What happened on Wednesday November 27th 1940?
World War II was raging across Europe. At sea the British Royal Navy took on the Italians in the Mediterranean at the Battle of Spartivento. Northwest of Ireland German U Boats sunk 3 British ships and damaged another. In Romania the Iron Guard massacred members of the countries’ former government. 400 miles East of New Zealand, German armed merchant cruisers shelled and sunk the New Zealand liner Rangitane.
The world was in chaos and things seemed pretty grim, however two, rather more positive things happened that day which would have later signifance. Firstly, in San Francisco, the martial arts movie star Bruce Lee was born.
Secondly, in Leeds at a meeting held at the YWCA the formation of the Hunslet Boys Club was formally proposed. According to the minutes “It was agreed that the club be developed on non-political, interdenominational lines. Its motto might be “FITNESS FOR LIFE,” fitness being used to cover spiritual, physical and mental well-being.” A concept which was to grow and develop as the club’s continuing purpose through the years to this day. (A concept which must have worked from the beginning as there are Octagenarians still alive today who were at the club at it’s first meeting.)
It was thanks to a local Doctor John Wyllie that the club came about at this meeting. During the blitz in Leeds boys and young men had been temporarily utilised as firewatchers and messengers between first aid and air raid warden posts. Doctor Wyllie got to know these young lads at the First Aid Centre he was in charge of and realised their need for positive activities to help them grow and develop into good citizens. He rallied community support and public meetings where it was identified that many of the social problems in the area of the day could be tackled well by the provision of a youth club.
The rest, following that meeting on November 27th 1940, as they say, is history. Over the course of 72 years the club has grown, moved premises, grown some more, diversified it’s activities and changed the lives of literally thousands of children and young people. As one of the top five largest youth clubs in the UK and with exciting plans in the pipeline for further growth and expansion It will continue to do so we hope to be here for a great many more years yet to come.
So today is as good a day as any just to say thank you to the countless volunteers, helpers, staff, funders and supporters, without whom none of our achievements over 72 years would have been possible. Thank you one and all.