Tuesday 18 June 2019

End of an era as New Ross Penny Bank closes up for the last time

Youth Centre, New Ross, where the Penny Bank has operated from
Youth Centre, New Ross, where the Penny Bank has operated from

David Looby

After 46 years the New Ross Penny Bank finally closes its doors today (Tuesday).

The bank has around 1,500 members.

Hugh Maddock of the New Ross Penny Bank said: 'In the 1960s the youth of the town had nowhere to go, so local curate, the late Fr Tom McCormack, was determined to build a Youth Centre for these young people.'

A site for the fledgling youth centre was donated by the Carmelite nuns and Fr McCormack borrowed £30,000 to build the Youth Club.

The Youth Centre was officially opened on February 9, 1969. The opening was tinged with sadness as Fr McCormack was unable to attend the opening due to the sudden passing of his mother on February 8, the evening before the official opening ceremony.

Having borrowed the money, Fr McCormack, with the ably assistance of Fr Aidan Hartley, called for a group of volunteers to assist in this project.

The new volunteers included Kitty Bent, Mell Bailey, Olly O'Brien, Peg Freaney, Pat O'Brien, Hugh O'Connor and Nancy Ryan.

Having taken advice from Dan McCormack, a brother of Fr McCormack, he suggested the establishment of a Penny Bank Christmas Savings Club.

The Enniscorthy Penny Bank was well established at this stage and helped to raise funds for the newly formed Enniscorthy Community Workshop.

In 1972, the New Ross Penny Bank committee began operating. The first account opened with a lodgement of 50 shillings (an old ten bob note).

The Penny Bank project was so successful and at the suggestion of the late Fr Jack McCabe (RIP), a brand new handball alley was added to the complex.

From the original committee, only three people, Peggy Freaney, Olly O'Brien and Hugh O'Connor are still with the committee now.

The Penny Bank operated on every Friday for 46 weeks of the year. Currently the project is run by two teams, 'A & B' who worked on a month by month basis. The 'A' Team members included Teresa McDonald, Bridie Sweeney, Catherine O'Gara, Mary Brazil, Hugh Maddock, John Murphy and Dick Lyng. The 'B' Team members includes Joan Foley, Patricia Quinn, Frances Cooney, Annette Kelly, Ann Walshe, Colm Caulfield, Ann Waters and Carol Freaney.

Four generations of families have been members of the Penny Bank in New Ross.

Another vital part of the team has been the people who operated the daily ledgers namely Margaret Lyng, Mary Maddock and Michael Doran.

The chairman of the Penny Bank committee was Fr McGrath.

Mr Maddock said: 'We should also thank all the people, both past and present. Those who are still with us. Those who are deceased who gave their time voluntarily to help run the penny bank over the past 46 years.'

The penny bank saved hundreds of thousands of euros of local people's money from January until mid-November every year without fail. In a parish newsletter distributed at St Mary & St Michael's Parish church in New Ross in August, parishioners were informed of the `major loss' within the community.

The newsletter from the Penny Bank committee stated: `The committee regrets to announce that due to Central Bank regulations St Mary's Penny Bank will not be open in January 2019. A "bank business" is defined in law as "accepting sums of money from the public in the form of deposits or other repayable funds".'

The penny bank comes under that definition and therefore requires a licence to operate. Such licences are not used by penny banks, therefore the committee has no option but to close this facility at the end of 2018.

The statement went on to say that the decision to close is completely beyond local control. `The penny bank will continue as usual until December and the disbursement of services will follow the same traditional method. It's appreciated that this is a major loss to the community. The penny bank has been a very important part of many people's preparation for Christmas for almost 50 years. We hope members will find an alternative method of saving for the future. We thank the committee for its support over the years and we also acknowledge the contribution of many former members of the committee.'

St Mary's Penny Bank is one of scores closing across the country. The pay out of penny bank savings every late November injected huge sums into the local economy. The money was saved at New Ross AIB and is understood to have amounted to around €1m in recent years.

New Ross Standard