In response to a request by missionaries and prominent officials, the English National Council appointed Mr RD Pringle, who had been responsible for the inauguration of the YMCA in both Bombay and Colombo , to undertake a similar task in Singapore.
Mr R D Pringle led the initiative for the start of the YMCA and officially listed date of commencement being 30 June 1903, some 7 months after his arrival from India.
The Association endeavored in providing facilities for swimming, football, volleyball, cricket and tennis. As early as the 1910s, the grounds were equipped with two fine grass courts for tennis as well as a cricket pitch. During its first 12 months, 180 members were enrolled. Pringle also arranged regular devotional meetings, outdoor physical activities and educational classes.
Eventually, the original premises at the Oriental Club was simply not big enough to accommodate large numbers. Hence, the YMCA would move its premises to Armenian Street (beside the Armenian Church) at a premise known as Zetland House. Pringle took over the lease of Zetland in Jan 1904, making it the YMCA's headquarters. It offered room and board, a library, recreation rooms, educational classes as well as religious meetings. A football league was also formed shortly after.
Four years later, the Association's activities had expanded to a level whereby even Zetland House was deemed no longer large enough. Pringle, indefatigable and tireless in his endeavors, was able to influence the Colonial government through Governor Sir John Anderson and was rewarded by a magnanimous grant of a 999 year lease of a prime site at Orchard Road , where it presently stands today. The building was completed and declared open on 16 Feb 1911 by Sir John Anderson himself.
The Orchard Road site was later granted as a gift by the government to the YMCA. Close to 8 decades later, in March 1982, the original building was demolished to make way for the present complex.
The YMCA, together with Singapore Swimming Club and the Chinese Swimming Club, met in April 1939 to form the Singapore Amateur Swimming Association(SASA). The swimming fraternity at these clubs realized that for swimmers to improve and compete at both the regional and Olympic games levels, they needed to have an organizing and controlling body – hence they were to come together for the formation of the SASA.
Singapore 's Branch of the Royal Life Saving Society(RLSS) was also founded in 1967. The work of the RLSS's Singapore branch had been closely associated with the YMCA of Singapore. Mr Rowland Lyne, the YMCA's General Secretary, had been the Singapore representative to the RLSS since 1925. The Head office of the newly formed branch of the RLSS was also housed at the YMCA's main building.
During those times, the YMCA was a center for recreation, sports and friendship for many of them – providing for educational classes, recreational programs, swimming, billiards, table tennis, reading rooms. The YMCA's Reading Room was comprehensively stocked with books and magazines from all over the world.
Today, the YMCA has many newly introduced programs and activities for its Youth and members, all geared toward keeping up with a modern and cosmopolitan image befitting of the times. As in its early days, the YMCA has stayed relevant due to its ability to keep up with the times and in many ways, keep ahead of it, providing good clean fun through its social and recreational programs and activities that hold appeal for the (varied) groupings that comprise Singapore 's Youth.