John Albrecht
In Memoriam

Leslie William McKay Yelland (1927 - 1999)

Les teed off for the last time on January 6, 1999. In his 71 years with us he was determined not to squander a moment.

He was born on July 16, 1927 in Kilmarnock, Scotland. His formal education was received at the Kilmarnock Academy, followed by a medical degree at the Glasgow University. After interning at the Royal Infirmary and Peel Hospital in Glasgow, he served three years as a medical officer in the R.C.A.F. at Chatham, New Brunswick. On returning to Scotland, he married Anne Higgins in 1953. She was to be his lifetime partner and counsellor.

Initially Les worked as a general practitioner in Glasgow until 1957 when wanderlust took over and he immigrated to Canada, settling in New Westminster. It did not take long for this energetic, effervescent Scotsman to build a bustling and loyal practice with privileges in the Royal Columbian and St. Mary’s Hospitals. His ever present lopsided smile and twinkle in his eye were his hallmark. “Aye Laddie, what’s up?” was his regular greeting in the hospital corridor.

He was a conscientious hard working physician admired by his colleagues and respected by his patients. During his years in practice, he served as the physician for the Sick Mariners Society. These patients had unparalleled trust in his abilities. Often a fisherman would present at Les’s office, after treatment by a “rookie” up the coast, to ensure that the “real doctor” concurred with the diagnosis and medication prescribed. These patients still query after his welfare.

Leslie William McKay Yelland (1927 - 1999)
Leslie William McKay Yelland (1927 - 1999)

Les was always helpful and accommodating to the new physicians in the community. After completing my internship at the Royal Columbian Hospital, I was struggling to support a young family - locums and assists were few and far between. Les volunteered to take vacations so that I could locum for him when the wolves were at the door. He did so on several occasions until I had established my own practice.

Les retired from full time practice in 1993, passing the torch to Dr. Gerry Lynch. His overabundance of energy led him to working part time in Dr. George Robb’s vein clinic for another three years. In 1997 Les was recognized for his contribution to the medical community by being made a member of the Honorary Medical Staff at the Royal Columbian Hospital.

“A rolling stone gathers no moss” - a proverb that fits Les to the tee. In practice, family and recreational life, time was of the essence. Together Les and Anne raised six children - Anne, Maris, Douglas, Rosemary, Wendy and John. Their contribution to society included four teachers, an immigration official and a businessman. They have been rewarded with 14 grandchildren.

Outside medical practice Les had many interests and activities including music, art, painting, golf and all sports. He was an accomplished pianist with a degree from the Royal Conservatory. In his youth he was a keen rugby player. He was an art collector and respectable oil painter. Many of his works adorn the halls of St. Mary’s Hospital. He was an avid member of the Friends of Chamber Music Society. One evening in his haste to attend a recital in Vancouver he was “awarded” a speeding citation. Later that evening on the return journey he was “awarded” a second citation for the same offense - by the same police officer!

After his family, Les’s second passion was that masochistic pastime with little white balls and clubs - golf. He was a lifetime member of the Vancouver Golf Club where he had the reputation of being “The Fastest Golfer of All Time”. A typical day would start at 5:30 A.M. - breakfast with his GP colleague, “Chip” Chipperfield, 18 holes of golf, hospital rounds - with enough time to do a morning office.

Les was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1996. Initially he responded to therapy and enjoyed his daily walks to the Westminster Quay. On January 6, 1999 his condition suddenly deteriorated. He was admitted to the Royal Columbian Hospital and died the same day.

He is deeply missed by his family, friends, colleagues and past patients - especially the mariners.

Les, may the drives be long and arrow straight,
may the putts be as smooth as a dram of Scotch,
but alas Laddie, beware of the wet canvas in the rough.....

John Albrecht, M.D.
Anne Yelland

Les Yelland - A small picture of a big man

Doctor, artist, painter and superb friend and companion. Les and I had a half day off each week on the same day, i.e. Wednesday. Weather permitting, we often went out to do outdoor sketching with oil paint. He was a natural - we had as usual been sketching at the banks of the Fraser River and we were putting our stuff away. Having finished our works of “art”, Les put his painting on his folding seat and started putting his easel, pallet and brushes away. Always neat and tidy, brushes in plastic bag to be cleaned later at home. His painting had been carefully put on his folding seat, paint side up. Oops.. Suddenly he sat down on his seat right on top of his freshly painted Fraser River scene, he jumped as his work of art fell off his pants. Pants coated with paint we found a plastic bag to ride home on. He took this setback like a true gentleman. We painted many more times thereafter but he never sat on an oil painting again.

Thomas de Roos, M.D.

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