Origins of the Victoria Institute (Grantown YMCA Community Centre) – by George Dixon

In 1893 the Grantown branches of the YMCA and the YWCA decided to build “a suitable hall for the various meetings of both associations” and launched a public appeal for funds to pay for it.

Seventeen months later in January, 1895, sufficient money was available to allow the YMCA to buy the property then standing on the site of the present Institute building. A further 17 months later, in August, 1896, the building fund had reached only £800. Yet in the following January, the committee decided to invite estimates for a hall building “with a view to begin operations at an early date”.

It is clear, however, that at the beginning of 1897 the local YM/YWCA branches had in spite of almost four years of appealing to the Grantown public for support in erecting a purely YM/YWCA building, gathering nothing like enough money to pay for such a structure.

It was therefore decided to broaden the basis of the scheme by persuading the people of Grantown to make it the town’s permanent memorial of the Diamond Jubilee year. The new Institute scheme was outlined to Queen Victoria who wrote in reply that it met her “most cordial approval”.

A public meeting of the townspeople was called in March, 1897, the Queen’s letter was read out, and the YM/YWCA appealed to the people of Grantown and the surrounding district to join with them in commemorating the Queen’s Jubilee by erecting the Institute that year. The meeting agreed unanimously “to perpetrate the Reign by seeking to carry” the “Institute Scheme” “to a successful issue”. At the end of the meeting eight prominent men in the town, including the factor, two bankers and two doctors (there being then no
provost or town council), were appointed to “acting along with the YM/YWCA Building Fund Committee in carrying out the scheme.

FOUNDATION STONE

In the following months, money was contributed by, for example, the Freemasons and the Oddfellows, who held a concert on the Diamond Jubilee Day, June 22, 1897 to help the Institute scheme “in this new form”. Lady Seafield, herself a substantial contributor, laid the foundation stone of the present building on August 21, 1897. Some people in the town appear to have had doubts about the size of the project in its revised and much more extensive version, and there was a request in October, 1897, that the public be given a statement of funds expected, remaining and still required. (This was of course, further confirmation of the public nature of the new scheme – it had ceased to be purely private, YM/YWCA concern.)

In 1898 the joint Town/YM/YWCA committee organised the largest bazaar ever held in Grantown, to try to pay off the remaining debt, and succeeded in raising approximately as much in three days of bazaar as the YM/YWCA had raised in 3-4 years of their own appeal. When the Victoria Institute – the new name emphasising the public origins of the building – was opened, in November, 1989, the hope was expressed that no further appeal for funds would be necessary.

COMMUNITY CENTRE OPENING ON MONDAY 17th June 1977

Although the official opening ceremony is not likely to take place until autumn, Grantown YMCA Community Centre becomes operational on Monday. The first function it will house will be a discotheque that evening.

The Centre is in the former Victoria Institute, which was renovated, extended and extensively refurbished at an estimated cost of £96,000. This is being met with aid from the Scottish Education Department, the Highland Regional Council and fund raising by the YMCA nationally and by local effort.

Mr Alastair Wallace, East Kilbride, a member of the Scottish National Council of YMCA’s, who is acting secretary of the local committee, was at the Centre yesterday evening and will be this morning and from Monday till Friday of next week to meet prospective members. “We want the Centre open and in use by the local community and visitors to the town,” he stressed. “There are facilities for snooker and billiards, badminton and table tennis, a coffee bar, meeting rooms, toilets and showers etc. It is really for any age group – from 5-75

CURRENT DAY

The Grantown YMCA Community Centre is very much still at the heart of the local Community, providing meeting facilities to suit all.  We currently host a variety of classes including oil painting and dog training, Senior Citizen’s Clubs, along with our Community Café every Friday from 10am to 2pm.

Not to mention our Youth Work, with the Youth Drop In on a Tuesday evening between 7 and 9pm, and our Junior Youth Club on a Thursday between 6.30 and 8pm.