Frank Langstone

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Frank Langstone
Frank Langstone.jpg
9th Minister of External Affairs
In office
1 April 1940 – 21 December 1942
Prime MinisterPeter Fraser
Preceded byMichael Joseph Savage
Succeeded byPeter Fraser
25th Minister of Native Affairs
In office
1 April 1940 – 21 December 1942
Prime MinisterPeter Fraser
Preceded byMichael Joseph Savage
Succeeded byRex Mason
30th Minister of Lands
In office
6 December 1935 – 21 December 1942
Prime MinisterMichael Joseph Savage
Peter Fraser
Preceded byAlfred Ransom
Succeeded byJim Barclay
11th President of the Labour Party
In office
18 April 1933 – 3 April 1934
Vice PresidentClyde Carr
LeaderMichael Joseph Savage
Preceded byRex Mason
Succeeded byTim Armstrong
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Roskill
In office
27 November 1946 – 30 November 1949
Preceded byArthur Richards
Succeeded byJohn Rae
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Waimarino
In office
14 November 1928 – 27 November 1946
Preceded byRobert Smith
Succeeded byPaddy Kearins
In office
7 December 1922 – 4 November 1925
Preceded byRobert Smith
Succeeded byRobert Smith
Personal details
Born10 December 1881
Bulls, New Zealand
Died (aged 88)
Auckland, New Zealand
Political partyLabour (1916–1949)
Other political
Social Credit (1957–1969)
Agnes King
(m. 1906; died 1946)

Mollie Nolan
(m. 1952)

Frank Langstone (10 December 1881 – 15 June 1969) was a New Zealand Member of Parliament, Cabinet Minister and High Commissioner to Canada.


Early life[edit]

Langstone was born in Bulls probably on 10 December 1881.[1] He was the fourth of five children to Charles Walter Langston, a vet, Margaret McDermott, a seamstress. His father abandoned the family and not long after his mother died on 23 December 1890. His older sister Katherine took care of the family, thus financial pressures prevented him having a proper education, though he was an extensive reader. Eventually he went into foster care where he continued self educating himself before he became an apprentice blacksmith.[2]

In around 1906 Langstone moved to Masterton where he became the proprietor of the refreshment rooms at the railway depot, and later ran a billiard saloon. On 24 April 1906 he married Agnes Clementine King, they had five sons and two daughters.[2] He was involved with setting up the left-wing Maoriland Worker newspaper in 1910.

He later became a shearer and was involved in the Wellington branch of the New Zealand Shearers' Union before moving to Te Kuiti, in the King Country in 1913 to run a local restaurant. He briefly lived in Auckland before returning to Te Kuiti in 1918 to become the proprietor of a railway restaurant in Taumarunui, and a fish-and-chip shop in 1919.[3][4] After joining the Shearers' Union Langstone became politically active, joining the first Labour Party in 1910 and then the Social Democratic Party (SDP) from 1913, of which he was president of the Te Kuti branch. He was a foundation member of the Labour Party in 1916 after it absorbed the SDP.[2]

Political career[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1922–1925 21st Waimarino Labour
1928–1931 23rd Waimarino Labour
1931–1935 24th Waimarino Labour
1935–1938 25th Waimarino Labour
1938–1943 26th Waimarino Labour
1943–1946 27th Waimarino Labour
1946–1949 28th Roskill Labour

Member of Parliament[edit]

Langstone first contested the Waimarino electorate in the 1919 election, but was beaten by the incumbent, Robert William Smith of the Liberal Party.[5][6] Langstone and Smith contested Waimarino at the 1922 election and this time, Langstone was successful.

Throughout his parliamentary career Langstone consistently advocated for the creation of a state-owned bank, development of lands for agriculture, a financial safety net for farmers. He held the electorate until 1925 when he was defeated, returning to the Taumarunui restaurant, which Agnes managed during his time in Parliament. In 1926 he was unsuccessful in seeking the Labour nomination for the Eden by-election.[2] He won back Waimarino in 1928, this time holding it until 1946.[7] He then switched to the Auckland electorate of Roskill from 1946 to 1949.[7]

Langstone was President of the New Zealand Labour Party from 1933 to 1934.[4] During this time he became influenced by the Social Credit ideas of C. H. Douglas, which were to form the basis of all his subsequent party policy ideas.[2] In 1935, he was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal.[8]

He was described as "a cheerful, shortish extrovert with a better brain than most people thought he had". As he was deaf, he was allowed to listen to debates in the chamber on a small radio with headphones. When a dull back-bencher was on, he was known to tune into livelier commercial stations, when he would beat time to the music with his hands.[3] Langstone was an impressive orator, as adept at Robert Semple and John A. Lee at engaging with the public. Despite this, his pursuit of ideas and views (particularly on financial matters) which were not shared by his more senior colleagues prevented him being appointed to more influential roles.[2]

Cabinet Minister[edit]

He was appointed Minister of Lands and Commissioner of State Forests from 1935 to 1942 by Michael Joseph Savage during the First Labour Government. He impressed senior civil servants with his administrative abilities and had particular concerns regarding soil erosion, river control and afforestation.[2]

When Peter Fraser succeeded Savage, he appointed Langstone Minister of External Affairs, Native Minister and Minister for the Cook Islands from 1940 to 1942.[9][10] In April 1942 Fraser appointed him New Zealand's first High Commissioner to Canada.[4] He returned after only six months later, he resigned from cabinet and publicly alleged that Fraser had double-crossed him after promising him the position of Minister to the United States which was given to Walter Nash instead. In September 1943 The Evening Post newspaper claimed that Langstone had been recalled because of serious misconduct. Langstone sued the paper for libel and was awarded £200 in damages in February 1944.[2]

After the expulsion of John A. Lee, Langstone became recognized as the leading voice of the radical wing of the Labour Party. Consequently, he missed election to cabinet after the 1946 election. He also opposed New Zealand joining the International Monetary Fund.[2] In 1947 Langstone proposed that the government make the state-owned Bank of New Zealand the sole legal issuer of bank credit over loans and overdrafts in an attempt to secure state control over the means of exchange. The proposal was contentious, only three other Labour MPs openly supported the idea, and was rejected as too radical however.[11]

Split from Labour[edit]

In 1949 Langstone resigned from the Labour Party over the issue of peacetime conscription.[4] Later that year he stood in the Roskill electorate as an Independent but was defeated; coming third with 1097 votes after John Rae (National, 7372 votes) and James Freeman (Labour, 5957 votes). During the 1951 New Zealand waterfront dispute he published a pamphlet opposing the heavy-handed emergency regulations imposed by the First National Government.[2] In both the 1957 and 1960 general elections he stood for Social Credit in Roskill.[4] At the Riccarton by-election in 1956 he made several speeches in support of the Social Credit candidate Wilfrid Owen.[12]

Later life and death[edit]

Agnes died on 5 August 1946 and he remarried in Auckland on 11 January 1952 Frank to Catherine Mary "Mollie" Nolan.[2]

Langstone died of a heart attack on 15 June 1969 in Auckland, survived by Mollie, and three sons and two daughters from his first marriage. His ashes were buried at Purewa Cemetery, Auckland.[2][13]

Further reading[edit]

  • Hobbs, Leslie (1967). The Thirty-Year Wonders. Christchurch: Whitcombe and Tombs.
  • The 1949 General Election by S.E. Fraser (1967, MA Thesis-University of Otago, Dunedin)
  • The Last Years of the First Labour Government 1945-1949 by R. McLennan (1963, MA Thesis-University of Auckland, Auckland)
  • The Expulsion of John A. Lee and its Effects on the Development of the Labour Party by B.S. Taylor (1970, MA Thesis-University of Canterbury, Christchurch)


  1. ^ "Langstone, Frank (Hon), 1881-1969". Alexander Turnbull Library. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Verran, David. "Langstone, Frank". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 18 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b Hobbs 1967, pp. 126,127.
  4. ^ a b c d e Gustafson 1980, p. 159.
  5. ^ The New Zealand Official Year-Book. Government Printer. 1920. Archived from the original on 1 September 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2013.
  6. ^ "The Polling". Otago Daily Times (17811). 18 December 1919. p. 6. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  7. ^ a b Wilson 1985, p. 211.
  8. ^ "Official jubilee medals". The Evening Post. 6 May 1935. p. 4. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
  9. ^ New Zealand Parliamentary Debates, Vol. 260-261 (1940-1942).
  10. ^ Wilson 1985, pp. 82f.
  11. ^ Verran, David (2004). "Bank Nationalisation and Conscription, 1944 -1949". Retrieved 17 August 2019.
  12. ^ "Riccarton Goes To The Polls Tomorrow". Evening Post. 26 October 1956. p. 12.
  13. ^ "Burial & cremation details". Purewa Cemetery and Crematorium. Retrieved 3 April 2016.


Political offices
Preceded by
Michael Joseph Savage
Minister of External Affairs
Succeeded by
Peter Fraser
Minister of Native Affairs
Succeeded by
Rex Mason
Preceded by
Alfred Ransom
Minister of Lands
Succeeded by
Jim Barclay
Commissioner of State Forests
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Robert William Smith
Member of Parliament for Waimarino

Succeeded by
Robert William Smith
Succeeded by
Paddy Kearins
Preceded by
Arthur Shapton Richards
Member of Parliament for Roskill
Succeeded by
John Rae
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill Jordan
President of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
Tim Armstrong
Diplomatic posts
New title High Commissioner to Canada
Succeeded by
Robert M. Firth