Born in Minto, Manitoba in 1913, Clarence Grenfell McNeill studied medicine at the University of Alberta, graduating in 1941. During the Second World War he served overseas; in 1945 he was medical officer for the United Nations in Germany. He had a long and respected career first as a general practitioner in North Vancouver, then as an anaesthetist at Lions Gate Hospital, retiring in 1980. Apart from writing short stories, Dr. McNeill was also a craftsman and artist. Some of his woodcarvings, sculptures and paintings are to be found at Lions Gate Hospital, Woodward Library at UBC, Doctors of BC headquarters and other locations. He died in 2002. "In my youth," he wrote, "I deliberately made a switch from a possible career in art to the profession of medicine. I wanted to find out all I could about mankind... Still I am not sure I made the right choice. It might have been a better aim to leave behind a little beauty--an enrichment to mark my passage.";

McNeill's fiction collection, As Lovely as a Tree (Blue House 1993), contains more than 30 short stories, all told in conversational, easy flowing manner. All the stories revolve around Dr. McNeill's experiences with his patients and medical colleagues. Some of the stories are humorous, others introspective, some sad - but all are about the human condition - with illustrations on many pages. One story is about Malcolm Lowry, author of Under the Volcano, who lived in Deep Cove where Dr. McNeill had just started a part-time office. Lowry was grateful for McNeill's services and brought a copy of his book to McNeill, but he said he could not autograph it because he had a mental block about signing his name. He promised a note if and when when that mental block would pass. Two months later, on one of McNeill's blank pages from his prescription pad, came a note: "with affection, Malcolm Lowry."

[Information supplied by George Szasz]


As Lovely as a Tree (Blue House 1993) c/o 3981 West 11th Ave, Vancouver BC V6R 2L1

[BCBW 2014] "Physician Author"