Outside cadging money and day-dreaming at school, Billy has no positive interests. His greatest fear is ending up working down the pit as a coal miner. At that time, British miners were amongst the lowest paid workers in the developed world. But he has no apparent escape route from what would ultimately be his fate. That is until he finds an outlet from his pitiful existence through training a chicken that he takes from a nest on a farm. His interest in learning prompts Billy to steal a book from a secondhand book shop as he cannot get a borrower’s card.