The Bank of Scotland
In the present era of joint-stock banks, which have driven off the field, from one end of Scotland to the other, every private bank of the olden days, it may be interesting to look back on the beginning of banking in this great city, and on some of its old private banks.
Previous to 1750 there were no banking establishments in Glasgow. A certain kind of money accommodation, however, had long prevailed. Merchants of known wealth and reputation dealt in bills of exchange, and received money from small traders and others on deposit, for which interest was allowed, according to bargain. In these transactions specie, and not paper-money, was chiefly employed, the notes of the only three Scotch banks — all in Edinburgh — then existing, being comparatively little known, and paper-money not being popular in the west country. Besides these first-class merchants, money was received on deposit by most of the joint-stock companies which carried on business in Glasgow, and of which there were not a few. These companies were composed of merchants of high standing, including many of the tobacco lords or Virginia dons. Some of them were formed before, and others soon after, the union of England and Scotland. Thus business was carried on in our city till 1750. Two attempts had been made by the Bank of Scotland -- that which now has its magnificent office at the south-west angle of the Square -- to plant a branch office in Glasgow, in 1696 and 1731; but on both occasions they had to be withdrawn. This is scarcely to be wondered at when it is considered how over-cautious the directors were in their mode of transacting business amidst a prosperous and rising mercantile community. They would not, for example, deal in bills of exchange. It was ruled at one of the annual meetings of the shareholders, or “adventurers,” as they were then designated, “that the exchange trade was not proper for a banking company!” and that, after a trial, “the bank found it very troublesome, unsafe, and improper!”
At length the rapidly increasing trade of Glasgow determined some of the wealthy merchants to establish a local bank to meet the commercial requirements of the community. “The Ship Bank” was formed in 1750, by Messrs. Colin Dunlop, Andrew Buchanan, Alex. Houston, Robert Dunlop, Allan Dreghorn, and William M’Dowall. Their notes, with the ship on the corner, may be seen in “The Making of Buchanan Street” by Mr. Frazer. The office was in Bridgegate, and afterwards in the west wing of the Shawfield mansion. Robin Carrick, the son of the minister of Houston, was long in its service, and latterly chief partner and manager.
The “Glasgow Arms Bank” was formed in 1753, by Messrs. Cochran, Spiers, Murdoch & Co.
The “Thistle Bank” was formed in 1758, by Sir Walter Maxwell, James Ritchie, William Muir, John M’Call, John Campbell, and others.
“The Glasgow Banking Company” was formed by James Dennistoun of Golf hill, and other seventy partners. There was also the “Merchants Bank” from 1769 till 1798.
In 1727 a charter had been granted to the “Royal Bank,” and a branch established here in St. Andrew’s Square; it was removed in 1817 to the Lainshaw mansion, which was barricaded for the better guarding of its treasure.
In 1830 the private banks were merged in the Union Banking Co., now on the site of the Virginian mansion.
Other joint-stock banks followed: the Western Bank in 1832; the Clydesdale Bank in 1838; and the City of Glasgow Bank in 1839.
The Bank of Scotland opened its branch here in 1828, and entered on its present premises in 1872. It had only one office till 1855, when the Gorbals branch was opened by the late ex-Bailie Gourlay. His son, Robert Gourlay, now presides over the head office with its score of city branches.the General Post Office.