Leonard Leacock

Leonard “Doc” Leacock (1904-1992) was a renowned musician, teacher, mountaineer, and photographer.

In 1908, at the age of 4 years old, Leacock and his family moved from England to Banff at the prompting of Sid Unwin, who had served alongside his father Harry Leacock in the Boer War. It was while Harry was serving in WWI that Leacock found his love of the piano.

After graduating high school, Leonard Leacock worked as a labourer and was able to save up enough money to enroll in the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, where he earned his Associate Diploma. With that in hand, he was brought on as a piano instructor at the Mount Royal College Conservatory of Music in 1924 at just 20 years old. 

 

He taught at Mount Royal until retiring in 1987 at the age of 83, by which time he had acquired the Alberta Achievement Award (1972) and the Order of Canada (1986) for his contribution to music and music education in Alberta.

Dandelion seed plumes, ca.1925-1931, Leonard Leacock, photographer, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Leonard Leacock fonds (V353/I/B/PS-80)

When Leacock wasn’t teaching, composing, or performing, he was hiking. He considered the mountains of Banff National Park to be one of the great loves of his life, and names the day in 1927 when he summited four out of the Valley of Ten’s peaks as one of his greatest days.

While there exists no record of formal teaching, Leacock was obviously talented with the medium of photography and by 1931 had put together a lecture called Sky-line Trails in the Canadian Rockies, made up of 200 lantern slides.

As a self-professed amateur, Leacock took pictures of the mountains he loved and of the people he travelled with – one of his most acclaimed shots is of a friend of his sitting on top of Pharaoh Peak looking out over the valley, which was featured in National Geographic in 1947. He never sought to sell his photographs, but did make them widely available through his illuminated lectures and gallery exhibitions, a number of which were held in the Peter Whyte Gallery throughout the 1970s and 1980s.