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William was born in 1894, the son of schoolteacher James Young and his wife Janet MacLean. They lived in Drinishader, at one stage living at Rubha Mor, Berneray.
It is likely that the family moved to various locations with James’ work, since William and his brothers transferred from Baleshare Primary School to Berneray School for three months in 1909, and then transferred to Saltcoats Primary School. In November 1913 the family seems to have returned to Berneray for a while.