id1029-Transmission of the Olympic Idea

Written by DA   

Don Anthony,Polytechnic Harriers' 1956 Olympian, English Native Hammer RecordHolder(6 times),with a PB in English Money of 188'5"(that's about 57.94) and a Life Member of K&P,has long been an Olympian in the true sense of the word.

Here he writes on some recent research on the subject.

He also reminds us that Lord Kinnaird(of Kinnaird Trophy fame)was a member of Baron de Coubertin's "Comite Brittanique" in 1902 which was founded 3 years before the British Olympic Association was formed. Polytechnic Harriers were also represented at the founding of the IOC(International Olympic Committee) in 1894.



Don Anthony – Transmission of the Olympic Idea

When Coubertin and Brookes asked the opinion of Prime Minister,and Hellenist,WE Gladstone,on Olympic matters,he replied that we seemed to know that the Ancient Greeks had received their Gods from the Egyptians – but from where had the Egyptians received theirs?! The same thinking applies to such people as Brookes,Hulley and Ravenstein – the “big three” of the National Olympian Association – founded in Liverpool in 1865,but an organisation,from the start,”open to the world”. From where did the “big three” get their knowledge and inspiration?

Ernst George Ravenstein’s father belonged to Jahn’s famous ‘class’ and Ernst George had Honorary Status as Director of the German Gymnastics Society in London; he was an eminent geographer and mapmaker by profession. Brookes could work in the “three biblical languages” and had studied in France and Italy. He was a surgeon by profession but a polymath with a herbarium ranked second only to that of Shrewsbury neighbour,Charles Darwin. Coincidentally,we celebrated in 2009 the birth of both Brookes and Darwin. “The origin of the Olympian species” is thus a future project which comes to mind!

Hulley was from a family of surgeons and a professional teacher of physical education. His appreciation of his professional status was loud and clear – he insisted on the title “Gymnasiarch” – Greek for teacher of gymnastics. His papers and speeches were rich in Olympism…I have often wondered from where did he glean this classical understanding?

Last year,the grave of John Hulley was discovered in Liverpool by Ray Hulley – not related to John but a dedicated “name historian”. He kindly provided me with clues which led me closer to Louis Huguenin.

The Liverpool Citizen newspaper of February 25th 1888 gave flesh to the bones as follows:

“In the year 1844,a lithe and agile French émigré named Louis Huguenin settled in Liverpool as a teacher of gymnastics. To the outside and wondering public,he was known as Monsieur,but to his friends and pupils he was only recognisable as Professor Huguenin. Previous to coming to Liverpool,he had been following his profession in many other places….in Bristol,Dublin,London and other towns…he stayed twenty-five years in Liverpool as a much-appreciated teacher of gymnastics and greatly-esteemed fellow townsman…a benefactor to the gilded youths of Liverpool…many grave and reverent seigniors of the city were taught to use the dumb-bells by old Louis Huguenin”.

Recent research has shown that Louis was born Swiss in fact,and that his family name is common in Canton Neuchatel. The article in the Liverpool Citizen goes on:

“John Hulley was long the favourite pupil and deathbed successor to Huguenin. He had previously matriculated at the Collegiate Institution(footnote)…in due time Huguenin vanished from the scene of his useful labours and the uncrowned King of the local gymnasts(Hulley) reigned in his stead….he was a conspicuous and prominent figure at every fete and festive gathering…his business motto being “mens sana in corpore sana”.There was also a bizarre side to Hulley,of course;dressing in Turkish clothes to represent the East at the 1st National Olympian Games in 1866 – is one example. However,the newspaper review states – “He was as sane as a lawyer!”

The “sana motto” is written on his gravestone. A ceremony was held on June 14th 2009 to celebrate the restoration of this grave and it was followed by a lunch at Liverpool Hope University. Coincidentally,reminding us of Ravenstein’s great friendship with Hulley(they wrote a textbook on gymnastics together) a speech on “Olympic Values” was given by Professor Stephan Wassong, then teaching at Hope.but now back at the German Sporthochschule in Cologne.

Some of us hummed music in the style of jazz to remind us of the late George Melly. George was related to Charles Melly,Chairman of Hulley’s Gymnasium. Charles was educated at Rugby School when the “Tom Brown’s Schooldays” ethos was at its peak – and which greatly influenced Coubertin. Charles’s father also hailed from Switzerland where the name Melly is common in the Canton of Valais,I am reliably informed.

This rather long-winded introduction brings me to the main point of this article. In Ray Hulley’s meticulous research,I read that Louis Huguenin had not only invented an exercise machine named – “Kalo-Morpho-Plastic(handsome-figure-shape) but had written a “Treatise on Physical Education!!” “Physical Education” indeed – just like Brookes' early use of the term. Those of us educated at the period of “Physical Training” believed we had made marvellous progress fifty years ago by “inventing” “P.E.”. But,no – here it was gracing the work of one of those amazing itinerant gymnastics teachers of the earlier period. An Italian taking gymnastics to Russia;Germans,Swedes and Danes plying their trade in Britain…and so on.

Within a week,the British Library informed me that the treatise,written in 1850,was awaiting my scrutiny at their London library – St Pancras. Coincidentally,next door to Ravenstein’s Gymnasium!!

So there it was – 1850 – the same year in which Brookes started his Wenlock Olympian Class(Society). It started with a guide to “Huguenin’s Patent Portable Gymnasum,Liverpool”. In more common parlance,Huguenin’s “Domestic Gymnasium”. And we thought that the current epidemic of health and fitness across the globe was a modern phenomenon!!? I imagine the sale of both the equipment and knowledge enabled Louis to make a living. Certainly,the many printed tributes from satisfied clients and supportive medical men made for a persuasive introduction.

The main purpose of my first scan-reading was to try to discern the Graeco-Roman influences in the text. Plato’s “Republic” gets a prominent mention;so does Rousseau.

Then come names like Anacharsis,Scythian,Lucian,Solon,Hippocrates,Galen – and phrases such as “ The World acquainted with the Olympic Games”;and “Gymnastics of the Ancients”.

The text calls for “music and gymnastic” – explaining that “music” for the Ancient Greeks comprised “the whole circle of knowledge and mental acquirements”. It is suggested that the physical exertion will lead to “Health of body and unclouded serenity of mind”. There is a note on gymnastics for females concentrating on the dangers of the corset!

There is an abundance of supportive statements from members of the medical profession who supported Huguenin's efforts. It is not only the ‘ancients” that are quoted but also figures such as Salzmann,Jahn and Clias. Gutsmuths also gets a mention which is convenient since we are also celebrating the 250th anniversary of his birth,in 2009.

One can thus assume,reasonably,that this rich intellectual approach rubbed off on students taught by Louis Huguenin,and especially on John Hulley.

Dear Reader,I beg for your understanding. This first,and short,review of Huguenin’s “Treatise on Physical Education” is just the start of a new voyage of discovery in our studies on Olympism.


The Liverpool Collegiate Institution was founded in 1843;it claimed to give a “Christian and Classical Education” to its students. Latin was in common use and the school had a Latin motto – hence it can be deduced,reasonably,that matters of ancient Olympism,would have had mention….:mens sana in corpore sano” being one).

The Swiss name origins of both George Melly and Louis Huguenin were provided by Professor Jean-Loup Chappelet,Secretary of the Pierre de Coubertin International Committee(CIPC). I thank him sincerely.

Don Anthony. London.



  • 1985

    Our Humble Beginnings

    We are one of the biggest and friendliest athletics clubs in London and compete across a huge array of leagues, events and championships and have athletes of literally all standards and ages and across all events.

  • Inclusion

    Whether you are an 8 year old novice, a senior international or a “more mature” athlete looking to get back into the sport – we can help you achieve your goals.

  • Coaches for All

    We cater for runners, jumpers, throwers and multi-eventers on the track, in the field, on the roads or over the country and are based at Kingsmeadow in Kingston-upon-Thames (KT1 3PB). We'll be very happy to help you with your sport – so please just get in touch and we'll do all we can to assist.

  • Be Part
    Of Our

Our Amazing Team

Bilen Ahmet

Jack Petchey Coordinator

Camilla Thrush

Club General Secretary
Club Merchandise
Disability Co-ordinator
Database Data Controller
Development Team
Club Coaches

Chris Dack

Web Admin

Gareth Cook

NAL Men’s Field Captain
Surrey Coach Mentor – Hammer
Surrey Men’s Team Manager

Gillian Libretto

Membership Secretary
Competition Vest supplier

Les Hatton

Interim Chair

Pat Logan

Coaching Coordinator

Peter Shilling

Peter Shilling
President & UKA Technical Official

Richard Holt

Head Coach
Website Content Admin


Contact Us