The first computer purchased was an Apple III which the Board of Directors decided was the most suitable for the needs of the Credit Union. To be honest the directors were terrified of the prospect of having to operate this machine. Our first priority was to input all the necessary information to get the system “up and running”. This was an enormous task, many long hours were spent ensuring all data input was correct. We received greatly appreciated help from Dr. Paul Nolan of U.C.G. He provided much needed technical assistance and advise over a number of years, which resulted in the provision of the necessary software to serve the purpose of the Credit Union. Finally on 1st January 1983, all our records and accounts were computerised and we were ready to roll. The computer proved to be of enormous benefit and saved many hours in providing reports to the Board of Directors, processing overdue accounts and compiling returns to the Irish League of Credit Unions.
The Credit Union continued to grow apace and in February 1986 the Board of Directors decided to employ Greg Browne on a full time basis. Greg immediately set about developing a networked computer system to cater for the ever increasing number of members and resultant transactions. The Board was conscious of the fact that although we had our own premises it did not provide adequate privacy for the members and did not have the capacity to cater for expansion. Early in 1988 a very prestigious site opposite the then office was advertised for sale. The Board had no hesitation in instructing our Solicitors to purchase this site. The purchase was completed on the 17th August 1988. It was then the real work began, we were fortunate to have Directors with experience in the construction Industry.
The Board appointed a building committee whose brief was to come up with an acceptable plan for the new building. Those appointed were Dick Smyth, Paul Browne, Mattie Duane, Leo Coffey and Willie Hoyne. They toiled for many long hours to provide a comprehensive structural plan. Many sketches were produced, amended and finally the bones of the new premises was on paper. It was then decided to employ Frank McNabb and Associates to complete scaled drawings for furnishing to the Planning Authority and also to act as Consultants on this project. Planning Permission was received on the 23rd January 1989. Tenders were then invited from competent building contractors.
After much deliberation, the contract was awarded to Tom Spellman. The formal signing of the contract took place on the 16th August 1989. It is worth noting that our first Lady President Helen Tully had the privilege of signing the contract on behalf of the Credit Union. Work on the site commenced on the 21st August 1989.
The workload on the building committee was hectic, they held weekly meetings with Tom Spellman and Jim McHugh (McNabb & Associates) and also furnished monthly progress reports to the Board. Fortunately for the Credit Union Dick Smyth had taken early retirement from the Department of Agriculture and as Chairman of the building committee he made himself available at all times. It was even suggested that he was the site foreman. Of course there were the usual problems associated with the construction of any large building and at times the building committee and the Board were very frustrated with progress. In the meantime we had agreed the sale of our existing premises and were to vacate it by the 2nd July 1990.
Simultaneously the membership was continuing to grow and the Board decided that in order to continue to provide an efficient counter service it was necessary to employ another person part time. Patricia Joyce was employed in May 1989.
The building committee kept pressure on the builder to complete the project on time. Fortunately we were able to vacate our premises and move all the equipment into the new office on the 28th June 1990.
It was a very hectic day and night with painters, carpenters, tile and carpet layers on the premises, but every job was completed on time. We proudly opened for business at 9.30 am on Friday 29th June 1990. Our first customer that morning was Carmel Kennedy and our first new member was Frank Stankard. Great credit is due to the building committee who steadfastly stuck to their task no matter what the problem and ensured the contract was completed on time. The members were lavish in their praise of the new facilities provided for their privacy and convenience. It was for the Board their biggest undertaking, not alone in terms of commitment but also a major financial consideration costing approximately a quarter of a million pounds. We relied heavily at the time on the advice of our treasurer Paul Browne who assured the Board that the project could be financed without borrowing a penny or affecting the Dividends returned to the membership. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Paul not only for his work on the building committee but for his astute financial advice, backed up with proper analysis which was always explained in detail to the Board.
The Board were anxious to hold an open week—end to provide the members with the opportunity of viewing every location in the magnificent new building.
This was held on the 5th & 6th of October 1990. Refreshments were provided which were welcomed by all members. Again great compliments were paid by and much encouragement received from the members. The Credit Union building stands as a landmark to the founder members who showed great courage and fortitude in the face of adversity in the formation of Athenry Credit Union. The present Board of Directors salute and commend their aspirations and ideals, we assure them the true spirit and philosophy of Credit Union lives on in Athenry.
The official opening took place on the 4th January 1991. This coincided with the celebration of our 25th Anniversary. The premises were blessed by Arch-Deacon Conor Heaney and Mons Michael Mooney P.P. R.I.R The honour of “cutting the tape” was performed by the then President Dick Smyth. Whilst the Credit Union had experienced great growth up to 1990, we were not expecting the surge of growth that occurred after we moved into the new premises. People were obviously becoming more aware of the benefits of Credit Union membership.
Even with the assistance of computers, it become necessary to employ Bridie Callanan part time in 1992. We have had one more very important stroke of good fortune which was Greg Browne’s computer skills. Greg’s input to the Credit Union has been phenomenal over the years. He has devised financial systems and written computer programmes to control every conceivable aspect of Credit Union operations. Other Credit Unions are envious of the superb quality and user friendliness of our computer system. Greg has done a magnificent job and is constantly updating our programmes to cater for an evolving situation. To have a member of staff with Greg’s expertise available at all times has proved a major advantage to us.
We are the only Credit Union in the country to have “on line” identity photographs available to our tellers as an aid in preventing unauthorised access to members accounts. We believe this, coupled with “on line” Signatures is a major boost to the security of members savings. Please co-operate when asked to have your photograph taken. We now have a fully networked computer system with a file server serving 5 workstations. Recent introductions to the system include automated transaction receipts, automated Loan application and Promissory notes. These have considerably improved the accuracy and ease of use of the system and also the service to members. We will shortly introduce automatically printed cheques.
Written by Tom Lane
Published here 08 Feb 2021 and originally published November 1995
The Athenry Journal
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