A FORMER Scotswoman of the Year and tireless disability care campaigner described by friends as an "icon" has died at the age of 81.

Sheena Walker spent almost all of her adult life fighting for a fairer deal for people with mental health disabilities in and around Cumbernauld, North Lanarkshire. She died at Strathcarron Hospice in Denny.

Sheena was named the Evening Times' Scotswoman of the Year in 1981 for her work with disabled children.

Driven by a desire to help other parents with disabled children, Sheena ran two day centres and a youth club for young people with learning, physical and mental disabilities.

She combined her charity work with the demands of looking after her own four children, two of whom were born with disabilities.

Her friend Moira Aitken, 75, told the Evening Times that Sheena would stop at nothing to ensure disabled youngsters had access to the best of care. Moira's son Fraser, who is now 37, has Down's syndrome, and was one of the children Sheena helped.

Moira, from Cumbernauld, said: "Sheena was an absolute legend in Cumbernauld, an icon. She was such a strong person who took on the government, took on social services and anyone else she thought was not giving disabled young people the help they needed.

"The help she gave Fraser and my family was priceless. We were one family in many."

Sheena took her children - including Derek, who has Down's syndrome, and Paul who was disabled and has since passed away - to see Lennox Castle when they were young.

The mental health hospital was one of the few options for disabled youngsters at the time.

She was devastated by what she saw and vowed her sons would never end up in a place like that.

Moira added: "She said she'd find a better place for her boys and other children even if she had to build it herself. And that's what she did.

"She sorted out supported living houses in Cumbernauld and started up day centres.

"Anything that was needed, Sheena got it by being bold and not giving up."

Sheena's two sons Gary and Paul passed away before her, as did her husband Jim.

She is survived by her sons James and Derek.

steff.lach@ heraldand times.co.uk