William was born on 4th July 1886, one of sixteen children of James Heughan, Master Blacksmith of Water Street, Dalbeattie.
His grandfather and great grandfather had also been blacksmiths in Dalbeattie and like all his family he was a pupil at the local school.
After leaving school, William sang in a local Glee choir which was very popular in the local area.
In possession of a fine bass singing voice, William went to London to study music under Visetti at the Royal College of Music and in 1911 he travelled to Italy and studied under Sabatini. He started his stage career in Wagner’s operas and sang for five seasons under the conductor, Sir Henry Wood.
War broke out in 1914 and he went home to Scotland to join the Gordon Highlanders, reaching the rank of 2nd Lieutenant.
Having served abroad he returned home to write a handbook on the use of revolvers, which was considered by the authorities to be far too informative and was banned in case it fell into enemy hands!