October 5, 2011
A lack of everything sparked self help
Glasgow’s slum clearances in the 1950’s saw the rehoused residents dispersed across the shiny new housing estates of Easterhouse, Pollok, Castlemilk and Drumchapel. In the beginning all attention focused on the improved standards of housing. But once folk had a decent roof over their heads, they began to seek out some of the other basics of community life – shops, libraries, banks, parks and such like. Most of which were missing. That’s when people like Bert Mullen came to the fore
Bert Mullen was a painter & decorator who lived with his wife, Alice and family, in one of Glasgow’s new housing schemes, Drumchapel, which had been built in the early sixties as part of what seemed a courageous vision to remove the blot of urban slums from the centre of the city. Providing housing was the chief priority but insufficient consideration was afforded to the provision of facilities for this new population.
Bert and his friends, the McSevneys, were very conscious that there were no affordable, financial services available to the working class residents of their community. He learned of credit union and the exceptional impact that it was having on the lives of ordinary people through Irish newspapers. Convinced that it could work for the good of the community in Drumchapel, he contacted the Irish League of Credit Unions, the World Council and anybody else who would listen to him.
Western Credit Union was launched in Drumchapel in February 1970. It was later to become Drumchapel Credit Union Ltd to meet the `requirements of registration. Bert’s encouragement and inspiration also saw the launch of Dalmuir and Cranhill, to be followed by 130 other credit unions. His untimely death in 1986 was a loss to the whole of the Scottish Credit Union movement.
Bert would have been distraught at the increasing number of “payday cheque” companies appearing in Scottish towns. They prey on the desperate, charging extortionate rates of interest for short term, unsecured small loans; 500 per cent is not uncommon. Wonga.com’s website advertises a representative APR of 4214 per cent. It’s enough to make an ordinary, decent loan-shark blush.
Bi-annual Bert Mullen Lecture, Stirling University
The Scottish League of Credit Unions is hosting this years bi-annual Bert Mullen Lecture in Stirling University on the evening of Friday 7 October and it is a special pleasure to reveal that this year’s guest speaker will be Lesley Riddoch, the award winning journalist, commentator and broadcaster. Lesley has kindly agreed to deliver a lecture on “Community control: Scotland’s missing dimension” looking at the opportunities of Social Enterprises to transform community life.
If you would like to attend the free event and commemorate the influence that Bert Mullen had on the Scottish Credit Union sector and also enjoy an evening lecture and refreshments with Credit Union’ers from all over Scotland, then please reply via email@example.com to confirm your attendance and to receive further details on timings, directions, etc.
If you require any further information, don’t hesitate to contact us at the SLCU office 0141 774 5020