Burnley Boys' and Girls' Club celebrates 125th anniversary

Burnley’s oldest youth charity is celebrating its 125th birthday this year, and looking back on the patriotic but ultimately tragic days of its founder members.
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Burnley Boys and Girls’ Club, which started life as Burnley Boys’ Club in 1898, was formed by Henry Riley, a man who gave his life for his country alongside many young members during the slaughter of the Frist World War.

Henry, whose family home is still in Briercliffe, came from a family of weavers, and Henry wanted to support the young boys of the community, give them a focus and support in mentoring them to bettering themselves.

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Over the next 16 years from 1898 to 1914 Burnley Boys grew to having 600 members.

Burnley Boys' and Girls' Club celebrates its 125th anniversary this yearBurnley Boys' and Girls' Club celebrates its 125th anniversary this year
Burnley Boys' and Girls' Club celebrates its 125th anniversary this year

The club’s history is inextricably intertwined with the tragedy of the First World War for when the call came many young members signed up to fight for King and Country.

Many became members of the Accrington Pals and stood and died together as pals of the club.

Henry himself became Captain Riley and gallantly stood beside his young men in the fourth wave at the terrible slaughter on that fateful first day of the Somme offensive on July 1st 1916.

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Sadly, Riley and his young comrades all fell, never to return home to Burnley.

Captain Henry Riley, who founded Burnley Boys Club, and was killed on the SommeCaptain Henry Riley, who founded Burnley Boys Club, and was killed on the Somme
Captain Henry Riley, who founded Burnley Boys Club, and was killed on the Somme

Although Riley’s body was never recovered his memory, as does the memory of the 125 fallen club members, lives on in the community hall that serves as a function, eaterie and dancing venue to thousands of young people every year, with every penny spent going back to support the work Henry started 125 years ago.

The next chapter of the club is just as important to the people of Burnley, who after the war decided not to have a memorial to the fallen but to pay £5,000 for a club to support the young people of Burnley.

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A spokesman for Burnley Boys’ and Girls’ Club said: “The club is still supporting hundreds of young people weekly and still lives by the same ethos Henry Riley started 125 years ago.

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“Today we support young people from every walk of life with a huge array of different issues and some very complex needs, with the focus still on support and mentoring them to bettering themselves and to reach adulthood with as many opportunities as possible.

“With the support of brilliant organisations over the last six years in particular the club has transformed to becoming a lead representative in supporting the young people across the county.

“The development work planned for this year at the Barden Lane site in Burnley along with the extension of sites across the Ribble Valley and South Ribble means the original Boys Club is now one of the largest youth organisations across Lancashire supporting thousands of young people that started 125 years ago with Henry Riley wanting to give back.”

If you require the services BBGC or would like to support the charity in any other way, get in touch on 01282 424038 [email protected] or BBGC.ORG.UK

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