An Introduction

The Overseas Education League as it was originally called was founded by Frederick James Ney, an English educator who emigrated to Canada in 1909. He founded the League in 1910 as a means of instituting exchanges of teachers between Canada and other parts of the British Empire. In 1937, at the time of the Coronation of George VI, Ney established the Empire Youth Movement (later known as the Commonwealth Youth Movement). He hoped the opportunity for students to tour other countries, exchange ideas and meet people would help strengthen the bonds of the Commonwealth.

I would like to tell you the reason I was able to attend the Coronation festivities 50 years ago was because of the outstanding leadership and scholastic skills I had as a youth. I'd like to tell you that, but then, why lie.

As a 16 year old, I was much more interested in girls than Victorian pagentry. Yet, it's funny how events so unrelated affect how your life is lived. When I entered grade 10 in western Canada in the 1950's I was told to learn French. It consisted of memorizing a series of verb charts — a method so disliked it was responsible for many students quitting school. My failure resulted to my being sent to Trinity College School in Ontario where because of my age I could only fit into the fifth year French program. You can imagine how successful that was. But I found an "out."

I heard a group was being formed to represent Canadian youth at the Coronation of Elizabeth II in June. Investigation revealed I could apply and best of all I would not have to take my year end French exam. What an opportunity!

Too bad I never had one of those emerging 35 mm cameras. Unfortunately, the photos I took were with a wretched Kodak Brownie camera of the era along with 8 mm movies (nobody would ever want to watch). Fortunately, being a "collector" I managed to save some mementos to give a feel to the era. Although I never kept a journal of this journey (faithfully kept only since 1960) I have added a few asides jotted at the time and from memory that may be of interest.

One of the places we visited was the University of Bristol. A few years later a visiting professor at the University of Saskatchewan gave our class a two hour, one question exam: "Education is what you remember after you've forgotten everything you ever learned. Comment."

Looking through my mementos after 50 years I see there are few facts I remembered. But as you will notice from exploring my website somewhere along the line I developed a "feeling for history." I expect this was where it started. Thanks goes to my French teacher.

I never participated further but in correspondence received I note a conference was held in Vancouver & Victoria in 1954 and at that time meetings were being planned for Canterbury, England in 1955 and Australia and New Zealand in 1956. No more correspondence was received although somewhere along the line a booklet of the Commonwealth Youth Movement 1953 Coronation Programme was received. It was an unexpected but now most appreciated addition which I have used to to create these web pages. (The capitalized words are as printed.) It appears meetings or "quests" as they were called went on until about 1970. Frederick James Ney, founder of the Overseas Education League and the Commonwealth Youth Movement, remained active with the Movement until the 1960s. He died in Nanaimo BC in 1973.

The Commonwealth Linking Trust, an educational charity, was developed from the work of the Commonwealth Youth Movement. More than 3,400 schools have been linked in 40 Commonwealth countries since the 1950s, involving tens of thousands of school pupils.

Finally, exploring the internet I discovered the University of Saskatchewan has published on-line youth's journey to the 1937 Coronation of George VI. You will find an interesting comparison.

CYM 1953 Coronation Index


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