The summer holiday camps for thousands of Glasgow children

The holiday fund allowed thousands of Glasgow children to get out of the smoke to the seaside during the summer months. PIC: TSPL.
The holiday fund allowed thousands of Glasgow children to get out of the smoke to the seaside during the summer months. PIC: TSPL.
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They allowed the least well off children of Glasgow a chance of fresh air, four meals a day and a taste of freedom from the confines of the city.

The Glasgow Necessitous Children’s Holiday Camp Fund was set up in the 1920s to give two-week summer breaks to those who needed them most.

The scheme, set up by the then Glasgow Corporation, was massively over subscribed, In 1934, records show there were 67,000 children in Glasgow from families too poor to afford a holiday.

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At that time, the fund was helping up to 7,000 young ones spend some time at the seaside or in the countryside.

Camps, some accommodating 1,000 boys at once, were set up in places like Dunoon and Inverkip in the west and near Dunbar in the east.

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Meanwhile, the fund took a lease on the old Royal Naval hospital at Port Edgar near South Queensferry where hundreds of girls spent a fortnight every summer.

The Linlithgowshire Gazette covered the stay of 250 girls at Port Edgar in 1935.

“In the health giving fresh air and sunshine, the little waifs from the tall tenements and dreary closes are strengthened mentally and physically for the long winter at school,” the newspaper said.

A special train delivered the children to South Queensferry, many of the girls experiencing the “joy of travel” for the first time, the report added.

Homesickness was common as the girls moved into their dormitories, where only the house prefect was given a pillow, with some making up stories of relatives living nearby in the hope to escape the regime.

Letters from home were kept from the girls for a few days until they settled in, according to the newspaper.

It added: “Before many days have passed, the children forget their longing for the city streets and realised that they have reached the happy place where dreams come true.

“No matter how sickly they look when they first come from the torrid city streets, their wan cheeks fill out gradually and become rose with the blooms of health,” the newspaper added.

Their usual “scant” meals of bread, margarine and the “occasional fish supper” were replaced with four full servings a day with plenty fruit and vegetables, according to the account.

It was not unknown for girls to gain six or seven pounds in weight during the fortnight.

Girls were given almost complete freedom to explore the area during their stay at Port Edgar with visitors surprised at the good conduct of the young city dweller.

“There is no rowdyism, no flowers are uprooted, no trees or shrubs are damaged and the children leave no litter,” the newspaper said.

Headmistress M.B. Smith from Glasgow cared for girls during the summer for many years.

The Glasgow approach won admiration from around the country with a medical officer from Yorkshire, a Dr Watt, invited to see the scheme at work at Port Edgar in 1935.

“He was amazed at the fine condition of the children and noted there was almost a complete absence of ricketts,” the newspaper said.

Glasgow Necessitous Children’s Holiday Camp Fund became a charity of choice for many with the Glasgow Corporation promoting its aims through a series of films, which were screened in the cinema and at social gatherings across the city.

A collection can was often passed round after the film were shown to generate funds for the holidays.

Harry Lauder, the hugely successful Scots Vaudeville singer and comedian, was a big supporter of the fund and would welcome children to his home in Dunoon during their time at camp.