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Betsy was born in about 1811, the daughter of Roderick MacAskill and Margaret MacLeod of old Ruisgarry. She married John MacKinnon, with whom she was to have seven children. They too lived in old Ruisgarry, though Betsy was moved from the croft to become a cottar in Lamerick following John's death in 1851. She later worked as a weaveress.