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Bringing sunshine into young lives; Trips for deprived children.

CHILDREN North East is one of the country's oldest charities and will be 120 years old next year.

Born under the name of PCHA it has shown thousands of youngsters that life can be a happy experience. This was essential in the early days of the charity as conditions in many parts of Tyneside were squalid, overcrowded and insanitary.

There is no way to begin to imagine what these children had to endure in the 1890s but even today there is still a large amount of work for the charity to carry out.

The story of this particular charity began when a clerk, John H Watson, who was employed by Newcastle Corporation, had an idea which was eventually to bring a bit of happiness to children whose life had been a living hell.

Every summer he would take his family to the seaside for a holiday but as he lay on the beach, enjoying the sun, his thoughts were troubled.

He would watch his children playing on the water's edge, hear their laughter and while he was deeply glad of this, his mind would wander to the everyday sight of the children he saw in Newcastle, shoeless, dressed in rags and living in absolutely terrible conditions.

These boys and girls used to sell papers, flowers, matches and fruit outside the theatres and on the streets. If they did not take enough money they were afraid to go home as their parents would, in most cases, give them a good thrashing.

Instead they would end up sleeping in coal cellars and stables.

John Watson was connected with the Wesleyan Mission Society in Newcastle and helped in the soup kitchens which the Mission opened for the poor children who roamed Tyneside streets in the night. As he listened to the excited screams of his youngsters, the idea hit him - how much the deprived children of Newcastle would appreciate a day at the seaside, bereft of worries and responsibilities, even for just a few hours.

That thought started the history of the Poor Children's Holiday Association, which has now evolved into the Children North East.

He returned to work as a man with a purpose and talked about his idea to friends. It was JT Lunn who responded with a gift of pounds 5 and as the story spread, even a little girl from Hexham donated 4s 6d. His idea was up and running.

Armed with the donations John Watson took a party of children away for a day at the seaside. Most, if not all, were to experience the sea for the first time. The trip was a brilliant success but Watson was only getting started.

He wrote a letter to the Newcastle Daily Chronicle (now The Journal), describing the trip. That letter proved a steppingstone and donations started coming in quickly. But, just as important, more and more people volunteered as helpers.

By 1938 the organisation had an annual expenditure of pounds 50,000, owned property and sent 17,000 children to the seaside each year. It also had a sanitarium with 500 children resident, a boys' farm at South Shields, Whickham and Whitley Bay, homes and missions in Newcastle and Gateshead and a girls' training-home at Shotley Bridge.

CAPTION(S):

EXCITEMENT: Clockwise from top, a day trip to Monkseaton in the early 1900s; RAFT bus in the 1990s; the PCHA building in 1933; Edith Brough Children's Home during the 1960s. Inset left John H Watson
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 20, 2010
Words:575
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