For fifty years Graham Kirkland, together with his GP wife, Joan, served the medical needs of his Otley patients and for over forty years he was a Liberal, and later a Liberal Democrat, Councillor on the Otley Town Council and on the Leeds City Council. In 1998 he became the first Liberal Lord Mayor of Leeds since 1942. In recognition of his long civic service, in 2013 he was made a Honorary Alderman of the City.
Born in Wolverhampton in August 1936 Graham Kirkland attended the Leeds Medical School where he met his future wife, Joan Watson, whom he married in 1961. On graduation he initially worked at Leeds General Infirmary and at the Leeds Maternity Hospital in Hyde Terrace. He had a brief period practising in Stoke on Trent before returning to Leeds in October 1963 where he and Joan soon became partners in the Westgate Medical Practice in Otley. They remained there until Graham's death.
Graham realised that the health of his patients required good housing as well as good medicine and he quickly became involved in politics, joining the local Liberal party. He successfully stood for election to the Otley Urban District Council in 1967, remaining a member of this council and its successor town council until 2012, including twice being the town's mayor. Following local government reorganisation in 1974, when Otley became part of the Leeds City Council, he became one of the Liberal, and later Liberal Democrat, councillors for the Otley ward, retaining the seat at a further eight elections until his retirement in 2012. His attention to local issues, plus his work as a local GP gave him a considerable advantage electorally.
Politically, Graham Kirkland was a very instinctive Liberal. He was not a natural orator, nor an effusive political advocate, but he could put his case in debate with a quiet persuasive authority which gained him the respect of his opponents. This, coupled with his warm personality and his wry humour, meant that when in 1998 the other parties finally recognised that they could not deny the Liberal Democrats their due turn at the Lord Mayoralty, Graham Kirkland was the natural choice of the party.
He was a long-term member of the West Yorkshire Fire Authority of which he became the Vice Chairman. He also served as the Chairman of Harewood Housing Trust and was a Governor of St Joseph's and Prince Henry's Foundation in Otley. He died on 15 October following a massive stroke.
Graham Peter Kirkland, medical practitioner and politician, born 27 August 1936 and died 15 October 2016. He leaves his wife, Joan, a son and daughter, Jonathan and Susan, and two grandsons, Joshua and Oliver.