William Woodruff had the sort of childhood satirized in the famous Monty Python Yorkshireman sketch. The son of a weaver, he was born on a pallet of straw at the back of the mill and two days later his mother was back at work. Life was extrememly tough for the family in 1920s Blackburn - a treat was sheep's head or cow heel soup - and got worse when his father lost his job when the cotton industry started its terminal decline At 16, William leaves the poverty of Blackburn for London, where he finds no streets paved with gold, but filthy tenements and such squalor as only a great city can conceal. He gets a job in an iron foundry and finds lodgings with a beer-swilling landlady and her family - a predatory daughter, and a tattooed madman of a son with whom he has to share his bed. Then, at night school, William discovers his love of learning, which eventually takes him to Plater College, Oxford.
As Mosley's blackshirts provoke fighting on the streets, William witnesses the courage of ordinary people in the face of war: a war in which he himself will soon be fighting This omnibus edition comprises William Woodruff's two volumes of autobiography, "The Road to Nab End" and "Beyond Nab End"
From his birth in 1916 until he ran away to London, William Woodruff lived in the heart of Blackburn's weaving community. He eventually went to Oxford University, is now 86 and lives in Florida.