Hilda was the oldest daughter, third of eight children of Rev Robert, minister of the Free Church of Mains & Strathmartine, Angus. She was never known as Elizabeth – in fact her family called her “Hiddo”. Every day the young Hilda walked five miles to Dundee High School and later to University College, Dundee, where she graduated, gaining a first in the Cambridge Classical Tripos in 1896.