Tribute unveiled to lifeboat crewman Ian Leask

A memorial bench honouring the service of fondly remembered lifeboat crewman Ian Leask was unveiled in Lerwick today.

Funds for the tribute to Mr Leask were raised by current Lerwick lifeboat crew, to commemorate the life of their highly regarded former colleague who died of cancer in 2016, aged 61.

In an emotional speech before the unveiling Mr Leask’s granddaughter Nisha, 12, thanked the lifeboat crew and told of how proud her grandfather would have been.

Among the crowd assembled for the service were family members and lifeboat crewmen – past and present – who had worked with Mr Leask during his 27 years with the RNLI.

Ian Leask’s family sitting on the memorial bench. From left: Bridget Halvorsen (mother), Alysha Leask (granddaughter, eight), Valerie Leask (wife), Mark Leask (son) and Nisha Leask (granddaughter, 12). Photo: Dave Donaldson

After joining in 1989 Mr Leask served as a crew member, a second mechanic and ultimately as the deputy launching authority up until his death in February 2016. During that time he racked up 389 hours of service time since records began in 1994.

Local operations manager Malcolm Craigie and ex-coxswain Hewitt Clark both gave speeches in memory of their former colleague.

Mr Clark said in his speech that Mr Leask was part of a crew he used to say was “the best in Britain”. That all the work needed to bring the memorial to fruition was spearheaded by Mr Leask’s former colleagues “speaks for itself”, he added.

In 1998 Mr Clark, Mr Leask and four other crew members were awarded medals for bravery by the RNLI for rescuing the crew of stricken vessel Green Lily in atrocious weather in November 1997.

Mr Leask earned a bronze for his part, while the ex-coxswain earned the charity’s highest honour for leading the courageous rescue, which sadly resulted in the death of helicopter winchman Bill Deacon.

During his nearly three decades with the lifeboat Mr Leask developed a reputation not only as a valuable crew member but also as an excellent marine photographer.

Speaking after the ceremony Mr Clark said that he had many fond memories of Mr Clark aboard the lifeboat “hanging on with one hand taking photos”.

Many of his striking images are displayed on the walls of the Lerwick lifeboat station and the prolific snapper also regularly had his work featured in the pages of The Shetland Times.

Mr Craigie, likewise, recalled how Mr Leask would be “buzzing around” taking photographs as the lifeboat returned to the station after a call-out.

He said: “When the crew were out on a shout, after they had the rescue done everybody would be sitting around waiting to get back and Ian would be buzzing around taking photos.”

But most of all Mr Leask was remembered for his personality and his warm nature, said Mr Craigie.

“There’s nobody ever had a bad word to say about him, everybody took to him”, he said after the service, adding that Mr Leask was always happy to take new recruits under his wing and to “show them what they had to learn”.

The bench itself was crafted by local companies Ocean Kinetics and DITT, the latter of which Mr Leask was employed by for many years.

On the side of the bench, which is located outside of the Lerwick lifeboat station overlooking the small boat harbour, are the numbers 17-10 and 52-10. These numbers symbolise the two lifeboats which Mr Leask worked aboard – the Michael and Jane Vernon and the Soldian.

Coastguard search and rescue helicopter Oscar Charlie also turned up for the ceremony, performing a flyby past the lifeboat station.


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