IN the mid 1960s Tricia McConalogue was an 11-year-old girl living in the Gorbals.

Her father worked as a bricklayer but money was tight and the family could not afford an annual holiday.

Like many other families, they would manage a day away from time to time but in the main, Tricia rarely strayed far from the streets around her home.

All that changed thanks to Lilias Graham, a social worker for the Scottish Episcopal Church who worked in the Gorbals.

She knew many families lived with poverty, illness and unemployment and believed getting them out of the city for a week would improve their health and wellbeing.

Lilias set up a network of families across the country willing to take in youngsters and give them the chance of a holiday.

Tricia was one of the first to benefit from the scheme and one summer day in 1967 she set off alone on a train journey to Oban.

She was met by Lady Cunningham and her two Labrador dogs who took her to her cottage on Mull where the youngster spent two weeks on her first ever break from her family.

Tricia said: “I was out of the city and at first I felt a wee bit out of my depth. I remember waking in the early morning and the silence was terrifying.”

But the youngster quickly relaxed and was introduced to a wide range of new experiences including pony riding, swimming and artichokes.

She said: “She took me to the houses of friends who had children and I played with them.

“The Lady made me welcome from the first minute I met her but it took a few days to get used to being with someone I didn’t know.”

The following year, Lady Cunningham invited Tricia to stay with her at her home in Fife.

She said: “She introduced me to another kind of world. She lived alone with only the people who worked for her but in the morning the breakfast was served in silver covered dishes.”

Tricia believes the experiences she enjoyed on her holidays helped her to stretch her ambitions.

Today she is director of the Bridging the Gap charity in the Gorbals and a couple of years ago was awarded an MBE for her work.

The project which took her from the poverty she experienced as a child in the Gorbals is now called Glasgow Children’s Holiday Scheme.

In the 60 years it has been running, it has taken tens of thousands of children on holiday. It still has a network of families willing to give youngsters a badly needed break but now has six caravans where whole families can enjoy time together.

Last year alone, 489 children and 356 adults from 214 families benefitted thanks to a stay in caravans in Wemyss Bay and Fife.

Charity co-ordinator Douglas Wilson said: “Nearly 500 children and young people each year enjoy a break in our caravans and between 10 and 20 children go on host family holidays.

“The scheme is aimed at children and their families who otherwise wouldn’t get a holiday. The vast majority are referred by social workers, schools or health visitors and for many children it is the first time they have had a break.

“It helps their mental health because it gives them something to look forward to and creates memories they can take back with them.

“It is about getting a break – not just for children but for parents and carers.”

Tricia has no doubts about the benefits the holiday scheme brings to youngsters who would otherwise not have a chance to escape their daily lives.

She said: “It is about getting away from the stresses and strains of everyday life, getting away from the city and getting space to recuperate.

“Holidays are great for everyone but particularly for children and young people who may have issues to cope with. A holiday gets them away from that and gives them time.

“It is a great opportunity for kids to have a different view from the life they or place they are in just now.

“I got introduced to horse riding and artichokes which I would never have had in the Gorbals. It was an introduction to a different culture and for me was a valuable experience."