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Katie was born in 1905, the eldest daughter of Angus MacLean and Catherine MacAskill, born at her maternal grandparents' home 6 Borve. The family lived for a while with her other grandparents in Quay, before her father moved with his daughters to Baile, sometime after her mother's death. When her father was at sea, as at the time of the 1911 census, she and her sister would stay with their grandparents.
Katie started attending Berneray School in 1910. She moved to Glasgow some time after her father's tragic death in 1929.