Stanley Whitehead

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Sir Stanley Austin Whitehead (8 October 1907 – 9 January 1976) was a New Zealand politician of the Labour Party. He was the fifteenth Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1972 to 1975, and Member of Parliament for the Nelson electorate from 1957 to 1976.

Early life and family

Whitehead was born in Reefton, on the West Coast of New Zealand. He was brought up in the mining town of Waiuta, and left school at the age of 14. In 1928, he married Frances Edna Clark, at Greymouth and later moved to Inangahua Junction. They had seven children together. He worked for Transport Nelson. Through his links with the trade unions he moved to Nelson. He served on the Nelson City Council as Deputy Mayor, on the Nelson Harbour Board, and on several school boards. He was the patron of several sporting clubs, including rugby, boxing, soccer, marching, bowls, and rugby league.

Whitehead played rugby league for Inangahua and Blackball on the West Coast as a Five-eighth. He later was a referee and controlled provincial matches.[1]

Political career

New Zealand Parliament
Years Term Electorate Party
1957–1960 32nd Nelson Labour
1960–1963 33rd Nelson Labour
1963–1966 34th Nelson Labour
1966–1969 35th Nelson Labour
1969–1972 36th Nelson Labour
1972–1975 37th Nelson Labour
1975–1976 38th Nelson Labour

Whitehead was first elected to Parliament in the 1957 election in the Nelson electorate. He held the electorate until his death in 1976.[2]

Whitehead featured along with Sonja Davies in protests over the closure of the Nelson railway line, which Davies wrote about in her book Bread and Roses, and also in the television series of same name.

In 1972, Whitehead was asked by Prime Minister Norman Kirk to become the Speaker of the House of Representatives during the Third Labour Government.[3] Whitehead hosted Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip at the 1974 Commonwealth Games and had the duty of presiding after the death of Kirk later that year. Following his death, he was succeeded as Speaker by Roy Jack.[3]

He was knighted in 1976 in recognition of his long public service to central and local government.[2] Less than a week later, at the age of 67 years, he died of a heart attack while welcoming a British ship HMS Berwick.

The outpouring of grief from the local people was unprecedented as Nelson stopped for his service which was relayed by loud speakers to the thousands lining the streets outside Nelson Cathedral. Large crowds lined the streets to show their respect when the funeral procession passed.


  1. ^ Lion Red Rugby League Annual 1994, New Zealand Rugby Football League, 1994. p.209
  2. ^ a b Wilson 1985, p. 245.
  3. ^ a b Wilson 1985, p. 251.


  • Wilson, James Oakley (1985) [First ed. published 1913]. New Zealand parliamentary record, 1840–1984 (4 ed.). Wellington: V.R. Ward, Govt. Printer. OCLC 154283103.
  • Who's Who in New Zealand, 10th Edition 1971.
Political offices
Preceded by
Alfred Allen
Speaker of the New Zealand House of Representatives
Succeeded by
Roy Jack
New Zealand Parliament
Preceded by
Edgar Neale
Member of Parliament for Nelson
Succeeded by
Mel Courtney
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