Harry Atmore

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Harry Atmore c. 1930's

Harry Atmore (14 December 1870 – 20 August 1946) was a New Zealand Independent Member of Parliament for Nelson in the South Island.

Harry Atmore held the Nelson seat as an Independent for a total of thirty years from 1911 to 1914 and then from 1919 to his death in 1946. He was Minister of Education and Minister in charge of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR) in Sir Joseph Ward's United Government of 1928 to 1931, and the acting Prime Minister of New Zealand for approximately five months between 25 August 1930 and 21 January 1931.

Early years[edit]

Born in Nelson, in 1870, Atmore attended the Nelson Public School and represented the province in rugby. He moved to Wellington and spent eight years there as an apprentice signwriter and decorator. After his apprenticeship, Atmore returned to Nelson and established his own signwriting and decorating business.[1]

Atmore was prominent in local affairs. He was a member of the Nelson Licensing Committee, Education Board and Hospital Board. In 1905, he was elected to the Nelson City Council. Later, he served on the Nelson College Council of Governors and Cawthron Institute Trust Board.

Member of Parliament[edit]

Parliament of New Zealand
Years Term Electorate Party
1911–14 18th Nelson Independent
1919–22 20th Nelson Independent
1922–25 21st Nelson Independent
1925–28 22nd Nelson Independent
1928–31 23rd Nelson Independent
1931–35 24th Nelson Independent
1935–38 25th Nelson Independent
1938–43 26th Nelson Independent
1943–46 27th Nelson Independent

Atmore unsuccessfully contested the Nelson seat in 1902, 1905 and 1908 against the Liberal John Graham. In 1911 he became Nelson's Member of Parliament. He lost the election in 1914, but returned to parliament in 1919 after unsuccessfully contesting the Wellington Central 1918 by-election.

Atmore served as Nelson's representative until his death in 1946. He was buried at Wakapuaka Cemetery.[2]


Atmore's political independence was always discernible. He believed that politicians should be, first and foremost, representatives of the people. That when elected they should put principle before party: Atmore resigned as Minister of Education in 1931 when cuts were proposed for his portfolio, something which he opposed.[3]

Harry Atmore read and thought widely. He was one New Zealander who was looking for solutions to problems within the altered economic, social and political context of inter-war New Zealand. He believed it was important to be informed on the issues of the day including monetary reform, international rearmament and the pivotal role of the USSR in any crisis.

In 1935, he was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal.[4]

Robert Chapman comments on Harry Atmore:[5]

Nelson even shares with Hobson a record of preferring political idiosyncrancy. Nine times out of ten between 1911 and 1946 Nelson voted for Harry Atmore, who confounded cynics by moving to the Left politically as he got older. Having begun as an Independent Liberal, he thereafter passed through many shades of independence to finish as his own variety of consistently pro-Labour M.P.


  • "This Debt Slavery" by Harry Atmore, M.P. and John A. Lee, M.P. (1940 Budget Speeches, Commercial Printing & Publishing, Auckland).
  • "The Mortgage Corporation Bill" by Harry Atmore, M.P. and Capt. Harold Rushworth, M.P. (A copy is held at the Macmillan Brown Library, University of Canterbury, Christchurch).
  • "You and the USSR" by Harry Atmore, M.P. and 'Uncle Scrim' i.e. Colin G. Scrimgeour (1941, Society for Closer Relations with Russia, Wellington).


  1. ^ Tunnicliff, Shirley. "Atmore, Harry". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 3 July 2011. 
  2. ^ "Cemeteries database". Nelson City Council. Retrieved 29 September 2014. 
  3. ^ Courtney, S D (n.d.). Harry Atmore: Independent in Politics (Report). University of Canterbury. p. 21. 
  4. ^ "Official jubilee medals". The Evening Post CXIX (105). 6 May 1935. p. 4. Retrieved 2 July 2013. 
  5. ^ New Zealand Politics in Action: The 1960 General Election by R M Chapman, W K Jackson and A V Mitchell p213 (1962, Oxford University Press, London)

External links[edit]

See also[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
John Graham
Member of Parliament for Nelson
Succeeded by
Thomas Field
Preceded by
Thomas Field
Succeeded by
Edgar Neale
Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Wright
Minister of Education
Succeeded by
Robert Masters