Felix Credit Union

Felix Credit Union is a Bradford-based union named after Father Kelvin Felix – a pioneer of British credit unions. Membership is available to people associated with the Dominican community in the St Patrick’s church parish.

Felix Credit Union

In 1967 a West Indian priest Fr Kelvin Felix came to Bradford in response to a call from the Bishop of Leeds, Most Reverend Gordon Wheeler to work with West Indians in the diocese of Leeds/Bradford as the need at need at time was great. Summoning his personal knowledge of Credit Unions which he had studied at the Fr. Moses Coady International Institute in Nova Scotia, Canada, he realised that organising the West Indians into a Credit Union was the best method of assisting them socially, economically and spiritually.

In the summer of 1967 various meetings were held to discuss the merits of setting up a Credit Union and created much interest. There was no legal frame work for establishing credit unions in Britain until the Credit Union Act in 1979. Despite this it was agreed by those early pioneers to set up the Credit Union. These “pioneers” were: Murray Claire, Tayson Juno Baptiste Vivian Ely Francis Nicholas. Bishop Wheeler assigned Fr. Felix to St. Patrick’s Church in Bradford as his base of operation.

A very generous benefactor, Mr, Dick De-Rome, made available to Fr. Felix a three-storey house at 4 Halifield Road. Some West Indian residence transformed the building into accommodation for the priest and his offices to meet parishioners. The rest of the building was transformed into the “home of the Credit Union” and people came to learn what the Credit Union was about to be trained to operate the organisation.

During early 1968 the Board of Directors was appointed — Chair, Secretary, Treasurer. A Credit Committee was appointed to overlook any loan applications. An Education Committee was appointed to promulgate the aims of Credit Union and a Supervisory Committee to carry out regular audits on the running of the Credit Union and report back to the board. Bill Johnson set up a manual pass book and accounting system (Kalamazoo) which worked well and allowed the Credit Union to grow and develop over the period of 7 years. 1975 Fitzroy Baidouille took over the reins until he married and emigrated to Canada. Maximer Prosper became the next treasurer and held the position of for nigh on 30 plus years.

In April 1968 the first collections were made. Opening hours were fixed for Saturday 12 till 3pm to catch the late morning shoppers and the early afternoon ones. The name was agreed to be the Bradford Co-operative Credit Union. All Credit Unions needed a “Common Bond” that is something over and above the financial side to bind members together to minimise bad loans.

In 1970 there was only 14 credit unions around the country and the Bradford Co-operative Credit Union was one of those leading lights of the movement in those early days. Members of the board Fr. Kelvin Felix, Murray Celaire, Bill Johnson. Vivien Ely played their part in the Credit Union League of Great Britain with others from around the country. May 1971 Bill Johnson became vice president of the League, Murray Celaire became Northeast director.

The credit union was also a member of the North of England Chapter. Bill Johnson Bradford Co-operative CU as Vice President of the CULGB, was the main mover of a scheme to set up Central Credit Union services organisation to provide extra support for credit unions and he believed that might prove beneficial to UK Credit Unions. It would help to provide a link between all credit unions in order to bring them more closely together Greater security for new and experienced credit unions Credit union services to persons who resided in areas where there were no credit unions.

At this time there was no legal framework for credit unions in the UK. However, with the introduction of the 1979 Credit Union Act the regulator at the time would not allow the name Bradford Co-operative Credit Union Ltd. to be used because it was too long, so the directors adopted the name of its founding father and became Felix Credit Union Ltd. registered as No 11C under the 1979 Credit Union Act.

Felix Credit Union (Bradford) Limited became registered and effective from 10 April 1980 and began to operate within the Credit Union Act . The common bond of Felix Credit Union (Bradford) Ltd, based at the St Patrick’s Centre in Sedgefield Terrace, in Bradford, was for people associated with the Dominican community in the St Patrick’s church parish.

The credit union Directors rededicated to helping members achieve a better standard of life and a better understanding of living together for mutual benefit. The greatest asset being the realisation that being together, members are much stronger to help each other. Max Prosper became a director of the league and served also later as an ABCUL director.

Fr. Kelvin Felix, founder of the credit union returned in 1972 to his native Dominica to be the principal of a High School and he returned in 1997 for the 30-year celebrations of the credit union named after him. When Credit unions became regulated by the Financial Services Authority all the directors were grand- fathered over to the FSA register. The credit union  Act was amended and Junior members could save more in a credit union. The credit union could charge up to 2% on loans a month on the reducing balance. Felix Credit union remained as it had begun but had to consider how to computerise their operation.

April 2018 the Credit Union with a membership of 260 celebrated their 50th anniversary at Bradford City Hall with long standing members, staff and presided over by the Lord Mayor of Bradford. At the event, members and guests heard from long serving directors of Felix Credit Union, Max Prosper, Sharon Vassell and Virginia Fevrier together they have over 100 years of voluntary service to the credit union.

They spoke about the history of the credit union and how they have served local residents from all walks of life. Martin Logan and Jim Clancy from the British Credit Union Historical Society attended on the Saturday as a surprise visit by them on the chance they could collate that history for the website. Martin and Jim were delighted to see the office open and meeting the volunteers still open for business before the extravaganza that night.

On the way back home, we were struck by the enthusiasm and dedication of these lovely people we met was still evident after 50 years of service to their credit union community. As said many times before and we say again, “in our headlong quest for growth and wanting bigger and larger credit unions we must never ever forget were we have come from and why we are here”

In December 2018 the celebrations was completed when the credit union was honoured amongst local heroes at a ceremony at the annual Community Stars awards held in Bradford Town Hall, The event is designed to reward unsung heroes across the district who strives to make a difference in their local communities across Bradford. 

News and Clips HERE

Want to find out more?

Get in touch with the Felix team:

Telephone – 01274 391762

Copyright British Credit Union Historical Society 2018 – All rights reserved

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