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About Us

Our Story

Dumbarton Credit Union is a community credit union which operates mainly in Dumbarton and Helensburgh and surrounding areas.  Our common bond is live or work in the 'G' postcode.

We have three staff members and over 25 volunteers without whom we would not be able to open.

We provide savings and loans for the local community and pride ourselves in our friendliness and professionalism.

We have eight volunteer board members all of whom are members of the credit union.  They meet every month to decide the strategy going forward of the credit union.

We are regulated by the same bodies at the banks and building societies ensuring that we are compliant with all requirements.  We are members of the trade association ABCUL (Association of British Credit Unions Ltd).

Should you wish to volunteer please contact WDCVS, 0141 941 0886 for further details.  Please advise them you wish to volunteer with us.


Founded in 1990 by a small group of like minded activists, who wished to provide a positive alternative to high interest loan companies and loan sharks, the Credit Union has now become a focal point for good and ethical banking facilities within the area. The membership has grown from just 27 members in 1990 to currently over 3,300 active adult members and 1,400 junior account holders. Since 2007 the Credit Union has introduced saving facilities for pupils in a number of schools and hopes to include all schools within our common bond. In 2020 Dumbarton Credit Union will celebrate 30 years of successful business growing year on year.

How the credit union originally started

On December 8 1988, Dumbarton Justice and Peace Group called a meeting in Benview House, Strathleven Place, to explore the possibility of forming a Credit Union that would serve the people of the town.

On Monday, 14th May, 1990 a meeting in the Concord CE Centre formally agreed that our Common Bond would be defined as that described in the Registration Document. Also that the Credit Union would be known as Dumbarton Credit Union Ltd and its registered address would be Castle Street, Dumbarton. It was further agreed to affiliate to the Association of British Credit unions Ltd and abide by the International Operating Principles of Credit Union.

A representative of ABCUL addressed the meeting on the responsibilities incumbent on those administering the Credit Union. A representative of Strathclyde Credit Union Development Agency then took temporary charge of the proceedings to allow elections and appointment of office bearers, committee members etc. Formalities concluded the Registration Document contained in the rules of Credit Union was signed.

The meeting was brought to a close acknowledging all involved for their previous eighteen months of hard work.

Ten days later on 24 May 1990 Dumbarton Credit Union was given the Register Number 47C by the Registrar’s Assistant in Edinburgh.

At Castle Street on 14 June1990 Dumbarton Credit Union Ltd opened to the public with 45 adults enrolling and collections amounting to £322.60.

A History of Dumbarton Credit Union

False Start

As a combination of membership growth and changes in government legislation lead to an expansion of its operations, Dumbarton Credit Union, will inevitably become unrecognisable to its founder members of 1990.  Equally, what was the small, almost cosy organisation of the early 1990s will have little relevance to future generations of members.  It is chiefly for their benefit that this brief account of the conception, birth and infancy of our Credit Union has been complied.

In the early autumn of 1985, the West-Ender community newspaper announced that a meeting would be held in St. Michael’s Annexe, Cardross Road on October 16 to discuss the possibility of forming a Credit Union to serve the people living in the immediate area.

A Credit Union development officer from Lothians addressed the meeting which was fairly well attended.  However, despite an initial show of interest, after a few similar meetings the project had fizzled out by the summer of 1986.

Although unsuccessful, the attempt to establish a Credit Union in the West End had not been a total waste of time. Some of those who attended the meeting went on to become members, volunteers and office bearers in Dumbarton Credit Union.


New Dawn

Around the same time as the failed attempt to set up a Credit Union in the West End of the town, a small number of socially concerned people in Bellsmyre were regularly meeting to discuss various relevant issues.  It was from these informal meetings that the Dumbarton Justice and Peace Group sprang.  Part of the local Justice and Peace Group’s strategy for combatting poverty was the promotion of thrift.  To them, the forming of a Credit Union seemed a natural progression towards achieving this particular aim.  To some extent they were probably aided and abetted in their thinking by a Credit Union activist from Castlemilk, whom they sometimes met in the wider course of their Justice and Peace work.

In December of each year, Dumbarton Justice and Peace Group organised a series of Advent meetings at which talks were given and discussion held on a wide range of topics.  It was suggested to use one of these meetings to explore the potential for setting up a Credit Union to serve all Dumbarton. A meeting was arranged on 8 December 1988 which was addressed by a representative of Strathclyde Credit Union Development Agency.  Unfortunately, no formal records appear to have been kept. It is worth noting that almost thirty years later some of those attending remain highly active members of Dumbarton Credit Union.

Eighteen Months Hard

The outcome of the December 1988 meeting was the formation of a Steering Committee or Study Group to further the object of setting up a local Credit Union.  Tutored by representatives of SCUDA and already established Dalmuir Credit Union.  The members of the Study Group gradually became acquainted with the routine tasks and responsibilities of running a Credit Union.

The early months of 1989 were something of an odd period in the life of the Study Group.  New unannounced faces would simply turn up at meetings.  Some of these new faces would simply disappear after one or two meetings.  Fortunately, a hard core chose to remain and become vital cogs in the wheel.

Initially the Study Group had comprised of a number of disparate individuals brought together by an idea that appealed to their personal sense of social duty.  This sense of responsibility to society can be summed up by one member stating that his reason for becoming involved was that life had been reasonably good to him and it was simply time to give something back.

The members of the Dumbarton Study Group were far from unique in using Credit Union involvement as means of discharging what they saw as their duty to society.  In the late 1990s, Heriot-Watt University School of Management issued a report on the rapid growth of Credit Unions in Scotland.  The report found that Credit Unions in West Central Scotland accounted for 35% of the total membership of British Credit Unions.

In some respects, in almost a photo-fit of the Dumbarton Study Group, the report went on to state that, ’Credit Unions therefore tended to form in communities where there remained a vestige of working class solidarity.  Members of the founding group have tended to be skilled manual workers (C2s) who participated in the activity of a whole variety of organisations that exist within the community, including particularly Trade Unions, churches and charities.  Frequently members of the founding group were well known to one another, and well-known within the community, whom prior to the establishment of the Credit Union, have had experience of leadership and may also have acquired many of the formal skills relevant to the operations of a financial service co-operative’

By April 1989 the Study Group was developing into a cohesive unit possessing a firm sense of direction.  In that month, a letter was submitted to the Registrar of Friendly Societies initiating the lengthy process of obtaining his recognition that they were capable of running a Credit Union. In the same month a Chairman and Secretary were appointed in anticipation of receiving a start-up grant from Strathclyde Regional Council, a bank account was opened.  Also, that April those members of the Study Group who were considering becoming office bearers in the proposed Credit Union were being asked to give a commitment of between at least six months and a year to the task.

Throughout 1989 the learning process continued.  Regular visits were made to established Credit Unions in the area to see at first hand, their day-to-day operation.  Another aspect of learning was that of meetings devoted to role-plays.  These role-plays involved the acting out of basic Credit Union procedures such as the enrolment of new members, filling out deposit slips, cash collection sheets and the paperwork involved in preparing cash for banking etc.  The roles of Directors, Credit and Supervisory committee members were also acted out.  It was from these role-plays that a picture of who would eventually do what within the proposed credit union began to emerge.

In the autumn of that year role-playing became a reality on 9 October the first jointly signed cheque was issued by our credit union for £28.50 to purchase official Credit Union stationery form the Irish League of Credit Unions.  Later the same month, the members of the Study Group, along with family members and friends, set up a saving fund.  On 30 October the first night’s collection for the savings fund amounted to £31.50.

It was around this time that the aspirations of the Study Group received a potentially disastrous set back.  To progress becoming a fully-fledged Credit Union the members of the Study Group were required to submit a formal application for recognition to the Registrar of Friendly Societies.  In making this formal application, the Study Group was required to prove that a degree of shared interest or a Common Bond existed among the residents of Dumbarton and Milton.  They were also required to illustrate in some depth; their own individual and collective abilities to administer a community base financial institution.

This would involve the submission to the Registrar of an extremely detailed document describing the geography and demography of the area in which the proposed Credit Union would operate.  The document was also required to supply information on local industry and politics and what provisions the area had for education, recreational, community and religious worship activities.  Additionally, each member of the study Group had to submit character references and information on their own person, family and professional backgrounds as well as outlining their experience in community affairs.  The onerous task of compiling the above was the responsibility of a small committee.

Comprising of a nurse, a retired health and safety officer, and ex shepherd , a distillery worker, a joiner, three local authority clerical staff, a clerk, a retired library assistant, two social security workers and six school teachers, the Dumbarton Credit Union Study Group in whose name the application to the Registrar was made, represented a fair cross section of the town’s population.

The Registrar replied that he could not grant an operating licence, as the application had not fully met his requirements.  In this opinion, the area to be served was too widespread for a credible Common Bond to be shared by members of a population which he felt was somewhat larger than he would have wished for.  Apparently based on his examining an Ordnance Survey Map of the district; he also felt the Dumbarton and Milton area to be extremely fragmented and not conducive to a sharing of interests among the population.

The reaction of the Study Group to the rejection of their application was that it was totally unacceptable to them that the Registrar had arrived at this decision without ever having been in Dumbarton or met any of its townspeople.  Local MP John McFall personally conveyed the Group’s views to the Registrar.

Accepting the Study Group’s views on his decision as being fair comment, the Registrar arranged for a visit to Dumbarton.  In mid February 1990 the Registrar’s representative visited Dumbarton and was immediately impressed with places such as Levengrove Park and the extensive playing fields at Havoc.  Apparently unversed in the ways of small towns he had some difficulty in being persuaded that people living in Brucehill and Castlehill could actually know anything of the residents of Bellsmyre and Garshake.  It would appear that overall the representative had been suitably impressed by what he had seen and heard.  A few weeks following the visit to Dumbarton the Registrar reversed his previous decision and approved the Study Group’s application.  As a consequence of the Dumbarton Study Group’s refusal to take no for an answer, the Registrar made on-site visits by his representative standard practice when dealing with future registration applications.

Around about the same time another potentially serious obstacle to progress was about to be removed.  Almost from day one, the acquisition and long-term retention of suitable centrally located and economically viable premises figured prominently at meetings of the Study Group.  Due to the town centre area of Dumbarton having been demolished and rebuilt in the 1960s and 1970s there was a dearth of the type of properties that would meet the requirements of the emergent community base Dumbarton Credit Union.  Among locations suggested and found wanting was the Concorde CE Centre where the Study Group was already holding its meetings.  Others suggested sites included at least one local church hall, the old Burgh Hall, vacant premised located on ground level at Dumbarton Central railway station and last, but not least, the disused Police Mortuary at the rear of the Municipal Buildings.

In the late 1980s and early 90s the expansion of the Credit Union movement had been the subject of some favourable comment within the Church of Scotland.  With an element of good fortune, the Riverside Parish Church suggested the Credit Union might be interested in using a former whisky sample store in Castle Street that the church had leased from Allied Distillers.  Following one of their weekly meetings in the Concorde, members of the Study Group trooped over to Castle Street and were very pleased with what was on offer.  This marked the beginning of a cordial relationship between the Credit Union and Riverside Parish Church.  Eventually a similar good relationship was struck with Allied Distillers who proved to be a most generous landlord to the Credit Union.

Slow and Steady

Having gained the Registrar’s approval and obtained suitable premises all that remained was for the Study Group to finalise its preparations for the opening of Dumbarton Credit Union Ltd.

On Monday, 14 May two separate but directly linked meetings were held in the Concorde CE Centre.  The inaugural meeting was held.  A representative of the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd opened the meeting and expressed her delight that after working for eighteen months the Study Group was on the verge of establishing a Credit Union in Dumbarton.  It was formally agreed that the Common Bond would be defined as that described in the Registration Document.  Also, that the Credit Union would be known as Dumbarton Credit Union Ltd and its registered address would be Castle Street, Dumbarton.  It was further agreed to affiliate to the Association of British Credit Unions Ltd and abide by the International Operating Principles of Credit Unions.  The responsibilities of Credit Union members and office bearers was also addressed.

At this point elections were held to form a Board of Directors, Supervisory and Credit Committees.  The meeting was brought to a close with congratulations to the Study Group on it eighteen months of hard work.  There then followed the first formal Board Meeting of Dumbarton Credit Union Ltd with a temporary Chairperson, the election of office-bearers, President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Vice-Treasurer, Board appointee Credit Committee, Education Officer, Insurance Officer, Delinquency Officer, Membership Secretary formally being elected to the Board.  The meeting was informed that Strathclyde Regional Council had granted the Credit Union £700.

To complete the formalities of becoming a Credit Union four office bearers were required to sign the Registration Document contained in Rules of Credit Union.  On 24 May 1990 Dumbarton Credit Union was given the Register Number 47 C by the Registrar’s Assistant in Edinburgh.

Around about this time, some apprehensions concerning the responsibility of running a Credit Union began to surface.  However, all concerned held their nerve and preparations for opening went ahead.

On Thursday, 7 June 1990 various public figures and representatives of local organisations were invited to the formal launching of the Credit Union in Riverside Parish Church Hall.  Before introducing District Provost Bill Petrie as the evening’s main speaker, laying strong emphasis on everyone that the aim of Dumbarton Credit Union was to serve everyone living in Dumbarton and Milton.  For his part, Provost Petrie wished the organisation well and outlined what he saw as some of the benefits of having a Credit Union operating in the area.  Other speakers were Rose Dorman, Dalmuir Credit Union, Reginal Councillor Iain Mcdonald and local MP John McFall.

After the evening’s speechmaking prizes were presented to the winners of a logo designing competition, which had been held in the local secondary schools.  An interpretation in blue and white of Dumbarton Castle and Rock backed by the Scottish thistle was judged to be the winning entry.

Throughout the previous eighteen months the Lennox Herald had been fairly supportive of the Study Group’s efforts.  On 14 June 1990 the day the fledgling Credit Union opened to the public for business, the local newspaper prominently featured the benefits of a Credit Union to the community and individual reasons for becoming involved in the project.

The first night’s collection by the Tellers, including membership fees, amounted to £322.60.

Forty-five adult members were enrolled.  Although, the Junior Section was not due to start until

mid-September, two children were also enrolled that evening.  At the following Monday’s Board meeting a small presentation was made to the representative of Strathclyde Credit Union Development Agency in appreciation of her contribution to the establishment of the new Credit Union.  This was no empty gesture.  Week in week out, summer and winter, for the previous eighteen month the representative would find herself leaving Dumbarton at nine or ten o’clock at night to make her way home to East Kilbride by public transport.

Part of the remit had been to instil in the Study Group that, as officers of a Credit union, their first duty would be the protection of the membership’s money.  Very much mindful of the above, and only after much agonised discussion, the Credit Committee approved three loans totalling £350.00.  These were paid out on 27 September.  Of the three borrowers above, one is still happily with us, while the others have sadly passed on.

The Credit Union financial year runs from 1 October to 30 September.  The Auditor’s report covering from June to September 1990 shows Cash at Bank and on Hand £5,012, Share and Savings of £3,862.  Loans made totalled £350.00.  Membership stood at 98.  A week later the figure rose to 100.

Accounts presented to Dumbarton Credit Union’s AGM for the financial year ending 30 September 2018 showed that an active membership of 3,321 has Shares and Savings of £6,123,519, Loans made to members for the same year totalled £3,567,113.  Also, at the end of September 2018 a Junior Section of 1,356 had savings of £1,111,704.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s a company named Telethon was annually making substantial grants of money to community-based groups.  Despite the closing date for 1990 applications being past, an application was compiled and submitted on our behalf and turned out to be highly successful.  The £3,000 received from this source allowed Dumbarton Credit Union to benefit from having a computerised accounting system at a very early stage of development.

Since 1993 with the assistance of many willing, unpaid volunteers the credit union has been led on a course of steady, and so far sustainable growth, it would be extremely difficult to overstate the week in week out, year in year out, contribution made by the various volunteers.  While some have contributed more than others, all have given freely of their time and effort. In addition to office bearers and volunteers a steadily growing membership has contributed to the success of Dumbarton Credit Union.  In common with other community based credit unions, our membership had from day one been preponderantly female.

While mainly due to the hard work of its volunteers, some measure of the Credit Union’s success is attributable to assistance received from a number of local public figures and organisations.

Sadly, of the original study group a few have passed on. However, others remain either active members or volunteers.

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Joining the Credit Union is the best decision you could take for your money. Our Credit Union lets people in the community come together to save and borrow money at low rates, and is operated on a not-for-profit basis.

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