News / Queen’s honours for crofter Agnes Leask

Agnes Leask BEM at her croft at Cott, Weisdale - Photo: Malcolm Younger/Millgaet Media

SHETLAND crofter Agnes Leask said the news that she had been awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) in the Queen’s New Year’s honours list hasn’t sunk in yet.

Recognised for her long standing services to crofting, the 78 year old from Cott, in Weisdale, said she could not believe that she was deemed to be qualified to receive such an honour.

“I still feel it is unbelievable, and I still question why me? I don’t feel I have done anything extraordinary that anybody else couldn’t have done. Maybe I was just at the right place at the right time.

“I feel my only strong point is that I can argue until the cows come home without losing my temper; that’s probably how I achieved my aims.”

Known throughout Shetland and the Scottish crofting counties as a tenacious fighter for the crofting way of life, she has held many official positions within the Scottish Crofting Federation over the years.


She was offered her own croft at Cott back in 1958, where she still lives and works.

“Crofting is very important – it is a way of life for Shetland. Unfortunately, over time so many crofts have been amalgamated to become larger businesses in their own right. So the community working aspect is not so important anymore.

“But nevertheless, there is still more of a community spirit in the crofting areas. When I was a child the whole community here was like one family. And I think if push came to shove the same would still happen,” she said.

Leask is credited for being instrumental in promoting and introducing a high animal health status throughout Shetland, an initiative that has made the islands the only area in Scotland free from sheep scab.

In typical manner she downplays her influence: “It is very, very important to have healthy animals.

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“Actually I did not have that great an influence in all this. What I did do is argue strongly for having a mart together with a slaughter facility, so that our animals could be taken directly from the croft to the slaughterhouse with just one mode of transportation.”

This aim has meanwhile be achieved in Shetland after the local authority agreed in 2009 to spend more than £400,000 on a state of the art abattoir next to the mart at the Staney Hill, in Lerwick.

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