Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.

JORDAN, Sir William Joseph, P.C., K.C.M.G.

(1879–1959).

New Zealand High Commissioner in London (1936–51).

A new biography of Jordan, William Joseph appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

Jordan was born at Ramsgate, Kent, on 19 May 1879, the son of Captain William Joseph Jordan, a lifeboatman, and of Eliza, née Catt. He was educated at St. Elizabeth's Parochial School, Old Street, London, and in 1892 apprenticed to a coach painter, but soon gave this up to join the Metropolitan Police in which he served as a constable. He emigrated to New Zealand in 1904, where he worked as a labourer in the Manawatu, Nelson, and Wellington districts. He then entered business as a trader at Waihi, later moving to Ngaruawahia, where he married Winifred Amy (died 1950), daughter of Louth Bycroft.

When the New Zealand Labour Party was formed in 1907, Jordan became first secretary. He volunteered with the 1st NZEF in 1914, serving as a sergeant in France, where he was wounded. He defeated Sir Frederick Lang for Manukau in 1922, remaining a member of the House of Representatives until 1936. He attended the Empire Labour Party Conference in Canada (1928) and became president of the New Zealand Labour Party in 1933. When Labour took office in 1935 he accepted the High Commissionership in London, a post he occupied from 1936 to 1951. There he strode on to a world stage, acting as New Zealand representative at international conferences, and becoming president of the League of Nations Council in 1938. He remained in London throughout the war, representing New Zealand at the Paris Peace Conference in 1946. He became K.C.M.G. in 1951. On his return to Auckland, he resumed an active business career, and served on local bodies. There he married, in 1952, Mrs Elizabeth Ross Reid. He died in Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Auckland, on 8 April 1959.

Forthright in all his opinions (he saw no inconsistency in combining the functions of Methodist lay preacher with those of Anglican church warden), Jordan became a legend in his lifetime. His inflexible rule that New Zealand politics did not exist in London endeared him to all who met him, while his easy approachability went far to ease the lot of thousands of New Zealand servicemen who were in London during the war. He left an estate valued at £28,040, and directed that the “Jordan Fruit Panel Bowl”, originally presented to him by the London Fruit Panel, should be a trophy for cricket matches between England and New Zealand teams, on the lines of the Australian “Ashes”.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • Dominion, 9 Apr, 21 May 1959 (Obit)
  • The Times (London), 9 Apr 1959 (Obit).


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This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

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