Dr John Harford Harland was born on 8 May 1923 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, to a well-known Ulster family.
One brother, Robert Wallace Harland, OBE, PhD, was director of student health services at Queen’s University for many years. The other twin, Dr William Arthur Harland, was regius professor at the University of Glasgow from 1974 to 1985. Their mother, Elizabeth, was one of the earliest medical graduates at Queen’s University. She served 6 years after graduation in India as an obstetrical medical missionary. On returning to Belfast she married, practised medicine as a GP in Belfast, and started a family.
John developed a strong interest in tall sailing ships and sailors at a young age and enjoyed visiting the Belfast docks with his father and making ship models at home. John did well in school because he was so focused and good in languages and calculus, and he was also a terrific reader with a great memory. At Queen’s University he decided to take medicine and enrolled in 1939. After completing his first 2 years he volunteered for the Royal Navy.
For the next 4 years, as a sublieutenant he worked on coal-burning mine sweepers, and then he sailed/ferried motor fishing vessels from West Africa to Cape Town, where he was stationed at the Naval Air Station. In Cape Town he commanded small fast gunboats with a crew of 14 to patrol and protect allied shipping. These boats were well armed and had depth charges, too. At the end of the war he was promoted to lieutenant then returned to medical school and graduated in 1949 as a doctor.
After graduation he married Janet Morrison, a nurse from Glasgow. In 1951 they immigrated to Kamloops where he worked as a GP. Shortly after he decided to become an anesthetist and trained for his fellowship at Vancouver General Hospital, University Hospital in Saskatoon, and Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. In 1960 he and Janet decided to move to Kelowna where John joined the Underhill Clinic as a GP and an anesthesiologist at Kelowna General Hospital. He retired in 1986 from the Department of Anesthesia.
When he left the navy John developed an interest in maritime history, languages, and writing. John read German and spoke French and Norwegian. His research took him seamlessly into the modern computer and its ramifications and desktop publications. John wrote many articles for the Mariner’s Mirror and the Nautical Research Journal. His books on maritime history are well written, the illustrations are superb, and the details meticulous:
- Seamanship in the Age of Sail: An Account of the Shiphandling of the Sailing Man-of-war, 1600-1860, Based on Contemporary Sources (illustrated by Mark Myers)
- Catchers and Corvettes. The Steam Whalecatcher in Peace and War, 1860-1960
- Ships and Seamanship: The Maritime Prints of J.J. Baugean
- Capstans and Windlasses: An Illustrated History of Their Use at Sea
- Anatomy of the Ship: The Flower Class Corvette Agassiz (with John McKay)
- Fireship: The Terror Weapon of the Age of Sail (by Peter Kirsch, translated from German by John Harland)
On 10 April 2017 John was presented with the SS Beaver Medal by the Maritime Museum of BC. He was recognized for his internationally respected maritime publications. John has donated his entire library of books to the Naval Marine Archive, Canadian Collection, in Ontario.
John was a precise man and left-brained too. Janet is just as smart but more right-brained. Janet carried life’s melodies while John carried the rhythm and the measured beat. While John was working, writing, and sailing on Kelowna’s Okanagan Lake with the kids, Janet became a multi-talented wife, mother, and grandmother. While she was totally supportive of the family, she made time to serve on the Kelowna School and College Boards. Together they traveled the world in retirement.
John leaves three children, Jack, Jan, and Christine; grandchildren, Ian, Matthew, Christina, and Jillian; and three great-grandchildren, Harlow, Stevie, and Leo.
—Sterling Haynes, MD
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