Robert McKeen

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Robert McKeen

Robert McKeen, 1935.jpg
Robert McKeen in 1935
12th Speaker of the House of Representatives
In office
24 June 1947 – 3 November 1949
Prime MinisterPeter Fraser
Preceded byBill Schramm
Succeeded byMatthew Oram
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Wellington South
In office
7 December 1922 – 4 November 1946
Preceded byGeorge Mitchell
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
Member of the New Zealand Parliament
for Island Bay
In office
27 November 1946 – 5 October 1954
Preceded byNew constituency
Succeeded byArnold Nordmeyer
Personal details
Born12 July 1884
Edinburgh, Scotland
Died5 August 1974(1974-08-05) (aged 90)
Otaki, New Zealand
Political partyLabour Party

Robert McKeen CMG (12 July 1884 – 5 August 1974) was a New Zealand politician of the Labour Party. He was Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Early life[edit]

He was born in 1884 in Edinburgh and received his education in West Calder, West Lothian, Scotland.[1][2] In Scotland, he was active in the labour movement, and worked as a grocer's assistant in a co-operative store.[1] He emigrated to New Zealand in 1909, and worked in coal mines on the West Coast before moving to Wellington,[3] and a grocery store. He was a union official.[2]

Political career[edit]

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1922–1925 21st Wellington South Labour
1925–1928 22nd Wellington South Labour
1928–1931 23rd Wellington South Labour
1931–1935 24th Wellington South Labour
1935–1938 25th Wellington South Labour
1938–1943 26th Wellington South Labour
1943–1946 27th Wellington South Labour
1946–1949 28th Island Bay Labour
1949–1951 29th Island Bay Labour
1951–1954 30th Island Bay Labour

In the 1919 election, McKeen organised the campaign of the Labour Party in Wellington.[1] He first stood for the House of Representatives in the 1922 election and was successful.[4] He was the Member of Parliament for Wellington South from 1922 to 1946, then Island Bay from 1946 to 1954, when he retired.[5] McKeen was Labour's junior whip in 1935 and 1936, and its senior whip in 1937 and 1938.[6] He was Chairman of Committees from 1939 to 1946.[7] Subsequent to that, he was the twelfth Speaker of the House of Representatives, from 1947 to 1950.[8]

He was on the Wellington City Council for 18 years, and the Wellington Harbour Board for nine years.[2] Bob Semple and McKeen were the only Labour city councillors during 1927–1929, and they were also parliamentary colleagues. They were close friends, and retired from parliament at the same time.[9] McKeen stood for the Wellington mayoralty and the Council in 1941, but was defeated by the incumbent Thomas Hislop in a swing against Labour. He also lost his seat on the council, although he was the highest polling candidate not elected, and in 1938 he had been the second highest-polling candidate elected.[10] He was Mayor of Otaki for six years in the 1950s.[2][11]

In 1935, McKeen was awarded the King George V Silver Jubilee Medal.[12] He was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in the 1960 Queen's Birthday Honours, for services in public affairs as a trade unionist, Member of Parliament and Speaker of the House of Representatives.[13]

Family and death[edit]

He married Jessie Russell, the daughter of Robert Russell.[3] He died in Otaki on 5 August 1974, and was buried at the Kelvin Grove Cemetery in Palmerston North.[11][14]


  1. ^ a b c "New Members". The Press. LVIII (17633). 9 December 1922. p. 15. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d Verran, David. "Robert McKeen (1884–1974)". Trade Union. Archived from the original on 25 October 2009. Retrieved 17 July 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Biographies of Former and Current Speakers of the New Zealand House of Representative". New Zealand Parliament. pp. 5f. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  4. ^ "New Parliamentarians". Auckland Star. LIII (291). 8 December 1922. p. 4. Retrieved 17 March 2015.
  5. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 215.
  6. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 280.
  7. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 252.
  8. ^ Wilson 1985, p. 250.
  9. ^ Hickey 2010, pp. 196, 238.
  10. ^ Yska 2006, p. 160.
  11. ^ a b "Former Labour speaker dies". Auckland Star. 7 August 1974. p. 3.
  12. ^ "Official jubilee medals". The Evening Post. CXIX (105). 6 May 1935. p. 4. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  13. ^ "No. 42053". The London Gazette (3rd supplement). 11 June 1960. p. 4015.
  14. ^ "Cemetery and cremation detail – McKeen, Robert". Palmerston North City Council. Retrieved 17 March 2015.


Political offices
Preceded by
Ted Howard
Chairman of Committees of the House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Clyde Carr
Preceded by
Bill Schramm
Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Matthew Oram
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
George Mitchell
Member of Parliament for Wellington South
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for Island Bay
Succeeded by
Arnold Nordmeyer
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bill Jordan
Senior Whip of the Labour Party
Succeeded by
James O'Brien