200th anniversary of the birth of YMCA founder George Williams

Date: 11 October 2021

On 11 October 2021, we mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of our founder, George Williams, in Somerset, England.

In June 1844, together with 11 other young men, George Williams established the YMCA.

The first meeting was held in a room above Williams’ drapery shop in St Paul’s Churchyard, London.  Its aim was the “improvement of the spiritual condition of the young men engaged in houses of business, by the formation of Bible classes, family and social prayer meetings, mutual improvement societies, or any other spiritual agency.”

Little did he know then, that a global Movement was under way.

He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1894. By the time he died in 1905, there were 45 YMCAs all over the world with more than 700,000 members. He is buried next door to where the YMCA Movement began, at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.

George Williams, born 200 years ago, responded to the needs of his time. The  YMCA, born in 1844, is still responding to the needs of its times.

Two Secretaries-General pay tribute

World YMCA Secretary General Carlos Sanvee pays tribute to the great man, incorporating an audio clip featuring – for just 15 precious seconds – the actual voice of Sir George, speaking in 1894.

Meanwhile former World YMCA Secretary-General Bart Shaha (2002-2010) has written a poem:

You Left a Legacy

You left a legacy

that’s ever growing …

It’s growing tall, growing wide,

growing green.


As factories spread from shore to shore

and young lives lost their way,

you embarked on a journey

for reviving the soul.


The melody you gave,

gained universal harmony.

And now, as

continent after continent

cries for a vaccine

of compassion and justice,

the voices resound louder and louder.


See, the young find meaning

re-touching the soil and sea;

re-viewing the tracks of history,

for life-giving nourishment

and unrestrained breath!

More about the life of George Williams

More information