The John Hulley Memorial Fund

National Olympian Association

John Hulley always had a clear view of what constituted an Olympic Education. In 1864 he expressed this in a lecture at the Theatre-Royal Liverpool in which he said “The need for athletic institutes for public gymnastic exercises ….. for both sexes ….. in all our towns and cities for ‘the free use of the people, ……… an agreeable resort for the aged and a pastime for the young.’

On 7 November 1865  The Liverpool Mercury reported the formation of the National Olympian Association (NOA) with its inaugural meeting held at the Liverpool Gymnasium, Myrtle Street with the following persons present:

Mr. John Hulley of Liverpool; Chairman;
Dr. Brookes, Much Wenlock;
Mr. E.G. Ravenstein, president of the German Gymnastic Society, London;
Mr. William Mitchell, Fearness Hall, near Manchester;
Mr. Keeling, Liverpool;
Mr. Murray, London;
Mr. Phillips, Shrewsbury;
and Mr Ambrose Lee, Manchester.
There was also a M. Durbec of Paris listed.

This meeting was the forerunner of the modern British Olympic Association and was formed mainly through the efforts of John Hulley, Dr. Brookes and Mr Ravenstein – the triumvirate of the 19th century Olympic movement.

The link between physical education and the Olympic idea was expressed nicely by John Hulley in 1867. He said ‘What I desire to impress upon you is that Olympic Festivals are not the end of physical education. Physical Education, or rather its dissemination, is the end. Olympian festivals are a means of securing that end.’

The NOA lasted until 1883 and its Olympian Games "were open to all comers". The NOA and its motto were inherited by the National Physical Recreation Society (NPRS) in 1885/1886 and the NPRS was a founder body of the British Olympic Association in l905. Indeed the President and the Treasurer of the NPRS were members of Coubertin's "Comite Brittanique" in l902. So there is a direct link between Hulley's views and aspirations in 1864 and the modern British Olympic movement.

Hulley was certainly a tour de force. He began to define Olympism long before the formation of the International Olympic Committee. Like Brookes and Ravenstein he influenced the thinking of the young Coubertin.