Documentary tells story of Edinburgh girl adopted by Hollywood cowboy hero Roy Rogers

Western stars Roy Rogers and his wife Dale Evans are shown with their six children, their spouses and 13 grandchildren at a taping of the "Jonathan Winters" television show in this Dec. 1968 file photo. (AP Photo/File)
Western stars Roy Rogers and his wife Dale Evans are shown with their six children, their spouses and 13 grandchildren at a taping of the "Jonathan Winters" television show in this Dec. 1968 file photo. (AP Photo/File)
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For 13-year-old Marion Fleming, the moment one of the most famous entertainers of the 1950s heard her singing changed her life forever.

Now known as Mimi Swift, the now 79-year-old is the subject of a brand new documentary tracing her life from a children’s home in Edinburgh to living in the home of Roy Rogers and his wife Dale Evans.

The Roy Rogers Kid is one of the listening highlights of BBC Radio Scotland’s festive schedule.

The daughter of Hollywood’s most famous singing cowboy hero will tell her story of being adopted from an Edinburgh orphanage, becoming his foster child.

Her adventure started in 1954 when Rogers, wearing his distinctive white stetson, toured the United Kingdom with his wife and his golden palomino horse, Trigger.

The couple, whose theme song was Happy Trails, were famously photographed with Trigger ascending the stairs at the Caledonian Hotel in the Capital to drum up publicity for the tour.

For Marion, her life was less glamorous.

She was born in an air raid shelter in Craigmillar in 1940, and Marion’s mother left the family shortly after she was born and, with her father fighting in the Second World War, her early childhood was spent with her sisters in a series of girls’ homes.

Later on they were reunited with their brothers in Edinburgh’s Dunforth Children’s Home, run by the Church of Scotland. The home allowed brothers and sisters to stay together and in the programme Marion fondly remembers Christmas parties and days out; sneaking out between lessons to play among the crates of fish in Newhaven harbour.

She also talks about her vivid memories of William Merrilees – “Uncle Willie” – the Edinburgh policeman and local celebrity who lived nearby and visited frequently.

Dunforth was where Rogers and Evans, who were visiting the home, heard Marion sing Won’t You Buy My Pretty Flowers and became captivated by the then 13-year-old.

Two weeks later Marion, dressed in a kilt, had packed a suitcase and had left on a plane to California to become the couple’s fourth foster child.

The Rogers family welcomed her with open arms and she didn’t return to Scotland until she was married, with a daughter of her own.

Stephen Jardine, who presents the feelgood programme, said: “I’ve just recorded a Christmas special for with this amazing woman.

“It is the most beautiful, heartwarming, feelgood story.”

Marion was encouraged to write to her birth parents and siblings and still visits her elder sister in Edinburgh.

The Rogers family fostered and adopted more children in America, so she is part of an extended family in the US.

Marion said: “Mom and Dad always thought it was important to stay connected to your roots.”

The documentary, entitled The Roy Rogers Kid will be aired on BBC Radio Scotland on Christmas Day between 1pm and 2.55pm.

conor.matchett@jpimedia.co.uk