Fet-Lor Youth Club
Founded originally as The Fettesian-Lorettonian Boys' Club by the joint enterprise of Fettes College and Loretto School, the Fet-Lor Youth Club, serving one of Scotland's more deprived areas, is now unique in many ways. Situated virtually on the doorstep of Fettes College, it forms a haven for many young people whose everyday lives may be threatened by drugs, violence, neglect and abuse. The Centre reflects a successful coalition between local authorities, volunteers, charitable donors, Fettes College, Loretto School and the young members themselves.
The main catchment areas for the Centre are Muirhouse and Pilton districts of Edinburgh. Life for the young here can be extremely difficult and children have few recreational opportunities at their disposal.
It is against this background that the Fet-Lor Youth Club operates. The Club offers indoor activities and also organises local and residential trips for its members. More details can be found on their website:
The First World War was over and people were settling down, it was hoped and believed, to a new era of peace and goodwill - above all, to a more cordial understanding among the various walks of life. There was a growing realisation that the good things of this world, so far, had been too unevenly divided, and it was the duty of the more comfortably situated to extend to their less fortunate neighbours some of the advantages and privileges which they themselves enjoyed. The common peril and common effort during the war years had proved a powerful stimulant to this new point of view.
It was with this in mind that the then Headmaster of Loretto, A. R. (Sconnie) Smith, approached his opposite number at Fettes, Dr. A. H. Ashcroft, and proposed the formation of a Boys' Club in Edinburgh, to be sponsored jointly by the two Schools and their Old Boys. Ashcroft accepted the idea with enthusiasm and, on 2nd January 1924, the Fettesian-Lorettonian Boys' Club came into being. The first thing the Headmasters did was to set up a Governing Committee composed of a representative body of Old Fettesians and Old Lorettonians. The Headmasters were to preside during alternate years and this regulation still applies. The Governing Committee, too, is still very largely composed of O.Fs and OLs, although other friends who have taken an active interest in the Club have been appointed from time to time.
Suitable premises were rented near the High Street, at 24b St Giles Street, and a Club Leader was appointed. Membership started with 70 boys aged from 12 to 18, and later grew to nearly 200. Within the Club rooms there was much activity - boxing, football, gymnastics, indoor games from billiards to ping-pong, handicrafts, library books, informal debates, even the rare luxury of a hot bath. Most popular of all was the lounge where there was not only a fire in the winter months but also a hatch into the kitchen next door, "through which cups of tea and glasses of fizzy drinks (both brewed within) were passed from time to time to the customers without".
Even better, though, were the organised Camps, either at week-ends or in the late summer. It was here that the Club really achieved its greatest successes, for it gave boys who had seldom been beyond the dark and dismal streets where they lived the opportunity to enjoy the freshness, and the rigours, of the country. Moreover, when the dates were suitable, boys from Fettes and Loretto would also take part in the Camps on an equal footing.
The Club continued and flourished in St. Giles Street for nearly 30 years, but by the 1950s conditions had changed radically in the Royal Mile. There were no longer ragged little boys running around barefoot, and the inhabitants of the area were being moved into new housing schemes near the outskirts of the City. In 1956 the Club decided to move with them and opened an entirely new chapter in its history. It took over some derelict Army huts in the Pilton district near Crewe Toll, at the north-west corner of the Fettes playing fields. Here it started again from the beginning, in new surroundings; and within a year or two it was as popular as ever. Generous help was given to build a football field behind the huts and the gift of flood-lights meant that the Club was fully re-established.
But there was a difference - a social difference. No longer was the Club merely somewhere for poor boys, underfed and underclothed, to meet in friendly company before a warm fire with something to eat and a hot cup of tea or cocoa to drink. The friendly company was still there, but the poverty had mercifully gone. The benefits of the Welfare State had seen to that. However, new problems had replaced the old. Parental authority had started to disintegrate, gangs of healthy boys were roaming the streets for they had nowhere else to go and nothing much to do, and vandalism was on the increase.
The Local Authority soon realised the benefit of Clubs like the Fet-Lor Youth Centre (as it is now called) in taking children off the streets and occupying their energies more constructively. It accepted a financial responsibility which, with the need to engage a full-time, fully trained Leader, has increased year by year. By the 1960s the Army huts were no longer habitable and with the help of a loan from the Corporation a specially designed Club House was built at a cost of some £30,000. The Centre itself realised it had to broaden its appeal. In the mid-1980s it opened its doors to girls.
The challenges facing the Centre now are as great as at any time in its history. As well as the problems of the local community, there are issues of finance and support. However, even in this new millennium, the spirit and principles underlying the Centre remain as strong as ever.