Ian James Muirhead was born on 15 March 1913 in West Ham, London, his parents originally being from Abbeytown in Cumberland. He was the oldest of four, his three sisters being Winsome, Joan and Dorothy who, as the youngest, idolised her brother. Ian’s father was a ship’s engineer on the White Star Line and spent a lot of time away at sea. His mother, Clara, was a formidable woman and governed life at home, especially when the family returned to Abbeytown to run a market garden business. Ian was educated at the nearby Nelson School in Wigton and often got into scrapes such as climbing the local church steeple to collect eggs, receiving an earful from the blacksmith when he came down.