The conception of Colin Ireland was unplanned. When Colin's natural father discovered that his 17-year-old lover was pregnant, he disappeared. Colin's mother — who has expressed her wish to remain unnamed - was upset, but unsurprised, and her partner's absence did nothing to change her mind about having the baby. When she gave birth to her first son on 16 March 1954, in West Hill Hospital in Dartford, Kent, she decided not to name her baby's father on the birth certificate, and to this day Colin Ireland has no knowledge of him. Earning a meagre wage as a newsagent's assistant, Colin's mother was too young to be able to cope with motherhood by herself, both financially and emotionally, but Colin's grandparents were supportive. They agreed that their daughter and new grandchild should live with them and Colin's uncle at Myrtle Road in Dartford.
And there they stayed until 1959, when the arrival of relations from abroad prompted their move. Colin's mother was now twenty-two, a little more mature, and she decided that she and her five-year-old son should be more independent of their relatives. It was not to be that simple, and their move to Birch Road in Gravesend that year marked the first in a long series of physical and emotional upheavals. During the next six years Colin and his mother were to move a total of nine times. Colin's mother desperately wanted to provide her son with a decent home, but every time they moved into a place of their own she soon found herself unable to cope, with a small child to look after, and relying on part time and unskilled work. Their stay at Birch Road was short-lived, and they returned to Myrtle Road with Colin's grandparents again within the year.
In 1960, when more money had been saved, Colin and his mother moved out of her parents' house for the second time, to Chester Road in Sidcup, Kent. Later that same year, however, having hit upon hard times once more, they had no choice but to move out. Unwilling to rely on the charity of her parents again, Colin and his mother were forced to live at Westmalling in Maidstone, which was, in Ireland's own words:
"A camp for homeless women and children comprising of long wooden huts. In turn these contained small cell like accommodation, one unit per family. Worse than any prison, Westmalling was degradation personified. I can still remember my mother's tears when we first arrived, a woman who does not cry easily."