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Sir Harold Crisp (1874–1942)

by Christine Wood

This article was published:

Sir Harold Crisp (1874-1942), judge, was born on 27 July 1874 in Hobart, eldest son of David Henry Crisp, solicitor, and his wife Mary, née Burdon. Educated at the High School and Christ's College, Harold, following family tradition, studied law, and on 14 July 1891 was articled to his father. On 16 April 1896, after topping the examinations in general literature and law, he was admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court and entered into partnership with his father. Next year Harold was in practice in Zeehan but returned to his Hobart partnership in 1898. On 21 March 1899 at Holy Trinity Church, Hobart, he married Harriette, daughter of A. Page, M.L.C.; they had two daughters and a son.

Crisp distinguished himself early at the Bar; he acquired repute for industry and brilliance, and by 1904 was appearing regularly in important cases. In 1904 and 1905 he acted for the plaintiff in the Supreme Court case of Enever v. The King, an attempt to establish the relation of master and servant between the Crown and a constable, and one of the few Tasmanian cases taken up as precedent case-law in other law jurisdictions. Tall, well-built and handsome, with a magnificent voice and great command of language, he was witty but never unkind, and had a passion for accuracy and punctuality. He worked hard, but never to the neglect of his family. On 1 August 1914 he was appointed a puisne judge of the Supreme Court of Tasmania and on 2 November a member of the Executive Council.

In 1924 Crisp was acting chief justice when the centenary of the establishment of the Supreme Court was celebrated at a special sitting of the Full Court in Hobart, and he acted as administrator of the government in 1930 when the chief justice, Sir Herbert Nicholls, was absent through illness. Appointed chief justice of Tasmania on 21 December 1937, he was knighted the following June. In July 1939 he was granted leave of absence due to ill health, and moved to Double Bay, Sydney, where he retired on 14 April 1940. He died there suddenly on 12 May 1942 and was cremated. His wife and younger daughter predeceased him.

In his youth Crisp had been a fine all-round sportsman, excelling in football and tennis. In his twenty-five years on the bench his integrity, courtesy and patience earned him a rare respect and affection both from the legal profession and the public. His successor as chief justice, Sir John Morris, stated, 'confidence was universal that in his Court, justice would be done'.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of Tasmania (Hob, 1931)
  • R. L. Wettenhall, ‘A case of wrongful arrest’, PTHRA, 19 (1972), no 4
  • Mercury (Hobart), 9 June, 11 July 1938, 15 July 1939, 13 May 1942
  • Examiner (Launceston), 9, 10 June 1938
  • Advocate (Hobart), 11 July 1938, 13 May 1942
  • PD 1/616/164, and GO 98/1 (Archives Office of Tasmania)
  • private information.

Citation details

Christine Wood, 'Crisp, Sir Harold (1874–1942)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 22 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

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