Portadown Credit Union has celebrated 50 years of service to the town, having been started by people who had grown up in the town in the 1930s and 1940s and who didn’t view the Great Depression as a bit of history, but as something they personally remembered. So their ethos was to make the world – especially their town – a better place.
They were aware of the poverty in and around Portadown and were mindful of the benefits of Credit Unions. They firmly believed that, if a financial co-operative could be formed, then working people could pool their resources for the benefit of all.
Two prominent businessmen of the time – publican Jack McCabe and chemist Thomas Lee – were asked to examine the possibility of setting up a Credit Union in the town, and they met over a six-to-nine-month period to investigate how Credit Unions worked.
Thomas recalls that one meeting went on until 6am! In 1962, the two men were joined by a willing band of helpers – Peter Mulligan, Aidan McCormack, John Goodwin, Harry McNamee, Aidan Cullen, Dr G. McAnallan, James Hendron, Gerry McNally, Dr L. Byrne, Jim McCullagh, James Greenwood, Edward Gillen, Paddy McAnallan and Vincent. They formed a working party to get the venture off the ground.
The inaugural meeting of Portadown Credit Union took place on April 4, 1963. The opening share capital was £1.10s (£1.50) which was made up of 2/6d (12.5p) paid by each of the 12 founder members. From this humble beginning the Credit Union now has 8,500 members and savings of £18m.
The first offices of the Credit Union were in the Credit Union Rooms in William Street, open from 7-9pm on Friday night and 10am-1pm on Saturdays.
The board of directors held their meeting at St Patrick’s Hall in Thomas Street up until June 30, 1970 when the offices moved from Credit Union Rooms in William Street to 6 Portmore Street. The next move was in July 1980 to the former premises of Jackie McMahon’s gents outfitters in Thomas Street.
Then, the Credit Union moved full circle in August 2004, to the current purpose-built offices in William Street where it all began in 1963. It took great dedication and hard work from those early visionaries to get the movement started in Portadown. Successive volunteers and staff have all played their part in elevating the Credit Union in town to its success of the present era.
To mark the golden occasion, the Credit Union held a Members Day in April with refreshments provided for members and neighbours. And a celebration dinner was held at the Seagoe Hotel for current and former volunteers, with surviving members from 1963 invited to attend.
And there has been another significant happening to mark 50 years, with the Portadown Credit Union announcing its first woman manager – Elizabeth Donnelly, former manager of Armagh Credit Union, and with vast knowledge and experience in the organisation.
She began her Credit Union career as a volunteer with Newry Credit Union in 1976, and took up a full-time post in 1978. After 23 years in Newry, she was appointed manager in Armagh in September 1998.
Elizabeth succeeds Ivan Weir, manager of the Portadown Credit Union for 15 years. The first full-time manager was Walter Kennedy, followed by Joseph Rafferty (17 years) and then Ivan Weir.
Said Elizabeth Donnelly: “Portadown Credit Union prides itself on the services we provide to our members. We are committed to supporting the families of the town, being non-profit making, and take those responsibilities extremely seriously. We want to help those in need and to keep high-cost lenders at bay. Our loans comparison tables show how we can do that, when you compare our rates to those of the high street banks – and especially to the short-term lenders.”
Bernadette McGinnell, President of Portadown Credit Union, commented: “We are thrilled to celebrate our 50th anniversary. This is because our members have played a vital role in our development and financial viability over the years. With over £18m in savings and more than £8m in loans, the figures speak for themselves. Our strength lies in our difference and we are very proud to be different.
“In our 50th year, our priorities remain the same, and our service to members is key. We must look forward, and see how those services should evolve to meet the needs of members in the future.”
Everyone, though, reveres the memory of the first President – the late legendary Jack McCabe – who gave Portadown access to a financial service provider that works to help the people, and not for profit. A true visionary.
To become a member, telephone 3833 5104. The Credit Union is introducing new services and technology, such as a website, on-line applications and account access.