Thorn then joined the staff of the Maorland Worker. In 1916 he was sentenced to a year's imprisonment for an anti-war speech in Auckland. He edited the New Zealand Worker from 1921 to 1932, and held many offices in the Labour Party. In 1935 he was elected to Parliament for Thames, a seat he held until 1946. He served as Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Prime Minister (P. Fraser) between 1943 and 1946, and in 1947 was appointed High Commissioner in Canada. In 1949 he was Chairman of the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Thorn returned to New Zealand in 1950 and devoted himself to the work of the United Nations Association and to writing on international affairs and labour history, including a biography of Peter Fraser. He died in Wellington in 1956.

by Herbert Otto Roth, B.A., DIP.N.Z.L.S., Deputy Librarian, University of Auckland.

  • Evening Post, 21 Nov 1956 (Obit).


Herbert Otto Roth, B.A., DIP.N.Z.L.S., Deputy Librarian, University of Auckland.