Eulogy for Anthony Elleray KC

November 17, 2023

Eulogy given by Giles-Maynard Connor KC

My Lord, on behalf of the Bar may I thank you for your kind words in tribute to Anthony Elleray KC, and may we associate ourselves with all of your remarks.

My Lord, we meet today in a time of great sadness following Anthony’s untimely death at the age of 69. He was far too young to leave us.

Anthony was a true legend of the Chancery Bar, particularly on this Circuit, and the fact that so many are here today both in person and online is a testament to the high regard that we have for Anthony.

Anthony was brought up in Northamptonshire and educated at Spratton Hall prep school, and then Bishop Stortford College, before reading law at Trinity College Cambridge.

It was at Cambridge that Anthony honed his acting and debating skills, as well as his fierce competitive edge. As his great friend, Sir Geoffrey Vos, recalled at Anthony’s funeral on Tuesday, Anthony’s desire to win was ever present and unwavering; whether it be at Bridge, Croquet, Squash, Tennis or what appears to have been a 50-year campaign against the (now) Master of the Rolls to collect the most Michelin Green Stars whilst travelling.

For those of us who have worked with Anthony, or faced him as an opponent, it comes as no surprise that his determination to win was apparent at an early age.

Having graduated from Trinity College, Anthony was called to the Bar by the Inner Temple in 1977, and having completed his pupillage in London he decided to move North, and to join the Northern Circuit. He started his career in Manchester at Duchy Chambers on Clarence Street, which became Bridge Street Chambers, before moving to St James’s Chambers in the late 1980s. In 2001, he joined Exchange Chambers and was one of its founding members here in Manchester.

At Exchange Chambers he significantly contributed to its development and success over the last two decades, in particular, to what is now the Business and Property Department, of which he was the Head for many years.

Anthony took Silk in 1993, at the early age of 38. At that time the appointment of a Chancery Silk outside of London was almost unheard of. It was a great achievement for Anthony which was thoroughly well deserved.

Anthony was a Deputy High Court Judge, having previously sat as an Assistant Recorder and then a Recorder. He was also an Isle of Man Deputy Deemster, accredited Mediator and a long-standing Mental Health Tribunal Judge.

In conjunction with his life at the Bar and the Bench, Anthony was an active member of the Northern Chancery Bar Association, of which he was the Chair for many years, and was a former President of the Manchester Law Library.

Anthony’s appointment to Silk was not just a fantastic achievement for him personally, but for the Northern Chancery Bar generally. He was a pioneer and trailblazer.

As Michael Booth KC observed in an email to me, had Anthony not taken silk in 1993, it is open to question whether the profile of Chancery and Commercial work in the North would have prospered in the way it has done. It is Michael’s firm belief that without Anthony paving the way, the prospects for those of us who followed, both Silks and Juniors, would have been much more difficult. I echo those sentiments.

Anthony had an exceptional intellect and a profound understanding of the law. This allowed him to navigate even the most complex legal cases with ease and his performances in Court, whether cross examining a hostile witness or advancing difficult legal submissions, were masterful.

He was, without question, one of the finest advocates to come out of this Circuit, and he was an inspiration to many.

Anthony’s longstanding friend and fellow Deputy Deemster, Andrew Moran KC, recalls a story from times gone by when he and Tim Holroyde were still juniors. Such was the respect for Anthony, that they would compare and contrast their respective practices with Anthony’s, who at the time was starring in a major chancery case. Apparently, they spoke enviously, though happily, of Anthony’s success, with the now Vice President of the Court of Appeal, stressing that the two of them needed to “get their acts together”. As history has demonstrated, they of course both did, but as Andrew has warmly recognised, Anthony was a catalyst.

In Court Anthony had a formidable presence, particularly if he was your opponent. He was always courteous, but he gave no quarter in seeking the best result for his clients.

For those of us who can remember, Chancery motions days on a Friday were great events, not least for the regular battles between Anthony and Peter Smith KC. They were powerhouses at the top of their game, and the skirmishes between them were like watching Ali versus Fraser in robes – their stinging oral submissions taking the place of a jab, hook or uppercut.

Like many here today, as a Junior I was fortunate to be lead by Anthony in a number of cases and to see the master at work. He succeeded at all levels including the House of Lords. I understand that His Honour Judge Cawson KC will be referencing a number of the highlights from Anthony’s long and distinguished case list, so I will the leave those stories to him.

But despite his ferocity as an advocate, and beyond his professional accomplishments, Anthony was a true gentleman who was admired for his integrity and genuine kindness. He treated everyone he encountered with respect and dignity, and as we can witness today, he earned the admiration and respect of his colleagues, clients, and friends.

His generosity and support for pupils and junior barristers needs to be recorded. It was demonstrated on almost a daily basis.

“Mr E” as he was affectionately known by some in Chambers, was never slow to give a compliment when appropriate, including to opponents. His door was always open to those in Chambers who sought assistance and erudite guidance, and he regularly took time out of his busy day to have coffee and share lunch with his colleagues– an aspect of Chambers’ life which remains so important.

Anthony had a great love of books, and an acerbic wit. In consequence, his knowledge was encyclopaedic and those who shared time with him, both in Chambers and elsewhere, benefitted greatly from his wisdom and humour.

Anja Lansbergen-Mills tells me that Anthony even gave correct advice when she sought to change her name by deed poll on marrying her husband. Apparently, the process is somewhat archaic and Anja was unsure how to interpret it, so she took a straw poll in Chambers. All, save for Anthony, favoured one interpretation; so it came to pass that Anja went with the majority. Big mistake! Not long thereafter, the relevant form was returned rejected; the majority opinion was wrong. Anthony’s advice was then belatedly followed, and the desired result achieved.

Work aside, Anthony was a bon vivant. He loved fine food, fine wine (almost universally French) and fine tobacco. Until more recently when he switched to a vape, Anthony loved a pipe and in days past when smoking indoors was permitted, Anthony’s room in Chambers was a source of rich aromas of meticulously chosen tobacco which created a sense of a bygone era of elegance and sophistication – no doubt deliberate on Anthony’s part.

That said, I understand the tapping of his pipe caused chaos for our typists when he was dictating opinions or pleadings!

Anthony loved to socialise, and his and Alison’s social gatherings were legendary. The annual Christmas and Summer parties at the Ellerays have become established events in the calendar. Generously, Anthony always ensured that invitations were extended to the most junior members of Chambers.

Anthony’s 40th Birthday celebration in 1994 deserves a particular mention. It was a grand affair held on a barmy Summer’s evening attended by – I recall – about 150 people, including barristers, judges and – I believe – the Chief Constable of Cheshire. As ever, Anthony went to town with the food, wine and entertainment. But on this occasion, he went the extra mile. From an unknown source he procured a number of large Chinese fireworks, they weren’t so readily available in those days, and we all enjoyed it when they filled the skies over Knutsford. This was a time when the use of fireworks was really reserved for bonfire night, and the other residents in the town were less enamoured with the festivities; as was reported in the Knutsford Guardian the following week, with elderly neighbours reporting that it brought back memories of the Blitz, and others had thought that the local Territorial Army were on manoeuvres!

Of course, we in Chambers had great pleasure in subsequently presenting a framed copy of the Knutsford Guardian article to Anthony to underscore his celebrity!

Anthony’s commitment to the law and its practice in the North was undoubtedly one of the great loves of his life.  But although a private man, his love for his family was readily on show to those of us who knew him, not least from the many photographs of Alison and their children, Harriet and Adam, in Anthony’s room in Chambers, and the demonstrable pride when he updated us on Harriet and Adam’s achievements, when Harriet and her husband Mark married, and then more latterly as he doted over his three wonderful granddaughters, Ella, Imogen and Millie.

My Lord, we are very pleased that Anthony’s family are able to be with us today, as we publicly mark our esteem for him.

Alison, Harriet, Adam, Debbie and John, we all offer you our heartfelt condolences, at this most difficult of times, recognising, as we should, the comfort and support you provided to Anthony during his last days.

From my personal perspective, and I know I speak for many, Anthony was not just a colleague; he was much more! Over the last 32 years he was a mentor, he was inspiring, and above all, it has been a real honour and privilege to count him as my friend.

As I look towards the judicial bench and around this courtroom today, I like to think that Anthony is looking down upon us, with a glass of fine French wine, and a smile; content with what he achieved.

My Lord – as I said at the outset, we mark today the passing of a true legend, whose presence in our lives has left an indelible mark. We will miss him greatly, but his legacy will live on.