From nine crowns to €70m... and fifty years of Galway life

St Columba’s Credit Union to turn fifty

Directors at the St Columba’s Credit Union AGM in 2012.  Standing L to R: Liam Kelly, Padraig O’Callaghan, Terry Flaherty, Richard Noone, Jim Naughton, Henry Diviney, Austin Sammon, Jimmy Murray, Michael Duffy, Pat O’Sullivan, Frank Lohan, Liam Bluett.  Sitting L to R: Eileen Dunleavy, John Lenihan, Edith Coppinger, Paddy O’Donnell, Phil Grealish, Tom O’Connor

Directors at the St Columba’s Credit Union AGM in 2012. Standing L to R: Liam Kelly, Padraig O’Callaghan, Terry Flaherty, Richard Noone, Jim Naughton, Henry Diviney, Austin Sammon, Jimmy Murray, Michael Duffy, Pat O’Sullivan, Frank Lohan, Liam Bluett. Sitting L to R: Eileen Dunleavy, John Lenihan, Edith Coppinger, Paddy O’Donnell, Phil Grealish, Tom O’Connor

As St Columba’s Credit Union start preparations to celebrate their upcoming 50th Anniversary next year, they take a look at where it all started. On February 9 1963, with nine crowns, (€3.43 ) St. Columba’s Credit Union was the first credit union formed in Galway City and County and the second in Connacht.

The key people involved in the credit union at that time were: P Faherty (President ), J. Lawless (Vice President ) J O’Connor (Treasurer ), D Fitzmaurice, P Geoghegan, F Kelly, W Kilkelly, M Smyth, Mrs D Fitzmaurice, D Kileen, S Mac Liathain, T Dillon, T Garvey, M Fallon, J Foy. The picture attached shows the members of the board after its first annual general meeting a year later in February 1964.

The need for a credit union in Mervue was first discussed during the winter of 1962. A series of lectures was delivered by Fr McGrath SJ and the Catholic Workers College, in conjunction with the Galway Trades Council, under the heading of “Social Ethics”, in Union Hall, Prospect Hill.

After one such meeting which was addressed by Dick Buckley (RIP ) of the Revenue Commissioners, who was knowledgeable and interested in the Credit Union concept, it was decided to form a study group, and each person present contributed a half-crown (2/6 old money = 38c ) as an initial share. A total of £1-2/6 (one pound two and six or €3.43 in today’s money ) was collected.

Initially called Mervue Credit Union it was soon changed to St. Columba’s Credit Union Ltd in honour of the patron saint of Castlegar parish, is part of the Common Bond area of the Credit Union.

St Columba’s first public meeting was held in the Potez (Thermo King ) Canteen and its first permanent office was in Plunkett Avenue, Mervue. It held its first social in the Imperial Hotel and guest of honour was Ms Nora Herlihy, the Cork born teacher who co-founded the credit union movement in Ireland, and generally regarded as its inspiration. The Mervue branch is today located on Walter Macken Road, Mervue. There are also branches in Renmore, Oranmore and Claregalway.

The 1970s saw the expansion of St Columba’s to the Renmore area. The Renmore Branch began life in a caravan parked close to the Garrison Church, where mass goers could avail of the services.

When Renmore became a separate parish with its own school and church, (around 1982 ) the Credit Union obtained the use of the school hall prior to and after masses on Sundays. The Renmore office was subsequently transferred to an office location over Duggan’s Shop. The final move was to its current location at 16 Renmore Road.

Today St Columba’s Credit Union has approx €70m in assets and serves more than 16,000 members. A full programme of events is currently being planned to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Galway’s first credit union.

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