A Short History of the Humanist Society of West Yorkshire

As the Humanist Society of West Yorkshire (HSWY) celebrates its 50th year in operation this year let’s look back on how far we have come. Founded in September 1967 as the West Riding Humanist Group, we started out as a meeting of British Humanist Association (BHA) members meeting at the home of Phil Bull, owner and founder of Timeform Publications, a horse racing and betting publishing firm based in Halifax. We adopted our constitution from October 6th 1967 and became formally affiliated with the BHA with our first public meeting in December 1967 with a talk from Ivan Geffen from Birmingham Humanists on ‘Living Happily without Religion’.

After this meetings were often held in member’s homes until in October 1968 they decided to alternate between Leeds Hotel and ‘The Spotted Cow’ in Drighlington, South-West Leeds however that ended after the pub landlord said they didn’t buy enough bear. The society would eventually find our permanent home at the Swarthmore Education Centre in Leeds City Centre in 1977 and have been holding meetings there ever since.

In 1971 we were re-named the Leeds & District Humanist Group however membership began to dwindle during the 1970s with only 15 members in 1973.  However the society persisted and our numbers gradually recovered in the 1980s and 90s. In 1989 they became members of Leeds SACRE board, which governs Religious Education curriculums in Leeds schools, representing Humanism and later also sent delegates to the Bradford SACRE and Kirklees and Calderdale as well.

In 2003 the society changed its name again to the present form, ‘Humanist Society of West Yorkshire’. In 2007 the HSWY became involved in supporting the Leeds Atheist Society founded by Chris Worfolk to represent and support atheist and Humanist students at the University of Leeds. Chris is now the current Treasurer of the HSWY.  Our current Chair, Paul Dean, was elected in 2008.

Today we have almost 50 members across West Yorkshire and are hopeful for further growth. In 2013 we said goodbye to Bob Tee, our longest serving committee member having served as Secretary for 34 years, who moved to York and continues Humanist work there.

Today we are an indispensable part of the Humanist communities in West Yorkshire. Here’s to another 50 years!




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