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John "Jock" Mathison OBE JP (29 September 1901 – 12 October 1982) was a New Zealand politician of the Labour Party. He was famed for his skills as a chairman and well known for his "unmistakably Scottish" accent, eloquent speeches and dry sense of humour.[1]

John Mathison

John Mathison, 1959.jpg
Mathison in 1959
8th Minister of Transport
In office
12 December 1957 – 12 December 1960
Prime MinisterWalter Nash
Preceded byWilliam Goosman
Succeeded byJohn McAlpine
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Avon
In office
28 May 1947 – 25 November 1972
Preceded byDan Sullivan
Succeeded byMary Batchelor
Personal details
Born(1901-09-29)29 September 1901
Peebles, Scotland
Died12 October 1982(1982-10-12) (aged 81)
Christchurch, New Zealand
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)Agnes Anderson
ProfessionWool spinner


Early life and careerEdit

He was born in Peebles, Scotland in 1901. He worked as a shop steward for a wool mill where he first became involved in trade unionism, joining the National Union of General Workers. After being laid off from his job he emigrated to New Zealand in 1921. Shortly after arriving he married Agnes Anderson, a fellow Scottish emigrant whom he had met on the voyage.[1]

He then found employment as a woollen worker (spinner) at the Kaiapoi woolen mills. A short while later he briefly worked as an industrial insurance salesman before joining the Christchurch Tramways Board as a conductor in 1924, later becoming a tram driver. He became the president of the Tramway Workers' Union from 1928 to 1932. During his tenure as president there was a 10-day strike in 1932 protesting layoffs which failed and the 60 men were not reinstated. After being laid off himself from his job as a driver he was elected Chairman of the Tramways Board. He was also the chairman of the Christchurch Unemployed Workers' Union.[1]

He also worked for many years at the Christchurch Star-Sun newspaper as a publisher. He resigned from his role there upon his election to Parliament.[1]

Local politicsEdit

Mathison joined the Labour Party two weeks after arriving in New Zealand. He was a member of the Christchurch City Council from 1933 to 1958 when he resigned upon being elected a cabinet minister.[2]

He stood as the Labour Party's candidate for Mayor of Christchurch in the 1968 election, but was beaten by councillor Ron Guthrey.[3]

In 1933 he became a member of the Christchurch Transport Board and was a member, over separate spells, for decades. Following the 1980 local elections he was appointed chairman. He was still chairman at the time of his death.[1]

Member of ParliamentEdit

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1947–1949 28th Avon Labour
1949–1951 29th Avon Labour
1951–1954 30th Avon Labour
1954–1957 31st Avon Labour
1957–1960 32nd Avon Labour
1960–1963 33rd Avon Labour
1963–1966 34th Avon Labour
1966–1969 35th Avon Labour
1969–1972 36th Avon Labour

He unsuccessfully stood for the Hurunui electorate in 1946. He represented the Christchurch electorate of Avon from a by-election in 1947 to 1972, when he retired.[4] He became the chairman of the caucus transport committee and from 1952 until 1958 he was the Labour Party's junior whip.[5] For many years he was Parliament billiards champion, leading him to later become patron of first the Canterbury Billiards Association and later the New Zealand Billiards Council.[1]

He was a cabinet minister from 1957 to 1960 in the Second Labour Government.[4] Mathison served as Minister of Transport, Minister of Island Territories, Minister of Tourism and Minister of Civil Aviation.[6][1]

As Minister of Island Territories he did the preliminary work which lead to the independence of Western Samoa as well as establishing self-government in the Cook Islands. As Minister of Civil Aviation he was responsible for the arrangement that safeguarded New Zealand's interests in Tasman Empire Airways.[1]

When in opposition, Mathison was Shadow Minister of Transport, Marine, Railways and Tourism under Norman Kirk who had a fond respect for him, despite Mathison voting for Arnold Nordmeyer in the 1965 leadership challenge.[7] Kirk had wanted Mathison to remain in Parliament in order to appoint him Speaker of the House following a Labour victory, thinking that he would be 'firm but fair' to assist an inevitably inexperienced Labour government. However Kirk was unable to convince the party executive to overlook the statutory retirement age of 70 which necessitated Mathison's retirement.[8]

Later life and deathEdit

Mathison was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in the 1973 New Year Honours, for services to politics.[9]

After retiring from politics he was a board member of the New Zealand Ports Authority for three years. He also became a trustee of the Canterbury Savings Bank and was president of the board for two years.[1]

He died in Christchurch on 12 October 1982, aged 81. He was survived by a son and daughter.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Obituary - Mr Jock Mathison". The Press. 12 October 1982. p. 3.
  2. ^ "Councillors of the City of Christchurch". Christchurch: Christchurch City Council. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 17 August 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  3. ^ "Mr Guthrey Elected Mayor By Big Margin". The Press. CVIII (31809). 14 October 1968. p. 1.
  4. ^ a b Wilson 1985.
  5. ^ Wilson 1985, pp. 281.
  6. ^ New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Vols 318-326 (1958-1960).
  7. ^ Grant 2014, pp. 152.
  8. ^ Grant 2014, pp. 180-1.
  9. ^ "No. 45861". The London Gazette (2nd supplement). 29 December 1972. p. 34.


Political offices
Preceded by
William Goosman
Minister of Transport
Succeeded by
John McAlpine
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Dan Sullivan
Member of Parliament for Avon
Succeeded by
Mary Batchelor