The old saying you can't keep a good man down seems to fit former Masterton Mayor Bob Francis like a glove.

About to go on sale is a biography of his life, well it is more than that, more a story about his love affair with Masterton which continues to this day.

Titled Bob Francis: A Story of My Town, and written by Times-Age sports editor Gary Caffell the book faithfully documents the extraordinary life of this energetic man who, at 73 years of age, is still putting in at a time when he would have every excuse to put his feet up by the fire.

The book covers all the major milestones in Francis' life from his years as a state house kid from a large family through his lengthy service as mayor, his involvement in the major issues of that time including the police fire bombings in the late 1980s, the Judd Rd mass murders, the closure of Waingawa Freezing Works, his flirtation with national politics, his work with Pukaha Mount Bruce and Wairarapa District Health Board and his devotion to rugby as one of the world's leading referees.


It is well recorded in local history how the Labour Party shocked the electorate in 2005 by rejecting Francis as its Wairarapa candidate when he was thought to have been a shoo-in.

What is not so widely known is that far from breaking Francis' heart it simply allowed him to shrug it off and get on with other things.

His close friend, former National Party MP and cabinet minister Wyatt Creech recalls in the book how he called on Francis in the immediate aftermath of the rejection to commiserate.

"I had thought about what to say to cheer him up. Things like 'you wouldn't have liked it Bob, the House and its crazy carry-on would have driven you mad.

"But I need not have bothered.He was not downcast at all, quite upbeat actually.

"He said 'relieved I didn't make it, Wyatt, like so many things in life it has all worked out for the best'."

A surprise though, is the revelation the National Party had actually tried to woo Francis into standing, in 2002.

Georgina Beyer had thumped National's Paul Henry in 1999 and National wanted someone who could knock her off her perch.


They canvassed Francis, floating the idea he switch allegiance and stand for Wairarapa in their colours.

It is a measure of the man he could not bring himself to turn his back on the Labour Party, especially as his dad Charlie had been a staunch Labourite, hardly ever missing a campaign meeting.

"Dad was passionate about Labour and it wouldn't have sat well for me to stand for anybody else.

"I could just imagine the earful he would have given me had I done that."

There are some lovely insights into the character of the man in the section of the book dealing with his love of rugby.

Francis played in the lower grades but, being an asthmatic since childhood, was unable to push on further as a player so he took up refereeing when he was 18.


He rose through the ranks to referee senior games, then provincial matches, and finally international clashes at one time being rated world number one referee, and going on in later years, to help appoint World Cup referees.

Author Caffell has approached many retired players asking them for their observation on Francis as a referee.

- Francis: A Story of My Town is published by Lansdowne Books and the recommended retail is $40.