< GYM & Mr STYAN

GYM & Mr HAROLD STYAN, MBE
1895 -

Updated 14 July,2009




The web site of Tony Cheal includes several extracts from the Harrogate Herald during the First World War; the editor, William Hammond Breare had a column entitled "To Our Boys On Service" obviously being written to soldiers from the Harrogate area. There were several mentions of Harold Styan and, possibly, of Harold's father, Alfred. Here is the first one dated 1 December,1915:
"To Our Boys On Service
Dear Chaps,
There is a young soldier whose career is quite interesting. I dare say you know him. He is Staff Sergeant Instructor Harold Styan, Army Gymnastic Staff, attached to the 3rd Duke of Wellington's. He is the youngest son of Mr and Mrs Styan, of Providence Terrace *, Harrogate. He was employed at the Grand Opera House at the commencement of his athletic training. This he commenced at the age of 13, and made his first appearance in public at 16. he appeared, first, at entertainments around Harrogate, and then went on to the music hall stage. He travelled the country with Mademoiselle La Dores' combination. He has appeared at many of the leading London halls.
At the outbreak of the war he returned to Harrogate, and enlisted in the 1st West Yorks, and gained promotion from his knowledge of physical drill. He went to Aldershot to study Swedish gymnastics, where he qualified, and was then taken on the staff of instructors, a position in which he is now serving. He is attached to a battalion until it is trained, and then on to another. He is only 20 years of age, and I should fancy the youngest on the staff. He has received a testimonial from Captain Milnes, of the Royal Army Medical Corps, for his treatment and massaging of the wounded. We shall be giving a photograph of Styan, if not in today's Herald, soon after. It shows remarkable physical development.
W H Breare."

* Providence Terrace is in the Franklin Mount area

And also, an extract from the Harrogate Herald of 28 February,1917:

"To Our Boys On Service

Dear Chaps,
Some years ago CSM Styan was a page boy at the Opera House. Later he took up physical culture, and finally went on the stage as an exponent of this. Since then he has been a professional, appearing at the halls. He is now a Company Sergeant-Major and bayonet instructor. He called to see me on Monday, looking bright and well. His mother, Mrs Alfred Styan, lives at 9 Providence Terrace. He has wife but no children. I was pleased to make Styan's acquaintance and much impresses by his bright, intelligent personality. He is one of those men of whom you would say : 'A nice chap!'.
W H Breare."

The following article of 22 August,1917, refers to Staff Sergeant Major Styan but it is not clear whether it refers to Harold Styan:
"Staff Sergeant Major Styan, of Harrogate, who has been gassed, is in hospital."
Then an article on 19 December,1917,that may have referred to Harold Styan's father Albert:
"To Our Boys On Service
Dear Chaps,
CSM A Styan, of the Army Service Corps, has been two years in Salonica come January, and in the Army since the war started. During all that time he has had but ten days' leave when in France. Out in Salonica he has had appendicitis and been in hospital three times. According to his last letter he was expecting another operation in six weeks. I am told he only weighs 7st., so that does not look as if he is fit. Naturally his friends would like him to come home on leave or to be transferred, and I have been asked my opinion as to the probability. Styan is one of those men who sticks and is of the very last to ask for leave. I am not sure whether I can covey the facts to the proper quarter; but I should, indeed, be pleased if I could do anything to help his transfer or leave. I think I must try.
W H Breare."
The above are only small extracts from the articles by W H Breare, written to the soldiers from the Harrogate area and every one of the links are worth reading as they provide a wonderful view of Harrogate during the First World War. In one, Mr Breare explained the delivery system:
Knowing so well how much you boys look forward to receiving your [Harrogate] Heralds every week, I am sorry to hear there are those whose friends send them the paper who frequently do not get it. You see those we send are in special wrappers on which is printed the name of the paper. They all go together. The Postal Authorities are very good. They send them in separate bags and hurry them forward because they know there are all those boys at the Front, a big number of them, waiting for their weekly Herald. If you know of any chaps who do not receive theirs sent by friends, let them write home and suggest they go with ours. There are many friends at home well able to bear the expense of the paper and postage, and these hesitate to ask us to send them. That is all right, if the boys get them. But I want you to understand that we are prepared to send them out, and never refuse such requests, and are specially delighted to send them to boys whose friends cannot afford the expense.
The Times of 3 June,1972, in reporting the Birthday Honours recorded (Article CS167999171) the award of the MBE to H Styan, "serv to youth in Harrogate"

The Harrogate Herald of 24 January,1973, reported:

Congratulations to Mr and Mrs Harold Styan, of 63 West End Avenue, who celebrated their golden wedding on Saturday. They were married at the former Congregational Church in Victoria Avenue on January 27th 1923, and have one daughter, Joan. Mr Styan, noted gymnast, physical training teacher for the past 53 years, youth leader and MBE, needs no introduction. He was born in Nydd Vale Terrace, Harrogate, attended Grove Road School, and began his working life as a page-boy at the theatre in the days of William Peacock. Later he took up stage work and travelled all over the country.

He served in France in the 1914-18 war, afterwards went into youth work, and met his wife, Durham-born May Waggott, at the YMCA (now the Art School), when she was attending gym classes there. Mrs Styan has always shown a tremendous interest in her husband's activities, and has been secretary of the Harold Styan Boy's Club for the past 26 years. She is also secretary of the club's two football teams, and Miss Styan, too, has always been very much involved. Indeed, Mr Styan says of the MBE, awarded for service to youth : "It was really a family affair because of the enormous help I have always had from my wife and daughter".

Today they are still very much involved with the club at New Park, and Mr Styan is still doing private teaching at two of Harrogate's preparatory schools. For some years the family lived in Dragon Avenue, and Mrs Styan especially recalls the days of gracious living when Harrogate was a mecca for the well-to-do and the famous, and when Prospect Place, where he own parents had an apartment house, was an area of luxury suites graced each year by the water-sipping nobility. Their present home is big and comfortable with an enormous coal fire in the lounge, "Cries of London" prints round the walls, and a dog that would cheerfully tear anyone to pieces who put a foot wrong.

The Times of 7 October,1982, included the folllowing piece about Mr Styan (Article CS168004423):
(Grosvenor House School is at Birstwith just outside Harrogate)
"Bruce Haxton, head boy of Grosvenor House School near Harrogate, claims a record for the school's newly-retired gym master. Harold Styan is 87 and had taken gym and PE classes at the school for 62 years, having been a drill sergeant in the First World War."
INDIAN CLUB SWINGING

Just inside the hallway, by the Prefects' Steps in Tewit Well Ave, was Form 2 with the fabulous aircraft propeller strung above the doorway. Facing you on the opposite wall as you entered Form 2 were racks filled with swinging clubs, Indian Clubs, that were used under the direction of Mr Styan. (Well, in theory anyway). Unfortunately, almost every pair was different and there was always a mad scramble to find a reasonably good matching pair. Some were bottle and some were bulb-shaped and in about 1950 they were given a fresh coat of paint - silver handles and blue and red (the Norwood colours) for the lethal ends.


GYM

Gym was held in the playground in fair weather following the arrival of Mr Styan in his huge old 1930s car. The car shown here is a 1927 9hp Riley Monaco and looks very similar to Mr Styan's car. A photograph of the Slow Bicycle Race in the 1952 Annual Sports includes a car which certainly looks like Mr Styan's.
Out of this car came two worn tennis balls and these he guarded like treasure. His pair Indian swinging clubs were hauled out as was an old gramophone with a 78prm record. Half the morning seemed to be taken up with boys running around desperate to swop a bottle-end for a bulb-ended club or vice versa.

The gramophone was placed on a wooden chair, wound up, and then we swung our clubs to the same music* every week. Ta, ta, tar, a-t-ta-ta taa, ta ta tar, and so it went on for the full two minutes of the record. The tune was similar to the opening tune played on Monty Python's Flying Circus - but that was another 15 years away yet. Mr Styan was quite a wizard with the clubs and we following his rhythm, desperately trying not to let go as the heavy clubs whistled round our heads. We then had the usual physical exercises, swing out our arms, bending and generally bending at awkward angles. For all of this we had to wear shorts and white pumps or gym shoes.

Then there was route-marching in preparation for the annual Sports Day, round and round the Playground, twisting in and out, passing one column through another. For this, Charlie was usually in charge of the record and the gramaphone.

      * the music was from "Bitter Sweet" - see memories from John Perrett below

Gym on wet days

In poor weather, Gym was held in the basement under the front of the school - but its low ceiling curtailed the club swinging. Teams were picked by the 1st and 2nd boys of the class and each team raced to pass one of the treasured tennis balls been our legs down the line. Then race up to the front of the line, bend over, pass the ball between your legs, and wait for it to reappear as the last in the line raced up to the head to take your place.

Harold Styan

Mr Harold Styan was formerly a Staff Sergeant-Major; his qualifications were shown as APTS (Army Physical Training School?) and BBB of C (British Boxing Board of Control). (These details were shown on the 1947 Annual Sports Day programme).

He lived in West End Avenue and probably had a visiting schedule of Norwood on Wednesdays and other schools on other days. John Platts, an ex-Clifton boy from the 1950s, confirmed that Mr Styan gave Gym lessons at that school too.

He was a short man, always dressed in the same way, dark trousers and jacket over a white singlette and the two tennis balls rarely out of his hands. (Had he been named James Styan he would have been known as "Gym Styan"!)

During the earliest days of Norwood, Mr Styan was also actively engaged with youth service and this is described by Geoff Runcorn (see below) who has been involved with the Harold Styan Charity for Youth for a number of years. It is very interesting to hear, in Geoff’s notes, that Mr Styan’s ability with Inidan Clubs was not confined to Norwood!
The Charity is registered with the Charity Commission for England & Wales as number 523706 and its Object is recorded as being "to help and educate young people in the district of Harrogate through leisure time activities so as to develop their physical, mental and spiritual capacities that they may grow to full maturity as individuals and members of society and that their conditions of life may be improved."
The details may be seen on the Charity Commission web site. This shows that the old name was the “Harrogate Boys’ Club” and was that its governing document was first constituted in 1934 – whilst Charlie Cass was still a teacher at Clifton school.


Photo shows Mr Styan with Sid Jones
at the 1956 Sports Day
Photo by Tony Eden


School photo of 1960

Of all the annual school photos available (1947 to 1950, 1953, 1954, 1956, 1957, 1960, Mr Styan appears in only the last one, 1960; perhaps duties at other schools prevented him from being at Norwood on the days when the annuual photograph was scheduled.


By Geoff Runcorn,
Treasurer of the Harold Styan Charity for Youth
(2004)

I did not meet Mr Styan but I know that he formed the Harold Styan Boys Club in the 1930's and acquired a building at New Park in Harrogate. The Club was for boys only and had a full-size boxing ring in addition to gym facilities for training including the use of Indian (swinging) Clubs. We found some of these clubs many years later.
The boys Club was converted to a Youth Club in the 1970's when it became open to girls as well as boys and was taken under the wing of the local authority youth service. At the same time a charity was formed to administer the Club which is now called the Harold Styan Charity for Youth.

In 1994 the building in New Park was sold to Sanctuary Housing for sheltered accommodation and the proceeds went into a joint venture with Harrogate Borough Council to build a community centre in the Jennyfield area development. This is called the Jennyfield Styan Community Centre and the Harold Styan Youth Club uses these premises two days per week for Club activities; the Centre is in Grantley Drive, Harrogate, HG3 2XU. (This is to the immediate west of New Park).

It is clear that Harold Styan did some very valuable work in his lifetime and his legacy remains in the Charity, Youth Club and Community centre that bear his name.

By Peter Grainger,
Education Development Manager at Youth Clubs North Yorkshire
(2004)

I attended the Harold Styan Boys Club in Harrogate in the late 1960's and Mr Styan did have the bearing of an ex Sgt. Major (although I would never dare ask!). He passed on a number of years ago and the original club was demolished for housing so the Borough Council built a new community centre on a different site and that still bears his name as a memorial to the work he and his wife did in Harrogate. He ran boxing and football clubs apart from the general youth activities at the original centre.

By Ian Clark

Games were played in the gym with Harold Styan. Typically this involved him sitting on a chair whilst two teams ran through each others legs or passed a medicine ball overhead to the sound of Harold (snuff stains on upper lip and jersey) shouting "50 for a win" - a silly expression which, amongst others, I still use to this day!

By John Perrett:

The music we swung our clubs to was a medley from "Bitter Sweet" by Noel Coward and I can hear it to this day. The opening melody was 'If love were all' and the second part, 'Dear little cafe'.
(Note by Tony Eden: If you want to hear this again, it is included
in a Lesley Garrett CD, "Gift Collection". But do not let your imagination go wild - do NOT grab a couple of wine bottles and.....)

By John Scott

Mr Styan was always known as Pop Styan by the lads at his boys club at New Park although I never remember the name being used at Norwood. I think the club is still there, and I believe there is still a local soccer team in Harrogate called Harold Styans. He and his family lived in a three storey terraced house at the rear of Leeds Road near where the old Brunswick Railway Station used to be.

By Tony Eden:

I can see myself now, towards the end of one crocodile in the route march around the Playground, and Charlie shouting from some distant part, "Eddeeeeern! Stand - up - straight!" meaning don't slouch. I must have back problems then as I certainly had for the rest of my life!

By John Platts (ex-Clifton, 1950s)

(15 May,2005)
For gym, Mr Styan was employed at Clifton - I think he did the rounds of several schools and he had a gym in his terraced house ( actually 2 banged together) on West End Avenue.

The following appeared on Rootsweb site and seems to be a combination of text from Paul Cooper and Tony Cheal (:I knew Harold Styan well.....):

(7 September,2000)
Lovely to see an entry about Harold Styan ... or 'Pop' as I remember him being referred to. Late 50's / early 60's when I used to bounce around on the parallel bars at the Boy's Club in New Park. Thanks for rekindling some great memories of medicine balls, table tennis, and an introduction to the art of snooker :) >>

...........I first posted that GW notice on the 9th June, and had this to say about Harold...........

.........thought you might find it interesting and bring back a few more memories for you.......

<< I knew Harold Styan well, as he lived across the road from me when I used to live in West End Avenue. He was a wonderful and very interesting man. He was always invited to the little bar-b-qqqqqs that our part of the street used to organise on the playing field of the Harrogate Grammar School that was behind us. He would always come "armed" with his Indian Clubs and then captivated us with his display of Indian Club swinging; then he would strip off his shirt and then give us a display of muscle control with his "Dancing Muscles"...............absolutely brilliant for a man in his age...........he must have been well in his 80s. The last time I saw him "perform" was when we had a celebration for the marriage of Prince Charles and Diana..........he turned up wearing all his Great War medals with the MBE in pole position. He was a Staff Sergeant Instructor with the Army Gymnastic Staff.

Sadly, his Club, previously the Harrogate Boys' Club and subsequently re-named to The Harold Styan Boys' Club in 1968, on the Ripon Road, was pulled down to make way for a small block of flats. However, his name lives on in Harrogate, as on the Jennyfield Estate, the community centre there bears his name.

The YMCA building, that is mentioned below, was formerly a fine old building called Belvedere, at the junction of Victoria Avenue and West Park, the residence of Lord Faber. The building still exists, somewhat modernised, and is now a block of luxury offices....................that's progress..........!!!




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