Fr. Tim O’Brien was a curate in Balbriggan who took a very lively interest in the welfare of the community. He was concerned that people in the town were being exploited by moneylenders and hire purchase companies. He heard about Credit Unions and believed that the people of Balbriggan could benefit from one.
To this end, in early 1967, he called a meeting of interested people in the Grand Hotel, where he outlined the benefits and advantages he believed a Credit Union would bring to the town. It was agreed unanimously to form a Study Group to investigate the matter.
The group, which was chaired by Michael Weldon, then spent many hours with Michael O’Doherty of the Irish League of Credit Unions (whose daughter, Margaret Browne, later served as Secretary of the Credit Union) studying the “ins and outs” of a Credit Union’s operation. They also visited existing Credit Unions in Dublin, particularly Marino, where they were allowed to sit in and observe the various procedures in action.
On 6th July 1967, the inaugural meeting was held in Mrs McKeon’s Hall. Twenty-four members joined on the night and elected the first Board of Directors and Supervisory Committee, as follows:
- Fr. T. O’Brien - President
- Mr. M. Weldon - Treasurer
- Mr. A. Daly - Secretary
- Mr. F. Harper - Vice-Chairman
- Mr. J. McCormack - Assistant Treasurer
- Mr. C. Noctor - Director
- Mr. C. Copeland - Director
- Mrs. J. Brennan - Director
- Mr. D. Wilson - Director
- <>Mr. L. Manley - Supervisor
- Mr. T. Kettle - Supervisor
- Mr. R. Gaynor - Supervisor
The Board then appointed the first Credit Committee who would be responsible for members’ loan applications, as follows:
- Mr. F. Harper
- Mr. C. Copeland
- Mr. P. Conway
- Mr. J. Foley
- Mr. M. Kavanagh
The Credit Union opened for business on Friday, 14th July in an unused coal office in Mill St. (whose use was given free of rent by Mr W. Cumiskey) from 7.00 to 9.00 p.m. There were 112 members within the first month, which grew to 345 by July 1968. Thus began the best example of “People Power” in Balbriggan.
In order to generate some income the Credit Union needed to give out some loans. As no-one had yet applied for a loan, the directors were told that they were each to borrow £10 (whether they wanted it or not) and repay at the rate of 2/6 per week plus interest. This, combined with the proceeds of a cake sale organised by Mrs. J. Foley, helped to defray the initial start-up costs.
The first real loan granted was to install a back boiler – the first of many Home Improvement loans. For the first Christmas in operation, the Board arranged a loan from St. Mary’s Credit Union in Navan in case they would not have enough savings to cover the anticipated demand for loans. By the time the first A.G.M. was held in February 1968, Balbriggan Credit Union had loaned out £1,212. By the time of the second A.G.M. in February 1969, they had loaned £11,783 . 12 . 09 and were able to give a dividend of 4%. The Treasurer was awarded an honorarium of £25.