Law Hall of Fame logoOne of New Zealand's finest lawyers and founder of the present Wellington law firm Chapman Tripp, Leonard Owen Howard Tripp was much more than just a solicitor.

Born in 1862 at Melbourne, Australia, Leonard Tripp was the son of Charles George Tripp, who emigrated to New Zealand from England in 1854, a year after being called to the bar at Lincoln's Inn.

This son of a English barrister, Leonard Tripp was sent to Cambridge University, England to get his law degree and was called to the bar at Christchurch High Court, New Zealand in 1887.

In 1889, he joined what would become Chapman Tripp with his partner Martin Chapman (himself the son of a well-traveled and distinguished father, Henry Samuel Chapman, 1803-1881). The law firm later built Brandon House to house the firm (in 1910), now a heritage site in Wellington.

Leonard TrippBut it was in his personal friendship and assistance to the great British explorer Ernest Shackleton during the First World War that Leonard Tripp came to international fame.

In 1915, Shackleton's Ross Sea Party had become stranded on Antarctica trying to set up food depots for Shackleton's subsequent project to be the first man to walk across the ice-covered continent, the ill-fated Trans-Antarctica Expedition. The ice around Antarctica was not yet well known and once the men dropped off, the supply ship Aurora found itself in distress, unable to wait, and forced to retreat to resupply in New Zealand. Ten men were abandoned at Cape Evans, Antarctica, to face the polar continent's winter wrath.

Not only was Shackleton himself stranded and thus ex communicado, but his expedition was insolvent. With the war effort on, the British government could not spare money or ships to rescue the men stranded on Antarctica.

Tragedy was averted when Tripp, then a well-known and connected Wellington, New Zealand barrister, as Shackleton himself later described it:

"... who, when the Expedition was in precarious and difficult circumstances, ... gave his whole time and advice to the best interests of our cause."

When the supply ship was in port at Wellington, the captain did what he could to raise money for a rescue mission. Tripp picked up the cause and lobbied the New Zealand government hard. The captain was required to relinquish his command but in the end, a successful rescue occurred.

Tripp was the savior. Not only were his lobbying efforts successful but he managed the abrasive personality of Shackleton who, insolvent as the mission was, and coming off a completely unsuccessful expedition with men in two locations now needing rescue in time of war, was hardly in a position to negotiate terms. When in New Zealand, Shackleton would stay at Tripp's residence.

In 1909, Shackleton named a bay Tripp Bay and an island there situated, Tripp Island (76°38′S 162°42′E).

Tripp practised law with Chapman Tripp for 69 years.

REFERENCES:

  • Chapman Tripp - webpage
  • McElrea, R. and Harrowfield, D., Polar Castaways - The Ross Sea Party (1914-17) of Sir Ernest Shackleton (Montreal: McGill-Queen's Press, 2004).
  • Shackleton, Ernest, South: The Last Antarctic Expedition of Shackleton and the Endurance (London: Heinmann, 1919)
  • The Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1914-1917 at South-Pole.com
  • Tyler-Lewis, K., The Lost Men: The Harrowing Saga of Shackleton's Ross Sea Party (New York: Viking Press, 2006).
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENTS to Ms Di Campbell of Australia for her help in tidying up this article.