Ted Ringwood was born in Kew, an inner Melbourne suburb, on 19 April 1930, an only child in a family that identified strongly with Australia and with Melbourne in particular. Both his parents were Australian, but his mother's parents had come to Australia as Presbyterian emigrants from Ulster. His paternal grandfather was born in New Zealand, his paternal greatgrandfather in Australia and his grandmother in India. His father, also Alfred Edward Ringwood, enlisted as an 18–year–old in the First World War and fought in France, suffering gas attack, trench feet and other distressing experiences which impacted heavily on his later life. During the 1920s he held a variety of unskilled jobs and was essentially unemployed from the beginning of the Depression onwards. Ted's mother and extended family on both sides provided stability when his father joined Australia's large, itinerant ‘odd–jobbing’ labour force during the 1930s. (Later, his father received a war service pension.) Ted's mother, with clerical skills, supported the family through much of the Depression. However, the family's precarious financial position meant that Ted was boarded out with grandparents and relatives for extended periods. His maternal grandfather owned a small foundry in Fitzroy and successfully managed a small business through the Depression and the Second World War years.