Born Elizabeth Ann Higgins in Guest Row, Aberdeen, she was the daughter of settled Travellers the piper Donty Higgins and the singer Jeannie Robertson. In 1941, after her school was twice bombed, Lizzie moved with her mother to the rural town of Banchory, where the local children bullied her for her heritage. She was so unhappy in this environment that she left school at fifteen despite the pleasure she gained from studying. She moved back to Aberdeen to fillet fish and take seasonal agricultural labouring.
She married Brian Youlden and did not take up public singing until 1967 because she did not wish to distract public attention from her mother. She died of throat cancer in 1993.