I’ve always felt an affinity with the YHA (Youth Hostels Association) but it wasn’t until I read Duncan M Simpson’s Open to All: How youth hostels changed the world that I understood an underlying reason why that might be. It’s in my Liverpudlian blood.
The first chapter, From Germany to Liverpool, sets the scene. It describes the origins of the organisation on UK soil, modelled on the German equivalent as explored by a group of intrepid young shipping office workers from Liverpool in the late 1920s. I had known of a specific connection with the shipping industry from my experience of visiting Maeshafn Youth Hostel in North Wales in 1980, when I was surprised to find a plaque declaring the building was funded by Alfred Holt & Co in 1931. This was of particular interest to me as my father had been Inward Freight Manager for their Blue Funnel Line. Sadly, he had died the year before my stay at Maeshafn so I didn’t get to talk to him about this apparent coincidence or his firm’s interest in the movement. A recent conversation with my Mum (who met Dad when she too worked in India Buildings) confirmed that the company tended to be philanthropic as well as encouraging life in the outdoors, recalling that Dad was sent on an Outward Bound course in Aberdovey. My memory of Maeshafn hostel is a happy one, but I wish I’d appreciated then what I know now from Simpson’s book: that it had made history as one of the first to be established.Continue Reading