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Michael Coniry Crosshaven – Interview

50 Years Of Croshaven / Carrigaline Credit Union – Memories Of A Founding Member

Writes Leo McMahon

Crosshaven-Carrigaline Credit Union celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2018 and its only surviving founding board member – but still very much involved – is Vice Chairperson and director Michael Coniry, Camden Hill, Crosshaven who recalled for The Carrigdhoun, its early years.

A native of Tralee, Michael said it was when he joined An Slua Muiri that he first came to Crosshaven where he met and fell for his wife to be.

He went on to marry Alice Middleton in 1962 and Michael said one of the reasons he got interested in the new Credit Union movement, was the reality of not being able to get a loan from a bank – despite having a steady job in Cork (Egan Jewellers) – to buy a home

On February 5th, 1968, Michael attended a public meeting called by Michael Lucey, Jack O’Leary and the two Commander Swineys, members of Crosshaven Development Association, in Kennefick’s Hotel (now Cronin’s), to explore the idea of setting up a credit union.

Those present that night included Bryan Lougheed and Der Cogan of Cork’s first credit union, Ballyphehane who advised setting up a study group. This comprised Fr. Peter Lucey CC, Oliver Cuddihy, Liam Gilligan (later manager), Frank Scally and Diarmuid O Murchadha, (who were the first officers on the board of directors and supervisors formally elected in September 1968), along with Frank Scally, Denis Moroney, Jeremiah Lynch, Michael Lucey, Dave Desmond, Michael Twomey, Ronald Paddle, John Walsh and Michael Coniry. Paddy Ronayne and JJ Kelly were also on the study group, Michael recalls.

‘The group met regularly to learn the ins-and-outs of starting and running a credit union. We met in the former British Legion Hall at Church Bay Road and I was one of five people chosen to take out a £5 loan in order to understand how to make weekly entries into the ledger and use dockets and so on’, recalled Michael.

Michael said it first operated out of a still to be seen galvanized shed in the village (between Power’s and Higgins’ shops) belonging to local butcher Jim Kidney at a rent of 10 shillings per week. It was adapted by local members using ‘Ford boxes’ (often used to make summer bungalows) who took them apart at the nearby Pier to make partitions.

‘Fr. Lucey, we discovered, was very good at wallpapering and because there were knot holes in the Ford boxes, he filled these with a mixture of candle grease and sawdust’, he recalled.

At the start, the Credit Union had £167 in deposit share accounts, the maximum loan was £25 and it operated on Friday nights only.

At the first AGM held on February 24th, 1969, there were 150 members, shares had grown to £2,300 and that same year, members voted to extend its area of operation to cover ‘the Roman Catholic parishes of Crosshaven, Carrigaline and Tracton.’  A sub office opened in the old Parish Hall, Carrigaline in 1970.

Ireland was changing and more and more people desired household items such as TVs, fridges, washing machines and three-piece suites. However, said Michael, wages were still relatively low and money scarce. The credit union movement, he believed, was important in not only helping people to save but also to avoid over engaging in hire purchase (known as ‘the never never’) or paying huge interest to moneylenders.

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