Smorgasbord Short Stories – Milestones Along the Way – #Waterford 1930s – The Banks (of The Suir) by Geoff Cronin

Following on from The Colour of Life, my father-in-law Geoff Cronin wrote two more books with stories of life in Waterford and Dublin from the 1930s. He collected the stories on his travels, swapping them with others in return for his own and then treating us to the results of the exchange. Geoff also added some jokes overheard just for the Craic…Over the next few weeks I will be sharing selected stories from  Milestones Along the Way.

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

Just for the Craic.

The assumptive close…

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!”

The Bed to Beat All

Lady Lushington had died and there was an auction of the contents of her mansion, which was near Waterford City, and it attracted a large gathering of people including some members of the then wealthy pig buyers from Ballybricken.

Some days after the auction one of these men was telling his friends in the local pub about the magnificent furniture etc. which had gone under the hammer – “And there was a bed,” he said, “the biggest I ever saw and it must have been seven foot across.” There was a gasp from his audience.

In the moment’s silence that followed, the barman/ owner said “Sure that’s not a big bed! Did ye ever see the size of the bed upstairs where me and me brother slept for years?”

Heads shook and one guy said “Well, how big is it?” “Well I don’t know the exact measurements” he replied, “but I can tell you that when my brother died I didn’t find out about it for a week – that’s how big it is!”

©Geoff Cronin 2008

Geoff Cronin 1923 – 2017

About Geoff Cronin

I was born at tea time at number 12 John Street, Waterford on September 23rd 1923. My father was Richard Cronin and my mother was Claire Spencer of John Street Waterford. They were married in St John’s Church in 1919.

Things are moving so fast in this day and age – and people are so absorbed, and necessarily so, with here and now – that things of the past tend to get buried deeper and deeper. Also, people’s memories seem to be shorter now and they cannot remember the little things – day to day pictures which make up the larger canvas of life.

It seems to me that soon there may be little or no detailed knowledge of what life was really like in the 1930s in a town – sorry, I should have said City, in accordance with its ancient charter – like Waterford. So I shall attempt to provide some of these little cameos as much for the fun of telling as for the benefit of posterity.

I hope you have enjoyed this weeks stories from Geoff and I hope you will pop in again next Saturday. Thanks Sally.

26 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Short Stories – Milestones Along the Way – #Waterford 1930s – The Banks (of The Suir) by Geoff Cronin

    • It was not being run as a bank at all.. the lads were using it as a club and the alarm bell signaled the barman across the road to bring another round.. the locals knew the set up and would no doubt pop their heads around the door of the office when they needed something on the banking front.. Robbers I would imagine would just walk in and help themselves. I find it amazing that these banks just set themselves up and began printing local currency…the glory days before governments began printing currency to remove from you at any possible opportunity….lol. xx

      Liked by 1 person

  1. A wonderfully entertaining read; brings back so many memories; so many such tales in so many similar locations, lost forever. ‘Those were the days my friend”; happier; innocent and honest times; filled with joy and laughter. Is that me just being a romantic looking back. Thanks for the share.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Goff.. it was a simpler time and despite the abject poverty for so many here at that time, there was also a great deal of live entertainment and stories to be told. At the moment the hearts of the community where so much of that goes on.. the pubs…who do not serve food are still shut and that is sad. Hopefully we will be back to abnormal soon. Have a good week. Sally

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up 23rd – 29th August 2020 – Barbra Streisand, Ireland, Houston, Book Reviews, Children’s Books, Health and Laughter | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

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