Coming from a broken family, a children’s home and fostering, my education was disrupted. At fifteen I was the best artist in the school, but at that age and without qualifications I couldn’t get into art college. My friend and I worked for seven years in dead end jobs, then we made a desperate plan: To buy art equipment and 100 hits of LSD to fund a year's painting in Morocco.


My mate bombed out in Paris and I was arrested in Barcelona. I tried to fight my way out, but was badly beaten, thrown into prison and held without trial. I’d only known my fellow traveller, Mike Schneider, for three days, but he had the good sense to get rid of my drugs before the police found them, otherwise I’d still be inside now.


It was 1972 and all I possessed were the ripped clothes that I could barely stand up in. There was no doctor in the prison, I couldn’t speak Spanish and the food was pigswill. The time had come to find out what was wrong with me, before I got myself killed.


I began the emotional task of examining my childhood. My mother knew I’d been arrested, but didn’t contact me for three months. Without the help of Mike Pearson, my Zen American cellmate, I wouldn’t have been able to cope with the inevitable breakdown that was to come.


That’s what Wild Ride to Freedom is about - my recovery and the slow discovery of a new way of living life, and how to understand and break the chain of the old. This narrative is interwoven with the day-to-day life in Franco’s fascist prison, where torture, deprivation - and even death - was always around the corner. I discovered it’s possible to find that strangers and cellmates can be the kindest people you’ll ever meet.



William McLellan aka Willy Smax

Photo - Jack Davison

Photo by Jack Davison
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William McLellan aged 18 in 1968
Aged 18 in 1968