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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 9, Issue 10 (January 1, 1935)

An Impression of Frank Thomson, C.M.G. — First Permanent Head of the Prime Minister's Department

page 46

An Impression of Frank Thomson, C.M.G.
First Permanent Head of the Prime Minister's Department.

Life's race well run, Life's work well done, Life's crown well won—now comes rest.”

The late Mr. Frank Thomson.

The late Mr. Frank Thomson.

FrankThomson lived in his work and his work lived in him—and lives after him. He loved his work, and in it he was loved by many hundreds of folk, in and out of the State Service. It was big work for New Zealand, big work for the Empire, done with cheerful, tireless efficiency through many difficult years.

How many people felt that they had lost a real friend when they read the sad news of that sudden end of a remarkable career of public usefulness! For it was the way of Frank Thomson to win friends rather than to make acquaintances. He was kindness personified. He found
A scene in the Southern Alps shewing Mt. Cook (12,349ft.), South Island, New Zealand. (Rly, Publicity photo.)

A scene in the Southern Alps shewing Mt. Cook (12,349ft.), South Island, New Zealand. (Rly, Publicity photo.)

happiness in giving the best of service to others, not with any thought of gaining any advantage for himself, but wholly in a generous spirit of helpfulness.

Frank Thomson was more than an important officer of State; he was an institution, a type apart, changeless—always animated by an intense devotion to duty, which dominated his life.

That oft-heard definition of genius—“an infinite capacity for taking pains”—could be well applied to Frank Thomson. No mass of detail ever dismayed him or worried him. He went into it with the sweeping, clean-cutting efficiency of a modern reaping-machine in a harvest field. He really enjoyed hard tasks. It was that innate sense of mastery which he knew would triumph over all difficulties. He did not stand long gazing at a high hurdle. Quickly, carefully, he gauged the height, and over he went in an agile easy spring.

He had so many things to do accurately and well, so many people to remember, each at the proper time and place, that one wondered how his nervous system could hold through the long-sustained strain. He was a power-station with a far-spread reticulation; but he did not break down. His working motto was: “Thorough”; nothing must be left half-done or poorly done.

Thought flies back to a typical crowded day in the busiest period of the Massey regime. Picture the Prime Minister's chief of staff at his desk under the outstretched wings of a big albatross. In front of him is a telephone switch-board with many buttons. Frank Thomson is keeping two stenographers going at full speed between the numerous telephone calls, the summons of Mr. Massey's bell in the adjoining room, and the many interruptions of Members of Parliament, departmental heads and other visitors who wish to see the Prime Minister. Indeed, the Secretary's room is practically a corridor, full of traffic which should have been extremely distracting, exasperating, but it did not ruffle Frank Thomson, who had a monumental calmness in the swirl. No frown of irritation or vexation came upon his broad brow. He evidently regarded the frequent interruptions as part of the day's work, and he carried on smoothly from one task to another, hour after hour.

Many people saw that working demonstration of imperturbable efficiency. Individually they have a debt of gratitude to an inspiring worker—and they know that New Zealand as a whole owes him much more, for he did truly and gladly give his powerful life to his country.