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Neil was born in 1887, the son of fisherman John MacAskill and Mary Ann MacDonald of Rubha Mor. His father drowned when Neil was just 12 years old, and the family moved to Backhill. On leaving school Neil worked as a message boy, then a postman, delivering the mails three days a week. He joined the militia, then worked for a while as a porter in Glasgow. On being recalled by the militia he joined the Cameron Highlanders regiment in 1907, serving in Northern Ireland, South Africa and China. During the Great War he served in France and Salonika before returning to Scotland at the end of the hostilities. Neil was to remain in the army until 1930, by which time he had been promoted to sergeant major.
In 1926 Neil married Marjorie Winnifred Alford Macleod in Inverness. They lived in Edinburgh with their two children. Neil rejoined the army at the outset of World War Two, later working as a commissionaire in Edinburgh.
Neil was a generous contributor to the School of Scottish Studies sound archive. The recordings, which provide a detailed account of his life and military career, are available on the Tobar an Dualchais website. A convenient way to access them is via his biography page.