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William Quarrier


1829 - 1903

Philanthropist and social reformer. Born in Greenock, the second of three children, Quarrier's father died of cholera when he was an infant and the family moved to a close off Glasgow's High Street. Suffering great hardship he was forced to begin work in a pin factory at just six years old. Later he became an apprentice shoemaker and eventually, after marrying the daughter of his employer in 1856, ran his own business. A devout Baptist, his faith would map out the rest of his life. In 1864, touched by an incident where a youngster selling matches was distraught because his stock had been stolen, Quarrier not only helped the boy but was inspired to help others. He began a scheme whereby he would issue boys were shoe shine kits, forming the Shoe-Black Brigade. Boys were expected to repay the costs of their materials and uniforms, but also to attend reading and writing classes in the evening and Sunday School weekly. In 1871, he opened a home for destitute children in Renfrew Lane, and a year later he opened new homes in Cessnock and Dovehill. He also promoted a scheme which sent children to families in Canada in search of a better life; at least 7000 were sent between 1871 and 1938, with at least 200,000 modern-day Canadians being able to trace their roots to Quarrier's scheme. In 1876 he began building Quarrier's Village to provide residential care in a rural environment and continued its construction for the remainder of his life.

Quarrier died at his home, Homelea, a modest villa which lay at the centre of the village. When his birthplace in Crosshore Street, Greenock, was demolished in 1929, the stone entrance-arch was transferred to Quarrier's Village and now forms the War Memorial at its centre, as well as a memorial to its founder.


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