On Friday, the 17th of March, 1968 a number of local people came together in a room at number 82 Leinster Street, Athy. This was a house which in the past was occupied by the Duke of Leinster's agent but which was then used as a centre of activity for the old folks committee. Those in attendance had come in response to public notices which advertised a talk by Michael O'Doherty of the Irish League of Credit Unions and posed the possibility of a Credit Union for Athy.
130 years previously writing in The Athy Literary Magazine of the 6th of March, 1838 a local man cited the need for a Mont de Piete in Athy. He explained that the Mont de Piete was an institution for lending small sums of money to the poor on the security of pledges. The necessary funds were raised by a loan consisting of £5 debentures bearing an interest of 6% which could at any time be converted into money. After paying interest one half of the surplus profits was expended in refunding the principal and the other half appropriated for charitable purposes.
Reference was made in that letter to the only other Mont de Piete opened by Matthew Barrington in Limerick as a fundraising venture for Barrington's Hospital. "So manifest are the evils of the present system of pawn broking that it is truly astonishing that Mont de Pietes have not sprung up around the country" wrote the Athy correspondent of 1838. A Local Loans Fund had been established in the town some time previously with offices in Emily Square in the house now occupied by the Fennin family. This was a financial institution operated on lines somewhat similar to that of the present Credit Union. It's purpose as it name implies was to lend money to local people and thereby keep them out of the clutches of the pawn brokers and the unofficial money lenders.
The Mont de Piete was not established in Athy but when the meeting opened at 82 Leinster Street, Athy, on Friday, the 17th of March, 1968 there was a general acceptance of the need to have a Credit Union in the town.
The first Board of Directors nominated that night were Donal Murphy, Jim O'Flaherty, Pat Fay, Richard Mulhall, Patsy O'Neill, Christy McMahon, Paddy Keane, Dermot Griffin, Jim McEvoy and John Quirke. Jim O'Flaherty, an employee of Athy Post Office, and married to local girl Carmel Glespen was elected first President. Jim later appointed Post Master in Greystones is now retired and lives in that County Wicklow seaside town. Donal Murphy of Sunnyside then working in Minch Nortons was elected vice-President. Jim McEvoy was appointed the first Manager/Treasurer with Patsy O'Neill as assistant and Paddy Keane, another Minch Norton's employee, as Secretary.
The next twelve months was spent in studying the operation of Credit Unions and visiting neighbouring offices to gain experience of practices and procedures relating to what essentially was an alternative banking system. On Friday the 31st of May, 1969 at 8.00 p.m. Athy Credit Union opened for business in a room in the Courthouse secured with the help of the then County Registrar and former local solicitor, Tadgh Brennan. At the end of the first year almost £5,000 had been lodged as savings.
The business or as it was termed in Credit Union circles "the movement" developed to the extent that a larger and more accessible premises was required. Towards the end of June 1971 number 3 Emily Row which had been once occupied by the town weight Master, James Dempsey, and later converted to a shop by Mr. and Mrs. Brophy was purchased by the Credit Union. Athy Credit Union still occupies 3 Emily Row which was refurbished and extended some years ago. Further growth has lead to the purchase of the adjoining premises and this will be incorporated into the Credit Union premises in time. The Chairman in this the Silver Jubilee of Athy Credit Union is John Dooley and Ger Quinn is vice-President, Noreen Day is Secretary and Peter Barry, Treasurer. The offices which operated for some years with voluntary staff is now managed by the full-time manager Noel Brennan, assisted by Susan Page and Ann Howe.
The achievements of the Credit Union in Athy is reflected in the service which it provides for it's members. If the correspondent in the Athy Literary Magazine of 1838 could look forward to today he would no doubt express himself more than satisfied with the efforts of the volunteers who worked to make Athy Credit Union so successful over the last twenty five years.