Scottish nostalgia - memories of banking in the 1980s


20 May 2016
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Sharon Haston recalls her days of working at a High Street bank in the days before the internet.

Sharon Haston recalls her days of working at a High Street bank in the days before the internet.

Recently I downloaded an app for mobile banking which got me thinking about how much banking has changed since I worked in the TSB and Clydesdale Banks in the 1980s.

This was long before internet banking. In those days customers queued up to take out their wages, especially on Thursdays and Fridays. It was hectic and non-stop!

One especially busy day when I served one customer after another in a never ending stream I looked up and shouted ‘How would you like your cash?’ instead of ‘Next please’! Of course everyone in the queue shouted back ‘In £100 notes please.’   

Customers still had passbooks, which in the Clydesdale Bank, had to be written up by hand. I still miss having a passbook and seeing my money build up. A statement just isn’t the same.   

END OF AN ERA

In December 1984, the half penny was phased out. I can’t say I missed those tiny coins as they were so fiddly and took ages to count. In fact, someone coming in with stack of coins they had saved up was my worst nightmare. It was a real chore to count them.

When I first started we manually counted the coins of each denomination and put them into bags of £1. We checked the £1 bags by weighing them on a huge set of silver scales, similar to those used in grocers’ shops. Some kind customers bagged their coins at home, which made it easier. 

Pound notes were phased out in 1988 when they were replaced by the more durable pound coin. We accepted the notes long after they ceased to be legal tender. Sometimes customers used to bring in very old notes e.g. from the British Linen Bank and we’d exchange them for face value.

In those days banks that produced their own bank notes i.e. Clydesdale, Bank of Scotland, Royal Bank of Scotland were only allowed to issue their own. This meant there was a regular ‘note exchange’ between them. This meant Clydesdale sent Bank of Scotland notes they had taken in during the week to Bank of Scotland and vice versa, via a security company.

We counted all the money we received into the branch by hand. Funnily enough it never seemed like real money when counting thousands of pounds, just bits of paper. Eventually by the time I left in 1996 we had a note and coin counter machine, which was a real bonus. We affectionately christened it ‘Petula’. I can’t remember how the name came about! We also had a huge adding machine, with an inbuilt roll of paper, to add up the total amount in cheques received during the day.

One of my little rituals was I always felt I needed a sharp pencil to write up my balance sheet to ensure I balanced. We also had huge ledger books which looked as if they belonged in Victorian times, like those Scrooge counted his money in, and we still used microfiche. We did use computers to a certain extent but there were still a lot of manual processes.

I have fond memories of my time in the banks. We got to know and have a joke with our regular customers and had a lot of laughs and fun whilst working there. We have a reunion each year to relive the good old days and exchange memories and we certainly have plenty of stories to tell.