The child runaways who headed to the Outer Hebrides for an unforgettable summer

All they had was sixpence and three farthings, a bag of stale buns and a  dream to spend the summer on a Hebridean island.

Now the remarkable story of two children who ran away from their Hertfordshire home in 1949 to travel 700 miles to Lewis has been told in a new documentary.

Syd and Millicent Richardson were just nine and 13 when, with just a few pennies and some old rolls, they decided to head north on their incredible journey which saw them jump a train from Hitchin to King's Cross before boarding the overnight service to Inverness from Euston.

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Millie and Syd Richardson, the runaways who made their way from Hertfordshire to the Isle of Lewis with little money or food, in order to spend their summer on the 'magical' island. PIC: BBC Alba/Contributed.
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All they left behind was a note for their mother propped up on a candlestick, which said only 'gone on a camping holiday, back in a few days'.

Little did mother know that they were heading to Lewis to stay with relatives for the summer with the two children making national headlines when their journey came to light.

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"We'd been there before and my big sister was determined to go back. She led me astray - and I went happily."

Syd and Millie have told their story for new BBC Alba documentary, which will screen on Hogmanay.

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Millie, who is now in her eighties and lives in Queensland, Australia, described her young self as a tomboy with a love of Enid Blyton books.

She left home with her swimsuit on under her summer dress in preparation of getting to the beach with one of her best memories jumping in the ice cold water. The village girls didn't swim in the sea, but people remember Millie jumping off the quay time and again and again that summer.

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She recalled Tolsta as a "wild, free and magical place".

By the time the pair had crossed the border, the alarm had been raised by their parents with the police looking for them.

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But they made the entire journey without buying a ticket or coming to the attention of transport staff, with only a slight brush with a train inspector leading them to hide in the toilet for part of the journey.

Their mother, Mary, a herring girl met from Tolsta married a soldier, Sydney, in Motherwell in 1935 with the family later stationed in Hitchin.

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Family holidays, when they happened, were spent in Tolsta but Millie and Syd took matters into their own hands when they learned that the trip wouldn't be happening in 1949, one of the hottest summers of the early 20th Century.

Both brother and sister recalled their love of the island, particularly the peat smoke in the air, the lillies on the lochans and fetching water from the well.

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Syd added: "My grandmother was always smiling. I remember her making the most marvellous oatcakes and big scones. We had herring for breakfast every day. My grandfather would get the bible out at night and read it to us under the oil lamp."

Their grandparents shared their home with a cow and chickens.

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Millie added: "It was primitive and it was amazing...a dirt floor. It was very exciting stuff. I just wanted to live on Tolsta."

As the story hit the newspapers, journalists made the journey to Lewis to interview the young adventurers.

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One report, in the Dundee Courier, said: "Nine-year-old Sydney Richardson is thoroughly bored with all the fuss about his journey from Hitchin, Hertfordshire, to North Tolsta, Lewis, with his thirteen year-old sister Millicent.

"They made the journey on sixpence-farthing and ten stale buns, but when Sydney was interviewed yesterday in his aunt's home at North Tolsta he could scarcely hide his impatience.

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"As soon as the interview was over he dashed off to the shore with his young Tolsta playmates. It was obviously to play, and not to make history, that he went to Lewis."

With no phone at North Tolsta, a telegram was sent immediately to Millie and Syd's parents in Hitchin to alert them to their safe arrival.

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They were allowed to stay for three weeks with the pair enjoying a little celebrity status on the island, so much so that locals would give them money so they could enjoy their holiday.

But their mother was not going to Lewis to collect them.

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They had made their own way there, so could make their own way back, she said. After receiving around £20 from locals on Lewis, the pair returned home with a proper ticket - and memories of an unforgettable summer.

`Two Go to Tolsta: Sgeulachd Syd agus Millie will broadcast on BBC Alba on Hogmanay at 8.30pm.