Joseph Bentley Leyland, known to all his friends and colleagues as “Joe”, was born in Forest Hill, London, England, on January 11, 1888, the younger of two sons born to John and Fanny Julia Leyland. Joe was educated for nine years in private school and then at St. Mary's College, Woolhampton, Reading, Berks, England. In 1904 he sat for the Civil Service Commission Examination for Assistant Clerkship in the Royal Navy. He passed, but had become interested in Canada and decided to leave England.
Joe Leyland arrived in Halifax on March 17, 1905 with 40 dollars in his pocket and went to Manitou, Manitoba to work on a farm. From March to September 1906 he served as subscription agent for the Winnipeg Telegram in Portage La Prairie; then from September 1906 to April 1907 he worked as a bookkeeper in the law office of Arthur Meighen, who later became Prime Minister of Canada. From April to October 1907 he was bookkeeper in the law office of E.A. McPherson, later Chief Justice for Manitoba. In October 1907, Joe joined the head office staff of the Great West Life Assurance Company in Winnipeg, eventually moving up to Head Office Special Representative, which meant he had to travel regularly across the country, from Montreal to Vancouver.
In 1914, Leyland married Margaretta Barber of Regina, Saskatchewan, a co-worker at the Great West Life Assurance Company. The couple honeymooned in Vancouver, picnicking in West Vancouver and visiting the “Clachan” in Dundarave. They returned to Regina, where their daughter Josephine Frances was born on June 9, 1915. By 1919 they had become permanent residents of West Vancouver, and their waterfront home at 2848 Bellevue Avenue was a popular setting for garden parties, dinners, and special meetings. Their son John (Jack) was born on June 7, 1922.
Joseph Leyland’s municipal career began in 1926 when he was elected President of the West Vancouver Conservative Association. He ran for and won a seat as Councillor in the civic elections, serving as Chairman of Finance, Fire and Publicity.
In 1927, again as Councillor, he was Chairman of Transportation and Health, serving a second term as member of the Cemetery Board, and is credited with naming the Capilano View Cemetery. He won a seat on the School Board the following year.
Joe Leyland took a great interest in community sports and recreation, and was a charter member of the West Vancouver Tennis Club, serving as President in 1929. He was a co-founder of the West Vancouver Regatta, Director of the Children’s Memorial Park Playgrounds, and an honorary member of the Hollyburn Pacific Ski Club. Joe was also an early advocate of parks, and one of his dreams was to see Hollyburn Ridge become a provincial park, and Garibaldi a national park. Both eventually became provincial parks.
In 1929 he ran for the position of Reeve of West Vancouver, but was defeated by V.V. Vinson. In 1930 he ran again, this time defeating Vinson and assuming a position he would hold for eleven years -- three years by elections and eight by acclamation.
One of Joe Leyland’s first undertakings was to introduce a Town Planning Policy, changing the Municipality of West Vancouver from a summer camping area to a well-developed residential area with zoning, building, plumbing, and other regulations, and bylaws firmly outlined.
In 1931, he became a Director of the forerunner to the British Columbia Automobile Association, becoming President in 1932, and remaining a Director until 1944. Also in 1931 he began negotiations with British Pacific Properties Ltd. for the development of the British Properties, the development of a golf club, and the construction of a new bridge at the First Narrows crossing. The Lions Gate Bridge was finally opened to traffic on November 12, 1938.
Joe Leyland was appointed to the British Columbia Economic Council in July of 1934, and in 1936 became a Director of the Vancouver Tourist Association.
Leyland’s achievements over the years were recognized with the creation of Leyland Park in October 1939. He was also honoured by being elected President of the Union of British Columbia Municipalities, a noteworthy achievement for the Reeve of such a small community.
In 1940, Leyland stepped down after eleven terms as Reeve of West Vancouver, but his dedication to public service continued in his private life. From 1941 to 1945 he was Executive Director or Chairman of the War Service campaigns. From 1941 to 1944 he was a Director of the Vancouver Entertainment Council, serving as Chairman in 1944. In 1942 he served as Vice President of the Vancouver Council of Social Agencies. From 1942 to 1944 he served as Director of the Vancouver Welfare Association and Director and Vice President of the B.C. Natural Resources and Conservation League. In 1962, he acted as Chairman of West Vancouver’s Fiftieth Anniversary Committee.
Joseph Leyland died on September 25, 1969 at the age of 81. His wife Margaretta died in 1973.