Jim Thorn

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Jim Thorn
Jim Thorn.jpg
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Thames
In office
1935 – 1946
Preceded byAlbert Samuel
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
9th President of the Labour Party
In office
Vice PresidentJohn Archer
LeaderHarry Holland
Preceded byJohn Archer
Succeeded byRex Mason
Personal details
Born1 June 1882
Christchurch, New Zealand
Died21 November 1956 (1956-11-22) (aged 74)
Wellington, New Zealand
Political partyLabour Party
Other political
Social Democratic
Spouse(s)Margaret Thorn
Military service
AllegianceNew Zealand Army
Years of service1900-01
RankBritish Army OR-3.svg Bugler
Battles/warsBoer War

James Thorn (1 June 1882 – 21 November 1956) was a New Zealand politician and trade unionist. He was an organiser and candidate for the Independent Political Labour League, Social Democratic Party then the Labour Party.


Early life[edit]

Thorn was born in Christchurch, educated at Christchurch Boys' High School. He worked in the Addington Railway Workshops and as a journalist. Thorn was a bugler in the third New Zealand Contingent to the Boer War in 1900–1901; the experience turned him into a pacifist.[1] He was engaged in trade union and party activity, including 1909–1913 in England and Scotland.

He unsuccessfully stood for the Independent Political Labour League in the Christchurch South electorate in the 1905 and 1908 election. In 1907–08, he was President of the Independent Political Labour League.[1] In 1909, he went to England and then Scotland and worked for labour parties there.[2]

Political career[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1935–1938 25th Thames Labour
1938–1943 26th Thames Labour
1943–1946 27th Thames Labour

In 1914, he moved to Palmerston North and unsuccessfully stood in the 1914 election in the Palmerston electorate representing the new Social Democratic Party against the incumbent David Buick and two others, with Buick getting elected.[1][3]

He met his future wife while living in Palmerston North; Margaret Anderson (1897–1969), 15 years his junior, who had joined the Social Democratic Party with her father. The Thorns married on 8 December 1917 in Wellington.[4] He was imprisoned for opposing conscription in World War I.[1]

He was president of the Labour Party (1929–1931), and vice-president at various times (1925–1927; 1928–1929; 1936–1938), and national secretary (1932–1936).[5]

He unsuccessfully stood in the Otaki electorate in the 1931 election.[2] He represented the electorate of Thames from 1935 to 1946, when the seat was abolished.[6] From 1943 to 1946 Thorn was Under-Secretary to the Prime Minister.[7] In the 1946 election, he contested the Otaki electorate again, but was beaten by National's James Joseph Maher.[8]

Later life and death[edit]

From 1947 to 1950 he was High Commissioner to Canada, and was President of UNESCO in 1949.[2] In 1952 he wrote a biography of Peter Fraser and later published a history of the First Labour Government.[7]

Thorn died in 1956 and his ashes were buried at Karori Cemetery, Wellington.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d McAloon, Jim. "Thorn, James - Biography". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Gustafson, Barry (1980). Labour's path to political independence: The Origins and Establishment of the New Zealand Labour Party, 1900–19. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press. p. 168. ISBN 0-19-647986-X.
  3. ^ "North Island". Hawera & Normanby Star. LXVIII. 11 December 1914. p. 4. Retrieved 23 December 2011.
  4. ^ Locke, Elsie. "Margaret Thorn". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 23 April 2017.
  5. ^ Paul, J.T. (1946). Humanism in Politics: New Zealand Labour Party in Retrospect. Wellington, NZ: New Zealand Worker Printing and Publishing. p. 192.
  6. ^ Scholefield, Guy (1950) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1949 (3rd ed.). Wellington: Govt. Printer. p. 144.
  7. ^ a b "James Thorn, Labour Stalwart, Dies". The New Zealand Herald. 22 November 1956. p. 15.
  8. ^ Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand Parliamentary Record, 1840–1984 (4th ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. pp. 217, 240. OCLC 154283103.
  9. ^ "Cemeteries search". Wellington City Council. Retrieved 27 June 2015.

External links[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Albert Samuel
Member of Parliament for Thames
Constituency abolished
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Archer
President of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Rex Mason
Preceded by
Walter Nash
Secretary of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
David Wilson
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
David Wilson
High Commissioner to Canada
Succeeded by
Thomas Hislop