The Banks (of The Suir)
In the 1930s, when I was a boy there were five banks in the City of Waterford. The Munster and Leinster, The Bank of Ireland, The Provincial, The National and The Penny Savings Bank. The population of the city at that time was approximately twenty five thousand.
The bank manager was regarded as a very important man in those days and in fact his employees, clerks and typists etc., were held to be a cut above the ordinary. The clerks were required to join the golf club and to be seen in all the best places – they were paid about thirty shillings a week!
Banking then was seen as reserved for wealthy people, shopkeepers, property owners, solicitors, big farmers and the like and people who could boast a cheque book or a bank account were thin on the ground. In general business was done in cash and wages were invariably paid in cash.
In the previous century, powerful families founded their own banks and produced notes for one pound, one guinea, two pounds, three pounds and fifty pounds and these were signed by family members or partners as guarantors. The prominent Waterford banks of the time were Newport’s Bank and Roberts Bank. Samples of their bank notes, now quite rare, are illustrated in this book and I learned that a Waterford Bank note for nine shillings was recently sold at auction in Canada for £800 sterling.
But back to the 1930s – at that time there was a bank in every town and village in the country, some of them in remote parts, and a story is told of one such bank in a small town. At this point I must tell you that the standard minimum staff in such an establishment would consist of a manager, a cashier and a porter. Bank Inspectors were employed by the head office to visit the branch offices without prior notice to check up on the operations of same. Needless to say the branch staff did not welcome such visits.
However, a visit from an inspector was scheduled by head office for this particular bank and he arrived at 11 o’clock on a Tuesday morning. The little town was not fully awake at that hour and there was nobody about as the inspector approached the bank. He checked the time as he walked purposefully through the entrance noting that the porter was not “on the door”.
There was nobody to be seen in the bank. No porter, no cashier and no manager! No customers either! The inspector was perplexed and as he pondered the situation, he heard faint voices coming from the manager’s private office. He went quietly towards and opened the office door a crack and saw the three boys engrossed in a game of poker. He retreated quietly and passing the cashier’s box he pressed the alarm button.
Well the bell went off with a deafening volume and the inspector stood in the middle of the foyer and waited for the inevitable panic to erupt. But nothing happened. No movement from the manager’s office. Nothing!
But while he stood there, perplexed and dumbfounded, the bar man from the pub across the road appeared carrying a tray with two bottles of stout and a large whisky, entered the bank and vanished through the door of the manager’s office. Almost immediately he re-appeared carrying the empty tray and as he passed the cashier’s box he reached in and switched off the alarm.
When he was dead level with the open mouthed inspector, he said “The manager wants to know what are ye havin’ ”?
One Pound note from Waterford Bank, 1880
Three Pound note from Roberts Bank, 1809
On his way home from school a boy, the extent of whose finances was one halfpenny, went into a cake shop and asked for “A halfpenny stale penny cake!”
My father recounted this story from his schooldays in the 1890s.
©Geoff Cronin 2010
About Geoff Cronin – 1923 – 2017
There were few jobs that Geoff could not turn his hands to, and over the years he mastered an impressive number of professional undertakings. Master baker and confectioner, mobile cinema operator, salesman, band leader, senior executive and master wood turner, storyteller and writer.
Geoff Cronin published his first book in 2005 at age 82. The Colour of Life is a collection of stories of life in Waterford during his childhood and early adulthood in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. This was followed by two further books that related tales of further adventures in Waterford and Dublin.
Thank you for dropping in today and you can read The Colour of Life and the previous chapters of The Black Bitch in this directory: