The Mrs Chippy Project placed a life sized bronze statute of Harry McNeish's cat 'Mrs Chippy' on his owner's grave and also carried out needed restoration work on the grave and headstone. The project was undertaken by the New Zealand Antarctic Society.
Mrs Chippy was a cat taken aboard the Shackleton's Endurance expedition by its carpenter Harry McNeish. He was a tabby described as "full of character" by members of the expedition (Chippy's mate was not a lady but a gentleman).
When the Endurance was crushed in the sea ice and then sank, it was clear that Mrs Chippy would not survive. Shackleton ordered him shot along with the pups and later the rest of the dogs.
Mrs Chippy's death affected McNeish greatly and most of those who had been aboard the Endurance where he had become a well-loved and most popular shipmate.
The loss of his cat was something for which McNeish never forgave Shackleton and mourned the rest of his life.
In 1959 the Society provided a headstone for the grave of McNeish. Now, inspired by an idea conceived by Caroline Alexander, author of Endurance and Mrs Chippy's Last Expedition, the Society has undertaken to put a commemorative statue on the grave.
We are delighted to honour McNeish in this way and to unite him with his mate from the Endurance.
Harry McNeish - During the 1914-1916 Trans Antarctic Expedition, McNeish was chosen by Shackleton to be one of six members of the crew who sailed the whaleboat James Caird on the epic journey form Elephant Island to South Georgia during April 1916. McNeish came to New Zealand in 1925 and worked on the Wellington waterfront for the New Zealand Shipping Company. Harry McNeish died in Wellington in 1930 at the age of 56 and is buried in the Karori Cemetery in Wellington.
Endorsement by Caroline Alexander
- Caroline says, "from an early stage in my research I was struck by the number of amused and affectionate references to this characterful explorer - Mrs Chippy". She found it powerfully haunting that McNeish always mourned the loss of Mrs Chippy.
"I believe it is most appropriate to create a commemorative statue of Mrs Chippy.
Sculpture Chris Elliott - artist, of Haumoana, Hawkes Bay, was commissioned to create a bronze, life-size sculpture of Mrs Chippy.
"I was impressed by Mrs Chippy's adventurous nature, and the friendship between the cat and his mate on such an arduous voyage", said Chris. "I would like people to come upon the grave and be surprised to find a cat resting, its face alert, its body relaxed as if he were lying on McNeish's bunk".