Sydney Steel Credit Union
by Eileen (Swift) Cook – retired Manager of Steel Center Credit
In the early thirties in the Sydney area, the depression was at
its height and the “working class” were working in name
only. The Steel Plant was virtually shut down, working at only ten
to fifteen percent of cp\capacity. Most families had nowhere to
turn for financial assistance.
Just about that time, St. Francis Xavier University Extension Department
began exploring the Credit Union idea. Study clubs and kitchen meetings
were organized to study this new idea that people with a common
bond would unite to pool their meagre savings and loan them to those
in the group in need, the loan being given at a reasonable rate
One such group, consisting of twenty-two employees of the Dominion
Iron and Steel Co. Ltd., held their first meeting on November 17th,
1933, in the basement of the General Office, their purpose being
to consider the formation of a Credit Union for the employees of
the Steel Company and members of their families. The gathering was
fortunate to have with them that evening, as a resource person,
Mr. John Gilles, who had recently been involved in the organization
of the Eastern Light and Power Employees Credit Union. The group
was advised that twenty-three people were required to make up a
slate of provisional officers. There were only twenty-two people
present at the meeting and so, the chairman of the meeting, Mr.
Edgar MacDonald, solved the problem by contacting Bernard Galloway
Sr., who agreed to and shortly thereafter joined the meeting.
A second meeting was held on December 12th, 1933 and, despite the
fact that both money and work were scarce, the group decided to
apply for a charter.
The following placed their names on the Memorandum of Associations
and applied for registration of the Dosco Employees Credit Union:
Edgar MacDonald John E. Murphy
Gordon Dexter Archie MacIntyre
E.P. Pledge D.L. MacDonald
F.H. MacDonald Frank Steele
J.W. Clarke D.A. MacDonald
James Lawson Walter Bunn Sr.,
C. Reg Dixon Bert Glasgow
John C. MacInnis William E. Cusack
William Reid J.C. Hazelhurst
Walter Warren Tom G. Gallivan
P.L. Fraser John Farquharson
As a result, this Credit Union was the 16th in the province to
receive their Credit Union Charter.
The infant Credit Union opened for business on a part-time basis
in January, 1934. In a letter signed by the plant General Superintendent,
permission was obtained to operate the Credit Union on plant property,
“providing, of course, that these activities do not interfere
with the regular duties of the employees.” At that time, F.H.
MacDonald decided that he was too busy to continue in the Treasurers
position so; he exchanged office with the President, J.W. Clarke,
who then became Treasurer. That first year, 474 members deposited
In October, 1936, Mr. Clarke received a call from the Provincial
Government to fill a newly created post of Inspector of Credit unions.
The impending loss of the Treasurer made it necessary to find a
replacement and the increased volume of business created a need
for an office site.
After a meeting with Company Vice President and General Manager,
Mr. H.J. Kelly, permission was obtained to renovate a small building
attached to Number 1 gatehouse.
The first significant change in policy came at that time when the
board of directors decided to make the Credit Union a full-time
business. Tom Gallivan was appointed Manager/Treasurer and the Dosco
Employees Credit Union opened for its first business day on November
Another change, which greatly affected the growth of the Credit
Union and gave greater financial security to the survivors of deceased
members, was the purchase of Share and Loan insurance in December,
1942. This feature would not be so significant today, but in those
days, $2000.00 life insurance and the fact that any loans owing
the Credit Union were paid in full, meant a great deal to grieving
families. We must remember that in 1942, most households had only
Growth in membership required more office space and, on December
14th, 1944, a contract was signed with R.G. MacDougall to erect
a building and vault on Steel Plant property just beyond the main
In 1952, Tom Gallivan became ill and passed away. The Board of Directors
appointed Ms. Eileen Swift, who had been employed as his assistant
for six year, to the Manager/Treasurer position.
In 1958, it was decided to bring the Credit Union idea to local
children. We sponsored five school credit unions, which were operated
and managed by students, and, the parent Credit Union paid their
Despite the economic ups and downs of the area, the Credit Union
continued to grow. The cooperation and support of the Steel Company
was an enormous help and played a large part in the development
of the organization. They supplied the first full-time office space,
telephone and electricity service, and paid part of the manager’s
salary. This arrangement ended in 1960.
The following year, in 1961, the Board began to study the possibility
of erecting a modern office building. There were many obstacles
put in their path but, eventually all were solved and our present
building opened on May 25th, 1963.
In 1963, due to a change of ownership and subsequent name change
of the Steel Company, it was felt that the name of the Credit Union
should also change. Members were asked to suggest an appropriate
name. At the Annual Meeting, held February 24th, 1969, thirteen
suggestions were considered by the members. After three elimination
votes, the name Steel Center Credit Union, suggested by Mrs. Earl
(Margaret) Garland, was approved. The motion was made by Nelson
Muise and seconded by Don Steele.
Men of vision who recognized the need of their fellow employees
and proceeded to do something about that need founded this Credit
Union. The motto used by our Credit Union for many years, “Founded
on caring, Growing by sharing” truly signifies their purpose.