Betsy was born in 1886 in the village of Auchterarder in Pertshire and was the sixth of fourteen children born to her parents. Her mother was a tartan-weaver and her father a loom-minder in a tweed mill. He was a hot-tempered man and, at the age of nineteen, was involved in a drunken fight in the course of which he threw a policeman into a bonfire and, as a result, had to 'fly the country'. He enlisted in the army and spent the next seventeen years serving her majesty, Queen Victoria, in India. On returning to Scotland he worked as a barber, stevedore, farm labourer, as hand on a tar carrying barge and as a blacksmith.
Betsy attended the village school until he was twelve when the entire family moved to Carmuirs, Stirlingshire, making the 70-mile journey on foot.
On reaching the age of fourteen, she took service as a kitchen maid in the house of a Presbyterian minister where she spent the next four years. Following the death of her employer, she moved to Stirling where she got a job in a pawnshop.
It was there that she met my father; he had come in to pawn a gold medal which he had won the previous week in an all-Scotland amateur singing competition. That evening he waited outside the shop for her and walked her home. They were married three months later.
My father was an iron-moulder and a militant socialist and trade-unionist, 'a wild one', as my mother puts it, with a strong feeling for human dignity. His attempts to preserve that dignity resulted in his being blacklisted by his employers and for the next ten or twelve years my parents lived a somewhat roving existence: Falkirk, Paisley, Glasgow, Newcastle, Carlisle, Burnley; Warrington, London, Manchester and Salford … this was their itinerary and along the route five children were born to them, only one of whom survived.
During the depression years my father was unemployed, along with three million other men, and during this period Betsy provided for the family by working as a scrub-woman and taking in washing. She did this for ten years. In 1947 my father died and my mother moved to Croydon; Surrey, where she now lives.
Most of her songs were learned from her mother during childhood, some she picked up from my father. They both had their own songs but often they would sing together, preferring long ballads for this purpose, songs like "The Duke of Athol", "The Shepherd Lad" and "The Crooked Bawbee".
Betsy complains of not being able to sing any more. "I haven't the breath for it," she says. "Will (my father) was the singer in the family; he could charm the craws oot o' their nests."
The songs on this album were recorded on four consecutive days by Peggy Seeger.