The YMCA has been standing in Pontypridd Town Centrefor over a hundred years. That’s a three figure number. That’s prettyimpressive.
The YMCA actually began above a small local shop inTaff Street in 1898, which was supported by local businessmen and prominentindividuals within the town. The building as we know it now came from localcontributions, and opened in 1910.
And, if you subtract 2010 from 1910, and what do you get? A hundred. Andthe joyous day has come. The centenary of the YMCA.
For these past hundred years, the YMCA has been providing communities with aplace to meet and to take part in activities, and on the 29th of September avast amount of people collected in the YMCA, remembering the good old days, andalso looking forward to the next centenary.
And that’s not all, as we at Wicid were kindly invited to attend this milestoneevent to report on the celebrations. We were glad to be a part of the fun laidout by the team at the centre. Not only did we meet and talk to people aboutthe YMCA, but we also interviewed Jane Davidson (the Welsh Assembly GovernmentMember for Pontypridd). There will be a video of the interview coming soon -the interviewer being our very own Martyn.
It was all very exciting with balloons scattered around the venue, welsh newsprogramme ‘Wedi 7’ filming footage throughout the day, GTFM live from the mainhall and plenty of entertainment from wonderful welsh dancing, to singing,along with plenty of tales, performances from secondary schools around RCT, areunion and a procession, with a visit from the Mayor.
What I noticed first on arrival was the wonderful artworks on thewalls. Welsh artist Craig Lewis worked alongside local primary schoolchildren to produce a collection of commemorative artworks which represent akey moment in the history of the centre’s 100 year reign. The YMCA was, andstill is a place where people get together and it was great to see that todayand portrayed in the images on the walls.
As I look at the art and photographs of members past, I started chattingto a lovely man called Tony Morgan, who I discovered started going to thecentre when he was just 10 years old. He was a boxer, and attended the YMCAregularly to box but also met his wife Valerie there. Unfortunately Valeriecouldn’t make it to the reunion but Tony, born Anthony Michael Morgan, told mesome colourful stories of the characters he knew at the time.
Fred Smith who was the Chairman of the Chamber of Trades, was the MC for theWelsh Amateur Boxing Association. He was an important person in Tony’s time atthe YMCA. He told me of his amazing voice, and the fact that he always wore ablack suit and a paisley bow tie, Tony fondly remembers him as.. “An immaculateman who was a true professional”.
He went on to tell me of his trainer Cecile Brown and pointed him out to me inone of the many photos on boards around the main hall, and told me how he wouldmake sure Tony had bus fair to get home and would treat him to chips from thefish and chip shop down the road, he would never forget those moments. He spokehighly of him and described him as “One of God’s Gentlemen”.
Tony then spoke of Major Frost who ran a pub in Pontypridd back then called TheBon Hotel. In the mid 50s, Major Frost revived the boxing scene in Pontypridd,he had a gym at the hotel where people would train and his son Idwal, now 66,attended Boxing at the YMCA at the time, and was a welsh Bantamweight Champion. Himand Tony are still friendly to this day. Idwal also met his wife, Marian at aYMCA dance.
Tony and I continue to chat away while he remembers Mrs Tyler, who was“in charge of the moral side of things” at the YMCA. He will never forget howshe would mix sugar with water in order to make her skirts stick out at theends. And fondly remembers how the girls attending the YMCA including his wife,who was doing basket weaving, used to turn their skirts up to impress the boysand have a telling off from Mrs Tyler.
I could have stayed there chatting to Tony all day but I was dying for acuppa and a slice of some homemade cake, anyone who knows me will know thatcake is my weakness. I bid farewell to Tony and Just as I’m about to head overto the food, Tony bumps into a friend called Anne John, who he would just loveme to meet.
I discover that Anne is the wife of the late Roy John who recentlypassed away. Roy John fought for the British title in 1973. Anne and Tony showme a picture of him at 15 years old and explain to me that he turnedprofessional at 20 years old, and he beat Karl Thomas for the Welsh Title. Tonygoes on to explain how much of an inspiration he was to young people, includinghimself. “If he was a little taller, he would have been a world champion”. Annetells me that her and Roy’s son, but I didn’t have chance to catch up with him,before they left.
But just as I’m about to bid farewell to Tony for a second time, I’mcornered by ‘Wedi 7’ to do an interview for the Welsh TelevisionProgramme. Those of you who saw this would have seen that I looked like aghost, I had no lippy on and I also had no time to put my Wicid.tv t-shirt on,arrrghhhh, but we did manage to get Wicid.tv on the screen ha ha, every cloud.
We had a great day, met some wonderful people, heard some great stories,saw photos and plenty of entertainment, and I even got to have a slice of verytasty cake. Keep and eye out for more YMCA Stories coming soon on Wicid.tv
The YMCA have an extensive archive, and there were minutes from early daysat the centre laid out on the table for people to see. If you would like toknow more about the YMCA or even hear more stories, visit the YMCA and talk toHayley Fiddler. Hayley has been the YMCA centre manager for three years, she isabsolutely lovely and will be able to help you.
Check out the YMCA website HERE