THE YMCA COMES TO WALES.
In due course, the Young Men's Christian Association reached Wales. Its history from 1852, when the Cardiff Association was founded, to 1882, when the first District Committee was elected, is concerned with the founding of the first five Associations in the Principality. The other Associations
established in that period were, respectively, Swansea, Abergavenny.
Newport, Neath and
It is a story of stalwart men who acted in great faith
. It is history
enshrined in the persistent endeavours of benevolent and enthusiastic laymen. The period is a record of Association progress which commenced operations in two or three rented rooms. As is usual with most ventures, results fluctuated in those early days, but those pioneers, with continuing faith in their objectives, persisted in their efforts. The time came when the rented premises, with their limited and inadequate space, became too small and it was necessary to move to larger, more desirable and more suitable accommodation. The next step was to erect purpose-planned buildings with rooms and halls designed for the varied Association activities and, in time, these properties became valuable assets.
Today, four of the earliest YMCAs in Wales, after a century of continued service in their respective communities are in the vanguard of the Association movement, which extends throughout Wales under the auspices of the Welsh National Council of YMCAs.
To do justice to these five associations, it is fitting that a record of their origin and activities should be pursued. The historical sketches that follow must, of necessity, be brief both because of limited space and insufficient documentary information.
Cardiff YMCA - The first Association in Wales. Events of the early days are obscure. The first home was a small upstairs room at 100 St. Mary Street, Cardiff, in 1852. It flourished from the beginning and within a year an adjacent site and building were purchased and a new building erected at a cost of £2,500. The brothers John and Richard Cory, local coal and shipping merchants, contributed liberally towards the cost.
After various honorary secretaries had maintained the duties of adminis- tration, the first salaried officer was appointed - Mr. W.A. Southall, an experienced YMCA Secretary. In the course of a few years, he relinquished his duties for a similar post in Melbourne, Australia. He was succeeded at Cardiff by a Mr. Gallop, who introduced educational activities - not to the liking of some of the founder members, who resigned from the Governing Body.
In these circumstances Mr. Gallop also resigned, the work deteriorated and, for a time, the Association ceased to exist. The building in St. Mary Street was leased for the work/activities of the Cardiff Free Library. But the Association was soon revived - in rented rooms. However, in 1883 new premises were erected for the Library and the Association was soon back in its own home. Debts were liquidated by revenue from the letting, and John Cory refurnished the building at considerable cost.
A lively secretary was found in Mr. George Hughes who remained with the Association for nine years. Other secretaries followed but for shorter periods. A former secretary of the Norwich Association, Mr. Walter Price,