New Zealand High Commission Honiara, Solomon Islands

Remembering Bridget Nichols

Remembering Bridget Nichols

Saturday 17 March marks the tenth anniversary of the death of Bridget Nichols, who was at that time Deputy High Commissioner in Honiara.

Locally engaged and seconded staff in Honiara will be gathering to remember Bridget on the 17th. We will plant a tree in her memory at the New Zealand compound on Panatina Ridge, where Bridget lived. With Bridget’s love of flowers in mind, we have chosen a frangipani.

Staff with the Ministry at the time will recall Ian Kennedy’s warm tribute to Bridget, which is reproduced below to remind us of the wonderful woman that Bridget was.

“AN ELEGANT, WARM-HEARTED WOMAN”
Exemplary diplomat, lawyer and human being.

Bridget Nichols
Born in England, 25 June 1951.
Died in Honiara, Solomon Islands, 17 March 2002, aged 50.

Possessed of remarkable personal qualities, Bridget Nichols served New Zealand with professionalism, extraordinary energy, courage and kindness. To her friends in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, both those who knew her well and those with whom she had only the briefest contact, Bridget always impressed with her strength of character and her determination to get the job well done. She impressed also with her commitment to the public good and human compassion for others at a personal level. Her death is a reminder to all that the foreign service can involve hazards – even to life itself. Bridget understood that, and expressed her own concerns about it, but she was never daunted. She accepted all the challenges of her job with total integrity, enthusiasm and good humour.

Bridget was a “participant” in the very best sense of the word. In her early days she was a Queen’s Guide and at St Annes’ Grammar School in Ealing, London she was an outstanding student, the leader of the school orchestra and the “Head of School”. Her love of music was life-long; for her farewell from her assignment in Ankara she arranged a string quartet to play for the guests. As a legal scholar her credentials were outstanding. After graduating Bachelor of Laws at Leicester University (1973) she came to New Zealand, being admitted to the degree of Master of Laws at Victoria University in 1975.

Before joining the Ministry, Bridget practised law as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of New Zealand. She was admitted also as a Solicitor by the Law Society of England, and as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court of Solomon Islands. She was a member of a number of professional legal organisations, and the Executive committee of the Wellington branch of the Commonwealth Trust. For all that, she was modest about her achievements.

Bridget’s early working contacts with the Ministry were in her capacity as Legal Adviser to the Solomon Islands Western Provincial Government, with which she worked under the auspices of New Zealand Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) from 1989 to 1991.

She joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in 1992 as a policy officer in the Ministry’s Legal Division. Before her assignment as Deputy High Commissioner in Honiara, Bridget served at New Zealand’s embassies in Mexico City and Ankara. Her responsibilities while in Ankara included coverage of events in Jordan and Israel, including contacts with the Palestinian Authority. A demonstration of her courage and determination was a decision to walk – unaccompanied by a security presence, to a meeting in Ramallah – when her taxi driver was not prepared to continue the journey beyond the Qallandia checkpoint.

Bridget was only beginning to unpack her shipment of personal effects from Ankara when the tragedy struck.

The quotation that forms the heading of this tribute is from a Turkish woman who assisted Bridget with her official duties in Ankara.

 

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