Born in Ramsgate, the son of a lifeboatman, he was apprenticed as a coach painter, but then joined the Metropolitan Police Force. He became a PM local preacher at an early age and remained an active churchman. Emigrating to New Zealand in 1904, he became a trader in Waihi and Secretary of the New Zealand Labour Party when it was formed in 1907. He was wounded during service in France in World War I, entered the New Zealand Parliament in 1922 and became President of the Labour Party. From 1936 to 1951 he was High Commissioner in London, representing New Zealand at many international conferences and at the 1946 Paris Peace Conference. He was President of the League of Nations Council in 1938. On retirement he was knighted and returned to live in Auckland., where he died on 8 April 1959.