McClelland, Richard Leeper ('Dick') ('Richard Leech') (1922–2004), medical doctor and actor, was born 24 November 1922 in Dublin, son of Herbert Saunderson McClelland, a solicitor, from Banbridge, Co. Down, and his wife Isabella Frances (née Leeper), from Dublin. Isabella's relatives included her aunt Isabella Mulvany (1854–1934), one of the first women graduates of both the Royal University of Ireland and Dublin University (TCD), and probably the first woman to graduate from both universities. She was important in women's education for many years as headmistress of Alexandra College (1881–1927). Isabella Mulvany's sister, Elizabeth Leeper (d. 1934), Dick McClelland's grandmother, was one of the founders of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children; she was married to Richard Robert Leeper (1864–1942), a doctor who specialised in psychiatry, who was born at Tinahely, Co. Wicklow, in 1864. He was resident medical superintendent of St Patrick's Hospital, Dublin, from 1899 to 1941. He was responsible for important reforms and initiatives in hospital routine and treatments, which led to considerable improvements in the care of mental patients in St Patrick's and eventually elsewhere; he introduced training for nurses and abolished straitjackets. He also managed to raise large amounts of money for an ambitious and almost continual building programme, in the course of which electricity was provided, patients' rooms were refurbished, new accommodation replaced the prison‑like and cramped buildings of the original establishment, and the kitchens were remodelled. Patients who were detained in the hospital had not previously had access to medical care; Leeper arranged for the provision of dental and other medical care on‑site for patients. After the death in 1908 of Conolly Norman (qv), Leeper was regarded as the leading psychiatrist in Ireland and, after his own death on 25 March 1942, he was described as an outstanding leader in the field of psychiatric medicine. He was also a great expert on the life of Jonathan Swift (qv), founder of St Patrick's Hospital, and his collection of Swift‑related memorabilia and books was said to be unequalled.
Dick (Richard Leeper) McClelland was given his distinguished grandfather's name, and after attending Haileybury College in Hertfordshire, England, entered TCD to study medicine, like his grandfather and other family members. However, from 1942 when he was just 19 and a medical student at TCD, he was also a student of acting in the Gate Theatre, and appeared in several plays, using the stage name 'Richard Leech', by which he was afterwards well‑known. His first part was that of a Nubian slave in 'The vineyard', directed by Hilton Edwards (qv). He graduated from TCD in 1945 and practised successfully for a year, as a house surgeon in the Meath Hospital, Dublin, before deciding to try acting in London. He appeared in three plays in 1946, acting with an Irish company in productions in a suburban theatre, and then spent a year in a repertory company in Hereford. By 1949, he had secured roles in West End plays, and from then on was seldom off the stage or screen. He was successful in the 1949 premiere of Christopher Fry's 'The lady's not for burning', and transferred with it to Broadway in 1950. He frequently played medical men, army officers and officials, often pompous or smug, and sometimes even more unsympathetic, as in his portrayal of a cruel father in the 1955 production of 'Uncertain joy'. He was particularly noted for the quality of his diction and voice production, and while his snub nose, intense gaze and crinkly hair were not perhaps ideal for romantic parts, his evident intelligence and all‑round acting ability ensured that he was able to carry off roles like that of Mr Rochester in a British television version of Jane Eyre in 1963.
Leech appeared often in television productions from the late 1950s on; he was seen in serials such as Z cars, Dr Who, The avengers, Barchester chronicles, Smiley's people and The duchess of Duke Street. He also had over thirty film roles, after a first appearance in The temptress (1949). He had roles in The dam busters (1955), Ice cold in Alex (1958), Young Winston (1972), Gandhi (1982), in which he played a brigadier, and Champions (1984).
Leech's voice was particularly suited to radio and stage readings of poetry and novels, and he maintained his connection with medicine by writing a regular column, 'Doctor in the wings', in the journal World Medicine. In an article in the British Medical Journal in 1976, he gave advice on voice projection to would‑be medical lecturers, noting that his own hearing loss forced him to rely heavily on lipreading.
His first wife, Helen Hyslop Uttley, with whom he had two daughters, died of cancer, aged 47, in 1971; he married again in 1975. His second wife, Margaret Pearson, an editor and best‑selling novelist using the name Diane Pearson, survived him with his two daughters, both of whom had careers in the theatre. He died of cancer on 24 March 2004.