Stepping stones

Youth hostels, good-will and reconciliation Youth hostels had always been practical, all about self-help, with “a vigorous tradition of eager volunteers going off on their weekends to help build or convert new hostels...” * Jack Catchpool, first national secretary of YHA (England and Wales), was sure that, in bringing young people together to work at... Continue Reading →

A good war

A short history of youth hostels and the second world war. As youth hostels define a role for themselves, in the crisis of Covid 19, here's a look at their history in an earlier crisis, which may or may not be helpful, as the times and the challenges faced then were very different to those... Continue Reading →

Always intent on better lives

Jack Catchpool and a history of youth hostels The struggle to improve lives fascinates me. It’s an endeavour, sometimes called the life reform movement, that defines the first half of the twentieth century, the era out of which youth hostels leaped, and is the reason why, when I first came across a second-hand paperback copy... Continue Reading →

Youth Hostel Pioneer

Jack Catchpool was the key figure, the central force, the driver, coordinator, and chief pioneer of youth hostels. Using all his enormous skills, a wide network of allies and supporters, and his simple faith as a Quaker, he spread the idea of youth hostels throughout England and Wales to the world. This book, published in... Continue Reading →

Working for peace

Image courtesy HINI In the offices of the youth hostels association of Northern Ireland (HINI), they hold an album of photos, in old brown fabric. The album is full of pictures taken in a post-war world out of which people climbed, away from the horrors of total war, holocaust and nuclear armageddon. The people in... Continue Reading →

Boxes, bombs and treasure

Just when I thought I had finished, three boxes came along and knocked all my plans down like skittles. I've been writing about Jack Catchpool, first secretary of the Youth Hostels Association, and his life of adventure and travel, for two and a half years. A complete first draft was done. I had a bit... Continue Reading →

Quakers, aid, refugees and hostels

The origins and aims of youth hostels have often been misunderstood. Traditional views have youth hostels emerging from an outdoors movement of walkers and cyclists. This view overlooks the leading role played by Quakers in the pioneering years of youth hostels and the work of its first national secretary, E St John “Jack” Catchpool. Catchpool's... Continue Reading →

In search of the Bedford Institute

A sunny Saturday afternoon in April and the FA cup is into semi finals. When I get off the bus, football supporters are making a racket outside Liverpool Street station. They're either Spurs or Chelsea supporters, I have no idea which, and either way passers by are scurrying, trying not to be intimidated. I haven't... Continue Reading →

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