Arthur Porritt, Baron Porritt

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The Right Honourable
The Lord Porritt
Bt, GCMG, GCVO, CBE
Hgg-014.jpg
11th Governor-General of New Zealand
In office
1 December 1967 – 7 September 1972
Monarch Elizabeth II
Preceded by Sir Bernard Fergusson
Succeeded by Sir Denis Blundell
2nd Chairman of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games Federation
In office
1950–1966
Preceded by Sir James Leigh-Wood
Succeeded by Sir Alexander Ross
Personal details
Born (1900-08-10)10 August 1900
Wanganui, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand
Died 1 January 1994(1994-01-01) (aged 93)
London, UK
Nationality New Zealand
Profession Surgeon

Arthur Espie Porritt, Baron Porritt, 1st Baronet, Bt, GCMG, GCVO, CBE (10 August 1900 – 1 January 1994) was a New Zealand physician, military surgeon, statesman and athlete. He served as the 11th Governor-General of New Zealand between 1967 and 1972.

Early life[edit]

Porritt was born in Wanganui, New Zealand, the son of Ivy Elizabeth Porritt née McKenzie and Ernest Edward Porritt, a doctor. His mother died in 1914 during his first year at the Wanganui Collegiate School, and his father left soon after to serve in World War I. He became a keen athlete. In 1920 he began studying towards a medical degree at the University of Otago where he was a resident at Selwyn College). In 1923 Porritt was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship, and he studied medicine from 1924 to 1926 at Magdalen College, Oxford.

Sporting career[edit]

He represented New Zealand at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris, France, winning a bronze medal in the 100 metre dash,[1] the famed "Chariots of Fire" race; the winner was Harold Abrahams (1899–1978). The race took place at 7 pm on 7 July 1924. Abrahams and Porritt dined together at 7 pm on 7 July every year thereafter, until Abrahams' death. The race was later immortalised in the film Chariots of Fire, but due to Porritt’s modesty his name was changed to "Tom Watson".[2]

He also won two heats in the 200 m, but came fifth in the semi-final. Porritt was captain of the New Zealand team at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, but withdrew from the 100 m because of injury.

Porritt is only one of two people to have the rare honour of twice being the New Zealand flag bearer at Olympic Games, the other being Les Mills.[3]

After retirement from athletics Porritt was New Zealand's team manager at the 1934 British Empire Games in London and 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Porritt was the New Zealand member of the International Olympic Committee from 1934 to 1967. He was the first President of the IOC Medical Commission and served from 1961 to 1967.

Competition record
Men's athletics
Competitor for  New Zealand
Olympic Games
Bronze 1924 Paris 100 metres
World Student Games
Gold 1924 Warsaw 100 metres
Gold 1924 Warsaw 200 metres
Silver 1924 Warsaw 110 metres hurdles

He served as chairman of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games Federation from the 1950 Auckland games to the 1966 Kingston games.[4]

Medical career[edit]

He became a house surgeon at St Mary's Hospital, London, in 1926 and later that year was appointed surgeon to the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII.

During World War II Porritt served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, holding the rank of Brigadier, equivalent to a one-star General. He served in France until the evacuation from Dunkirk, then in Egypt, operating on seriously wounded soldiers from the North African campaign, and later landing in Normandy on D-Day.

He was King's Surgeon to George VI from 1946 to 1952, and was Serjeant Surgeon to Queen Elizabeth II until 1967.[2]

In 1955 he was called to Eastbourne by the suspected serial killer John Bodkin Adams, to operate on his patient Jack Hullett for colon cancer. The operation was a moderate success but the death of Hullett under Adams' supervision a few months later followed soon after by the death of his wife Bobby, led to Adams being put on trial for Bobby's murder in 1957. He was acquitted but is suspected in up to 163 deaths.[5]

Porritt was twice president of the Hunterian Society (once in 1951) and became president in 1960 of both the British Medical Association and the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the first person to hold the two positions simultaneously, and retained the presidency of the RCS until 1963.[2]

In 1966 he was elected president for two years of the Royal Society of Medicine but served only one year before leaving for New Zealand.

Honours[edit]

Porritt was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1943,[6] and promoted to Commander (CBE) in 1945.[7] He was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (KCMG) in 1950,[8] and was promoted to Knight Grand Cross (GCMG) in 1967. in 1957 he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO),[9] being promoted to Knight Grand Cross (GCVO) in 1970.[10] He was also made a Knight of the Order of St John of Jerusalem (KStJ) in 1957.[11]

Sir Arthur was created a Baronet 'of Hampstead' on 25 January 1963.[2][12] When he was elevated to be a Life Peer on 5 February 1973, he chose to honour his home town and was created Baron Porritt, of Wanganui in New Zealand and of Hampstead in Greater London.[13]

Governor-General[edit]

Sir Arthur Porritt visits Levin War Veterans Home. 23 July 1969

In 1967 Porritt returned to New Zealand to be appointed by the Queen on the advice of Prime Minister Keith Holyoake as the 11th Governor-General of New Zealand, and the first born in New Zealand.[2] His term marked a turning-point in the country's constitutional history: his successors have all been New Zealanders (although one of his predecessors, Lord Freyberg, moved to New Zealand when he was two).

Controversies[edit]

Prior to the 1969 general election in September of that year, Porritt sparked a heated debate with a Labour candidate Eddie Isbey when he argued in a speech to the Southern Cross Medical Care Society that the welfare state was "uneconomic".[14]

Later, Porritt's wife also created controversy, when she replied to a question on equal pay for women by stating "Perhaps when New Zealand, like India and Israel, produces a woman prime minister it will be time to call a halt to the emancipation movement".[14]

At his last Waitangi Day speech in 1972, Porritt caused more controversy by stating that: "Maori-Pakeha relationships are being dealt with adequately through the biological process of intermarriage".[14]

At the end of his term in September 1972 Porritt returned to England.

Memorials[edit]

In Christchurch, New Zealand, a park was aptly named Porritt Park in the suburb of Wainoni. The park surrounded by the Avon River became home to Canterbury Hockey, Canterbury Rowing, Canterbury Touch Rugby and also used as a venue for Cricket.

Freemasonry[edit]

He was a freemason. During his term as Governor-General (1968-1971), he was also Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New Zealand.[15]

Death[edit]

Lord Porritt died in London at the age of 93. His son is Jonathon Porritt, a well-known environmental activist.

Arms[edit]

Arms of Arthur Porritt, Baron Porritt
Arthur Porritt Arms.svg
Notes
The arms of Arthur Porritt consist of:
Crest
On a wreath Or and Gules, a dent Heraldic Antelope Gules armed Azure collared Or, holding a Torch of the last enflamed proper between two Fern Fronds Vert
Escutcheon
Or, a serpent in bend vert between two lions' heads erased gules, on a chief of the last two swords points upwards in saltire of the first, between as many roses argent both surmounted by another gules barbed and seeded proper
Supporters
On the dexter side an Eagle and on the sinister side a Tui Bird both proper
Motto
Sapienter et fortiter ferre

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Arthur Porritt Olympic Results". sports-reference.com. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Brett & Kate McKay (6 July 2010). "The Whole Man: 25 Men Who Cultivated Both Mind and Body". ArtofManliness.com. The Art of Manliness. Archived from the original on 9 July 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2010. 
  3. ^ "Mark Todd best bet to carry NZ's flag again". stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 2012-04-22. 
  4. ^ "The Story of The Commonwealth Games". Commonwealth Games Federation. Retrieved 26 June 2012. 
  5. ^ Cullen, Pamela V., "A Stranger in Blood: The Case Files on Dr John Bodkin Adams", London, Elliott & Thompson, 2006, ISBN 1-904027-19-9
  6. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35908. p. 859. 18 February 1943.
  7. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 36917. p. 670. 1 February 1945.
  8. ^ The London Gazette: no. 38929. p. 2778. 8 June 1950.
  9. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 40960. p. 5. 1 January 1957.
  10. ^ The London Gazette: no. 45110. p. 6039. 29 May 1970.
  11. ^ The London Gazette: no. 40972. p. 229. 8 January 1957.
  12. ^ The London Gazette: no. 42907. p. 909. 29 January 1963.
  13. ^ The London Gazette: no. 45901. p. 1797. 8 February 1973.
  14. ^ a b c Gavin Mclean (October 2006), The Governors, New Zealand Governors and Governors-General, Otago University Press, p. 281 
  15. ^ http://kenthenderson.com.au/m_papers03.html

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by
President, British Medical Association
1960–1963
Succeeded by
Preceded by
President, Royal College of Surgeons
1960–1963
Succeeded by
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Bernard Fergusson
Governor-General of New Zealand
1967–1972
Succeeded by
Sir Denis Blundell
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
New Creation
Baronet
(of Hampstead)
Succeeded by
unproven incumbent
(Jonathon Porritt)