Obituary: Madam Anne Leask of Leask
First posted 25 April 2008
With sadness, we report the death of Madam Leask of Leask, 22nd Chief of the Clan Leask, who died peacefully in her sleep on 25 April 2008.
Madam Leask’s funeral will be held at 2.45pm on Thursday 15th May, at St Faith Crematorium, Norwich, NR10 3LF.
Our thoughts are with the family in their time of loss.
Madam Anne Leask of Leask
D.L.J., B.A. (Hons.), M.A., Ph. D.,
Chev. Ordre des Palmes Académiques
Born Moira Anne Meridith Gordon Fleming Curr on 5 January 1912 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, daughter of Alexander Leask Curr, a lecturer at Queen’s University, born in Linlithgow, and Anne Marie Stuart Curr nee Leask, born in Forfar.
After the death of her father in Edinburgh in 1916, the family moved to Norwich, Norfolk. Moira attended Lonsdale School for Girls and Blyth Grammar School at Norwich. Here she displayed the early ambition and achievement which she was to show throughout her life. Becoming House Captain, school prefect, captain of the school hockey team, vice-captain of the tennis team, gym, swimming and athletics champion and, although only five feet two inches tall, played for the netball team.
Gaining two Norfolk scholarships to the University of London, she obtained an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in French and Spanish with minors in English and Latin. While in London she pursued her athletic successes in several sports.
On graduation, Moira moved to Hertfordshire where she married Sidney Helgesen, born Stevenston, Ayrshire, son of Lauritz Amandus Helgesen of Norway and Helen Burnett of Glasgow. They had one child, Michael Philip Helgesen, born 1936.
In 1941 Moira and Michael moved to Bermuda, and then to New York City and Florida. They returned to Britain in 1945. Going back to the USA, Moira resumed her studies at Colorado University where she gained her Master’s Degree with “straight As” in all subjects. She obtained her Doctorate in 1955.
At Toledo, Ohio, Moira – now called Anne – became Associate Professor from 1960 to 1965. Later she taught at Kalamazoo College, Michigan, and then Cedar Crest College in Allentown, Pennsylvania, from where she retired to Britain in 1968. During her career, she published numerous books on French and Spanish subjects and was honoured by the French government, awarding her Chevalier des Palmes académiques, its highest academic award.
After retirement she concentrated her efforts on the Clan Leask. In 1963 she purchased the ruins of Leask House in Ellon, Aberdeenshire, and in 1968 the 21st chief of the Clan Leask, Alexander Graham Leask of Edinburgh, conceded his chiefly rights to her in her lifetime. In 1980 Madam Leask published a short book entitled “The Leasks – Historical Notes on the Aberdeenshire, Orkney and Shetland families”.
In 1981 a joint gathering was arranged for Clan Leask and Clan Hay at Edinburgh Castle, and here the beginnings of the Clan Leask Society were formed with representatives from America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand appointed from those present. Madam Anne pursued the development of the Clan Leask Society’s development worldwide, and it grew steadily. An annual feature became the attendance at the Aboyne Highland Games, and gatherings were also held periodically at each of the overseas branches.
Ill-health forced Anne to give up active participation in the Clan Leask in the mid-1990s, and in recent years she suffered from dementia.
Madam Leask will be succeeded in her chiefship of the Clan Leask by Jonathan Leask, who will in due course become the 23rd Chief of the Clan Leask.