Katie's poetic friendship leads to TV debut at 101

A 101-year-old great-grandmother will make her television debut in a revealing documentary about Gaelic poet Iain Archie MacAskill.

Tilleadh Dhachaidh: Returning Home follows Alina MacAskill Simpson, the great-niece of the late Mr MacAskill, as she works tirelessly to return his remains from Australia to his home island of Berneray in the Hebrides.

As a result of publicity surrounding Ms Simpson's quest, 101-year-old Katie Anderson – who lives in Edinburgh – came forward to share her memories of the writer and also provided a valuable account of the time leading up to Mr MacAskill's emigration.

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Mrs Anderson was a neighbour of Mr MacAskill in Berneray for more than a decade and is one of the last living links to the poet, who also courted her late sister Mary Ann before leaving for Australia.

Mrs Anderson, a widow from Roseburn, said: "He knew my sister as a teenager and had a crush on her so he was in our house many a time.

"He worked the croft and did ploughing and fishing but he wasn't getting anywhere, so when there was a chance to go to a farm in Australia he took it."

Mrs Anderson, a former kitchen maid to celebrated Edinburgh surgeon Sir Walter Mercer, shares her memories of Mr MacAskill in the programme, which will be shown in Gaelic – with subtitles – on BBC ALBA on Monday at 9pm.

The poet – who was known as The Bard of Berneray – emigrated to Australia in 1925 in search of a better life but died of kidney failure after just nine years, at the age of 36, with his final wish being to return to Scotland.

Ms Simpson, 31, who plans to write a book about Mr MacAskill, said she was stunned when Mrs Anderson got in touch.

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She said: "At the beginning of the search I didn't think there was anyone left who remembered him as he left Scotland in 1925."

Mrs Anderson, who is a member of Murrayfield Parish Church, described Mr MacAskill as a wonderful poet and a "very handsome lad", adding she was delighted that his remains had come home to rest beside his parents. Berneray-born Mrs Anderson moved to Edinburgh in 1926 to train as a nurse but ended up working as a kitchen maid


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Mrs Anderson had two daughters, Rhoda and Betty, with her husband of more than 50 years, George Anderson, who died of cancer over 25 years ago at of 78.

Mrs Anderson, who has five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, will celebrate her 102nd birthday in October.