WILLIAM Quarrier was only eight years old when he started work as an apprentice shoemaker in Glasgow.

His father had died, and he had to support his family. Gradually, he built up a business, and became a successful shoe merchant with several shops in the city.

One night, in 1864, William met a boy selling matches on the street. He was crying, because some older boys had stolen them and now he would have no money.

William decided that now he was no longer poor, he would put his own money and skills to good use to help other young people.

Glasgow Times: William and Isabella Quarrier

In our sister newspaper The Herald in August 1864, William announced his intention to start a Shoeblack Brigade for children living on the streets and called for the editor and ‘other gentlemen’ in the city to support him.

Glasgow Times: Quarriers

“In almost every street of our city are to be found youths who have none to care for them and possessing all the elements of industry and perseverance,” he wrote, adding that while the scheme might not make much revenue, ‘if it fed, clothed and educated forty destitute youths, preserving them from the vices that surround them and making them useful members of society, I say that the result would transcend any pecuniary aid that might be given to it.”

The scheme was set up and boys went out cleaning shoes on street corners, keeping some of the money they earned and using the rest to replenish brushes and polish.

Glasgow Times: Quarriers' first base in James Morrison Street, Glasgow

Similar initiatives with newsboys and a parcel brigade followed.

In 1871, 150 years ago this week, William Quarrier opened Renfrew Lane Homes for orphaned and destitute children living in Glasgow.

Quarrier’s would go on to become the largest provider of residential care to children in Western Europe.

Over the first 100 years of its operation as many as 40,000 children were supported, many in Quarriers Village in Bridge of Weir, where 50 cottages were built for children who were looked after by ‘house parents’.

The village grew to include a school, workshops, Mount Zion Church and a training ship where boys could learn skills for a career in the navy.

There are some dark chapters in the Quarriers history – recently, abuse of children while in the organisation’s care during the 50s, 60s and 70s came to light, and the charity has also apologised to more than 7000 people who were sent to Canada and Australia as children between 1872 and 1938.

READ MORE: Glasgow's Stow Street was a shopper's paradise before Cowcaddens demolition

William died in October 1903, and his wife Isabella passed away the following year. Their loss was deeply mourned by everyone at what was initially called the Orphan Homes of Scotland before changing to Quarriers in 1958.

The couple are buried in the cemetery at Mount Zion Church.

Quarriers now supports more than 5000 people across Scotland.

In 2013, The William Quarrier Scottish Epilepsy Centre, the only residential assessment and treatment centre in Scotland for adults with epilepsy, opened in Govan.