« Previous | Main | Next »

A history of the boys' club movement in Wales

Post categories:

BBC Wales History BBC Wales History | 10:56 UK time, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Many people across the country have cause to be grateful to the youth clubs that provided - and still provide - activities and education, in the broadest sense, for young people. In later years many of these clubs were funded and run by local authorities but at the beginning of the 20th century the foundation of a boys' club movement in Wales gave youth care a decided boost.

Founded by Captain J Glynn-Jones and David Davies of Llandinam - Wales' first millionaire and the builder of Barry Docks - the first boys' club was opened in Treharris in 1922. Glynn-Jones, as welfare officer of the David Davies' Ocean Group of Collieries, was faced by the problem of how to help and support adolescent collier boys who, after their shifts in the mines, found themselves with little to do apart from hang around street corners and get into mischief. His solution was to create a series of clubs where boys could be given something positive to occupy their minds - and hands.

The original Treharris Boys Club was quickly followed by others in Nantymoel, Ton Pentre, Treorchy, Wattstown and Nine Mile Point.

 "They were led by full-time youth workers on a scale unparalleled elsewhere in Great Britain, even during a time of economic depression. Captain Glynn wanted every boy to be a member of a club which provided healthy exercises, cultural activities and discipline." (Timeline, A History of the Boys' Club Movement in Wales)

Realising the need for greater unity, the various clubs formed themselves into The South Wales Federation of Boys' Clubs in August 1928, and in due course the organisation grew to include St Athan Boys' Village and, after the Second World War, the Abercrave Adventure Centre. These two establishments began to offer week-long activity programmes, specifically geared to the need of young people - no longer just collier boys. In 1947, the organisation extended its operations across the whole of Wales, becoming The Welsh Association of Boys' Clubs.

The changing needs of society caused serious financial difficulties in the 1980s and this resulted in the Association of Boys' Clubs having to change its role and even its name. The St Athan and Abercrave sites were sold off and the Welsh Federation of Boys' and Girls' Groups was came into existence in 1992.

"We held a meeting at Bettws Boys' Club in October 1991," says David Allen-Oliver, the first Chief Executive of the new organisation. "84 clubs joined the new organisation which was recognised by the Charity Commission the following year. And since then it's gone from strength to strength."

The new organisation has developed and grown and has now become one of the most important voluntary youth organisations in Wales. Just as the original organisation did back in the 1920s it continues to offer opportunities for young people through a wide range of educational, sporting, social and cultural activities. Captain Glynn-Jones' vision is still alive and, more importantly, still working.

Were you a member of a boys' club in Wales? We'd love to hear about your experiences. Leave a comment below.

If you want to add a comment to the Wales History blog (or any BBC blog) you will need to sign in to your BBC iD account. If you don't have an account, you can register here to set up a BBC iD account. Read about BBC iD.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Good article Phil, the organisation (now called Clubs for Young People Wales) has recently produced the book Timeline 28-08 A History of the Boy's Club Movement in Wales. Copies are available from Clubs for Young People Wales headquarters if people would like to find out more about the history.

  • Comment number 3.

    An excellent article Phil, giving a potted history. I myself have been involved at various times with the organisation over the last ten years and the people involved do a sterling job, sometimes on limited resources in both terms of time and monies.

    I would heartily recommend to people, if they are so inclined to help out or enquire about aiding this movement, either in time, expertise or through donations. In what can be cynical times, when we reference the youth culture of today, highlighting the work of organisations such as this and their members can only be applauded?

  • Comment number 4.

    Hi, forgive me my poor language, I am from Poland currently studying Photography in Cardiff.
    It is great article, also amazing part of Wales history. I am doing my Major Project about Boys Village (former St Athan Camp) and as part of my project I am collecting people's stories related to Boys Village. This place is/was amazing! If anyone got some stories to say it would be nice to hear it!
    All the best

  • Comment number 5.

    Hi, my father passed away last week and in looking through his collection of memoribilla I found a badge for St Athan Boys Village. I think he went there just before or during the 2nd World War. Does anyone know if there are records where I can trace his stay?

    Thank you

  • Comment number 6.

    Hi Geoff, the Boys Clubs are still in existence and have their HQ in Cardiff - they're now called Clubs for Young People Wales. If you put that into Google I'm sure you'll come up with an address/telephone number. I don't know what records they hold but contact with them is always a good place to start.

  • Comment number 7.

    How would i come about, buying this area?

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    Have I read it wrong or did I imagine it? But somewhere along the line I seem to have heard that the old Boys village at St Athan is for sale again. True or false?

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?


More from this blog...

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.