A History of the YWCA in Ireland
Extracts from “For Such a Time as This” by kind permission of Elaine Graham
In 1855 at the time of the Crimean war a Miss Roberts with a friend Miss Moor started a Prayer Union in her home at Barnet in north London.
The idea of "woman praying for woman" around the world took hold and other ‘Unions’ started.
At the same time the Hon. Mary Jane Kinnaird (later Lady Kinnaird) opened a house in Charles Street in London for girls coming up to London,
who had never been away from home before. Some of these where nurses going to the Crimean war to help Florence Nightingale.
1860 Five years later in the summer a prayer union was started in the Rectory in Coleraine by the Rector's wife. Prayer Unions spread
from this beginning.
1872 The origin of the Association in Dublin was at a gathering of young ladies on a June day in a little wood on Bray Head, when Mrs
Sullivan told them of the value of the Prayer Union which had been established in Kingstown (now Dun Laoghaire) some time previously.
The first meeting in Dublin was with Miss Marrable and members at 15 Wicklow Street. Also this year The President of the YWCA in Great
Britain met Mrs Sullivan and appointed her as the first President of YWCA Ireland. She with Miss Marrable ran several Bible Classes in and
In the early eighteen seventies Miss Roberts was urged to expand her Unions and also the work begun by Lady Kinnaird had spread to many
In 1876 they met to discuss the situation and decided to combine the different aspects of their Christian work. Miss Roberts died
later that year, but the next year the two groups combined, initially under the of “The London Young Women’s Institute and Christian
Association”, the united work soon became known simply as the Young Women’s Christian Association.
In 1878 the Irish Association agreed with England that the membership should be developed beyond Prayer Unions only and that the membership
should be as follows:
• Honorary Associates – these were chiefly elder members.
• Working Associates – these who can give time freely to various departments of work.
• Prayer Union members – the core of the Association from which the Working Associates and Council members were taken.
• General Circle members who took advantage of the various aspects of the Association.
By 1880 there was a great need for premises, an appeal was launched for funds and two rooms were rented in 13 Nassau Street and in 1883
the first home was opened in Molesworth Street, as this was not large enough £632 was collected and 75 Harcourt Street was rented – to include an office.
In 1884 the Evangelisation and Extension Department commenced and tours were planned in various counties. The first Annual conference was
also held this year.
Also in 1884 first steps towards a National Association in Great Britain was taken. A constitution was formed in England and adopted by
Ireland. All actions where to be under the following basis which was recorded in the first general report of The Young Women’s Christian
Association in Ireland:
A living union with Christ our God and Savour, the only principle of action being the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost,
uniting in prayer and work those who desire to extend his kingdom by all means that are in accordance with the word of God.
1886 The first Junior Branch in Ireland was opened
A Belfast home was opened in College Square, North.
The Total Abstainers Department reported that there were over 3,000 total abstainers in Ireland among the members.
The Scattered Members Branch restarted with 63 members.
1887 The first general report for the Irish Division of YWCA was published. There where over 240 Branches around Ireland and more
than 9,000 members. Centres had been opened in Belfast, Cork, Dublin, Enniskillen, Newtownards and Sligo. Some of these provided
1888 A Missionary Department was formed also around this time help was given to foreign visitors in Ireland.
Clubs and Homes were rented and opened in Cork and Waterford and Lurgan.
1890 Holiday Homes were rented for the summer months to give cheap holidays in Kilkee, Greystones and Portrush.
Premises rented in 8 Donegall Square, Belfast.
70 Junior Branches in Ireland.
1891 31 Mount Pleasant Square, Dublin was leased to start a Deaconess and Missionary Training Institute.
1893 Coolnagreina, Greystones, Co Wicklow was leased and furnished. There were over 200 visitors during the summer.
A Home and Club was opened in 26 Rutland Square, Dublin.
1895 The Trust Corporation for the Irish Division was registered and a Limited Company formed. Shares where available at £1 each.
1897 An Employment Agency started in Ely Place, Dublin.
The Rotunda House, 16 Granby Row opened.
1900 Mr and Mrs Harold Gray leased Glenada House, Newcastle, Co Down to the Association for a Holiday Home for a nominal rent.
The Harcourt street property moved to 16 Harcourt Street and was known as Victoria House.
1902 The Cliff, Tramore was opened. The National Department for the Deaf was started to assist orally – taught girls after they left school.
1906 it was decided the Council should meet monthly instead of quarterly as before and the former Sub-Committee of Council
becomes the Standing Committee of Council, and meets monthly also for the transaction of financial or local business. A Chairwoman
of Council was appointed, but in future to be elected annually.
1907 In May an International Exhibition was held in Dublin.
In July 1907 a sale in Co. Monaghan resulted in £62 towards the erection of a hall. Mrs Hall had been determined that something should
be done to erect a hall, that was felt by many to be a need for the area. By her hard work the hall was opened a year later. It was
built on the land given by Lord Rossmore. Over £300 had been received and the hall was free of debt.
A new department was formed called The Girls’ Auxiliary and Helpers Union. This was for girls of leisure who would help at functions
held for their ‘working sisters’. They helped at teas, using their talents in art, office work, and music etc. At the opening of
the Monaghan Hall they are described as dressed in white blouses with red sashes helping with the tea after the official opening.
Another new development was the holding of Camps. This was a week in each of the Holiday Centres – Greystones, Newcastle Co. Down,
1908 Lisburn commenced the building of their new Memorial Home. “A good site at reasonable terms having been secured, through the
kindness of Sir Murray Scott, the foundation stone was laid by Miss Richardson on 28th July and the undertaking afresh dedicated to God.”
1909 Homestead, Delgany, Co Wicklow was opened in January as a Rest Home for YWCA workers, secretaries, missionaries and other workers.
1910 Fifty years of YWCA in Ireland was noted in 1910 as also the fact that the Queen of England had become the Patron of YWCA. All
the departments of work, the Homes and the Holiday centres were all doing well.
1911 Miss Phennix resigned after nearly 18 year’s work as Secretary of the Association in Ireland. Later Miss May Cregan was appointed
in her place. It was decided to move the office to more suitable rooms which were found in Upper Sackville Street at a reasonable rent.
1912 The British National YWCA decided that it was advisable to affiliate with the Baden-Powell Girl Guides’ movement. “By joining one
of these companies a girl becomes a member of our Association, and in addition to keeping the Guide promises she undertakes to read the
Y.W.C.A. daily Scripture portion. All officers have to accept the Y. W. C. A. basis.”
1913The first YWCA Guide company in Ireland was started in January at Waterford.
1914 The Holiday Centre in Portrush closed.
1915 “Since the outbreak of war considerable work has been done nationally among girls and women living in military centres.
After careful preparation and inquiry, a club was opened in Newtownards where it was felt the need was most urgent”
1916 The opening of the report for 1916 says that the Report for 1915 was destroyed during the “Rebellion week last Easter”. “The
present report would be greatly abridged owing to curtailment of paper, and also the increased cost of printing”.
Headquarters moved from Sackville Street to 53 Upper Mount Street.
A new Hostel in Waterford was specially built for the Association mainly through the generosity of Miss White. This seems to be
4 William Street, Waterford.
“The Intermediate Girls’ Club in Belfast now combines a Hostel, and by Her Majesty's gracious permission it is named “Queen Mary’s.”
1917 The Annual Report for 1917 begins: “The Annual Report is issued this year for the first time, under the new
designation of “The Y.W.C.A. for Ireland.”
1918 was recorded as a “year of unexampled national strain”.
In recognition of the amount of people queuing in Kingstown, The Association opened an emergency hostel, first of all in church halls
and then at 4 Haigh Terrace, for weary travellers. Later, a girls’ club was also started in the house.
1919 64 Lower Baggot Street was handed over to the YWCA Trust Corporation
1920 The hostel at Lower Baggot Street opened in February. The Annual Conference could not be held this year. Kilkee Holiday Home could
not open due to lack of trains. The Queen Mary’s Club and Home was given up at the end of the year.
1921 64 Lower Baggot Street had a very successful year. The Missionary Department managed to raise about £1,500 for 31 different Foreign
and Home Societies.
1922 The Association seems to have been very limited by the political situation in Ireland. But members realised that it is in times of
trouble that faith matures, for they wrote: “For several months several parts of Ireland were completely cut off from any means of
communication, and our Association has proved itself a real strength, the very troubles being the means of developing wonderful qualities
of earnestness and braver faith. Even as in the war we learned in a new sense, the power of prayer, so this isolation drew out vast
depths of sympathy and taught us afresh the value of fellowship in prayer”. The Holiday Homes of Newcastle and Greystones were well filled
during the summer months.
1923 The 1923 report speaks about “a year which began so tumultuously and has ended in comparative peace. Mount Pleasant Square Hostel
now seems to be called Victoria House. The Junior section was reorganised and given the additional name of the Starlight Band with a
special badge. All the hostels and departments were maintaining their numbers.
1924 The Choral Society (of 96 members) was inaugurated in January by a large gathering at the Metropolitan Hall.
Miss Radcliff was made Superintendent of Victoria House.
1927 In June 1927 the Central Offices moved from 53 Upper Mount Street to the first floor of the new Bible House, 42 Dawson Street.
This was especially to give new premises to the Central Girls' Club.
1928 Coolnagreina, Greystones, was bought by the Association early in 1928. Work was then done to make the house “hygienic and comfortable” for those who were to spend holidays there.
1929 “The Inter-relationship Committee” which met regularly. It linked the YWCA for Scotland, YWCA for Ireland, and the Christian
Alliance of Women and Girls.” They decided to share news in each other’s publications and newsletters. By the end of 1929 the
hostel at Newtownards was closed.
1930 Mrs Longworth-Dames was elected President of the association and remained President for 10 years.
This year also
Queen Mary’s Home became Queen Mary’s Hostel and a new lease was taken for the Cliff, Tramore.
1931 53 Upper Mount Street was closed.
1932 A new venture was started in connection with the Annual Conference in 1932. This was a competitive Handcraft Exhibition and
this was used with enthusiasm then and in the coming years.
1939 Glenada House, Newcastle, Co Down was purchased by the association.
1940 The Lurgan Hostel closed in April of this year.
1942 7 Marine Terrace, Kingstown was purchased.
In 1942 four rooms were taken in 51 Wellington Street,Ballymena, where a YWCA Club for Service Women was held for “the many girls now
in His Majesty’s Forces. Also beds for girls on short leave.” The ‘homely’ atmosphere was appreciated.
1943 Dublin Bible College was founded.
1946 A Dublin Band of 12 members was started. One of its objects was to hold a monthly party for poor people.
There were Bands also in Derry and Gilford.
1947 7 Windsor Terrace and The Billows in Kilkee where closed.
1951 It was decided that Coolnagreina would remain open for the winter, later other Holiday Homes did the same.
1953 24 Crosthwaite Park East, DunLaoghaire was purchased, it opened in 1954 and later was called Trench House.
A little later that year it was decided to purchase 12 Clarendon Street , Derry (being next to the 10 Clarendon Street Hostel).
The Central Club in Belfast held a Coronation Rally at which over 200 were present.
1960 Branches around the country and in Dublin held celebrations thanking God for his goodness over 100 years of YWCA in Ireland.
This included a service in St. Patrick’s Cathedral; a Birthday Luncheon in the Zoological Gardens and a rally in the YMCA hall which
drew in 200 friends.
1960'sDuring the next few years the work of the Association continued steadily. But during this time there was one
significant event, this was the sale of the premises in Mountpleasant Square and new premises acquired at St.Johns Road, Sandymount,
Co. Dublin on 2 1/2 acres of land. It was named Radcliff Hall in memory of the late Miss Radcliff – long time superintendent of the
Hostel at Mountpleasant Square and Council Member.
First Inter Church Camp 1966
1973 The Association purchased a plot of ground at the rear of St. Johns Road, Sandymount. Mr & Mrs Coombe offered to donate 2
bungalows on this site to YWCA. These were built and dedicated in May 1974. By that autumn they were occupied by Rev. & Mrs Harris
and Mr & Mrs Combe.
1975 Headquarters Office moved to 50 Lr Camden Street, Dublin 2.
1976 A residential Seminar was held in the Glencree Reconciliation centre. Pim House, Lisburn closed.
1977 Lisburn Teenage Club was opened with 340 members. The Overseas Outreach Department continued steadily through the years and in 1977
reached £1,000 for the first time. Mrs Neill kept in close contact with the YW supported missionaries.
1978 It was resolved in March 1978 to request that the YWCA of Ireland be allowed affiliation to the World YWCA.
1979 The YWCA of Ireland was allowed back into membership of the World YWCA organisation.
1981 Permission to sell 3 Sidney Place Cork was given and 1980 and the house was sold in 1981. It had been a YWCA hostel since 1897!
1982 The President and General Secretary attended the World YWCA Council held in Singapore in November 1982.
1983 “Glenmore”, Bishopstown, Cork, was purchased. A Young Wives' Group was started in Sandymount, Co. Dublin.
1985 125 years of YWCA in Ireland was celebrated in various ways around the country. It was suggested that 125 trees be planted
in schools and churches etc. Services in various places were also held.
1990 At the 4th Triennial Conference held in 1990 the President spoke of the events during these years, which included a mini- prayer
weekend in Greystones, and Junior ‘Y’ leaders conference in Tullamore and the encouraging visit of Mrs Elaine Steel (World YWCA General
1991 A satisfactory Careers Information Day had been held in the spring of 1991 with schools represented from Dublin, Cork,
Limerick, Wexford and Dundalk. Trench House was officially opened early 1991 and re commissioned by the Most Reverend Dr. G. Simms and a
ribbon-cutting ceremony by Cllr. Barbara Culleton of the Dun Laoghaire Borough Council.
1993 The 5th Triennial Conference was held in March. The title for this conference was “Women in Community.” Mrs Mary Robinson,
President of Ireland addressed the meeting and members had the opportunity to meet her during the coffee break. Wellesley House in
Malone Road, Belfast was closed in 1993 and sold. The money from this sale was eventually used to build a hostel in the grounds of Belfast
Bible College for students. It was opened in 1997 and called Wellesley House.
1994 Two delegates attended the European Representatives (of World YWCA) meeting in London held immediately before the World YWCA
Centenary service held in Westminster Abbey.
It was reported that there was a greater emphasis on the worship sessions, with Ireland
leading the opening worship on Sunday morning – with a Celtic theme.
A new location for Headquarters was found at 40 Main Street Bray, Co.Wicklow.
1996 At the 6th Triennial Conference, held in March 1996, Michael Perrott addressed the meeting on “Relationships” and
later Dr Lena Morrow spoke on the topical subject of “Stress”. Radcliff Hall and grounds where sold.
1997 A new constitution was written looking towards the future.
Last Inter Church Camp 1998
1998 7th Triennial Conference March 1996- March 1998
“Forward in Faith”
“Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.”
The above was on the cover of the Triennial Conference report.
2002 Work commenced on the building of a new hostel and refurbishing of 64 Lr Baggot Street.
2003 64 Lr Baggot Street was officially opened by President Mary McAleese. Part of the building became the Headquarters of the YWCA of
So having tried to clear our vision for the immediate future, the Association goes on into the new millennium, knowing that as God has guided
us in the past so he will in future, showing us how the Association can help young people in this day and age.
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“…I know the plans I have for you.” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
“For Such a Time as This” A history of the YWCA in Ireland by Elaine Graham.
Copies available from Head Office.