Saturday, 31 October 2009

Scottish Banking(final part)

..startled, by the intelligence that the City of Glasgow
Bank had stopped. But the first shock was nothing to
that which was sustained some days later, when late
editions of the evening papers, distributed to the wait-
ing crowds, conveyed the full import of the disaster.

The whole country was prostrated. To repair the
destruction of a handful of reckless gamesters,hundreds
of men in easy, honourable circumstances saw them-
selves reduced to poverty, and hundreds of dependent
families saw nothing but starvation before them.

 No time was lost in excavating and arranging the mass
of ruin, and in probing to the quick the mass of woe. 
The direction ofthe work, of course, lay with outsiders,
 but from the midst of those overwhelmed by the
wreck seven men were put forward to aid in the task.

The seven remained for a time the directing " Com- 
mittee of Solvent Shareholders," but as the exigencies
of the situation demanded larger and larger applica- 
tions of phlebotomy one by one dropped off, drained
and exhausted. Not many months after the catastrophe
 only two of the famous seven had withstood the
financial strain, and the loss of one of these two was
something like £55,000.

Banks are at times dictatorial in their methods,and
inclined to say to their customers, "Thou shalt not."
This course of action is no doubt sometimes judicious
—but not always. In these days of banking competi-
tion a man of any means can always find a rival bank
ready to lend a helping hand. One conspicuous instance
 of this occurred in which a leading shipbuilder
was the prominent figure.

He was a capital financier, in as much as he was a
man with that kind of imperiousness which makes a
banker a servant instead of a master, as he is often
allowed to be. It was said that once a newly appointed
director in the bank where this shipbuilder dealt—a
man of a peculiarly inquisitive turn of mind—insisted
upon turning upside down the shipbuilder’s account.
It was said that this director had his own ends to serve
in so doing, and was, in fact, on the hunt for informa-
tion which might be useful in his own business. What-
ever thereal reason,the ostensible one was the amount
of discounts, which now and again ran tolerably high,
even with the class of owners this customer built for.
Hearing of the director’s action, the customer sent
down for a statement, lifted the bills on the circle,
closed his account, and took it over to another bank,
who received it with joy. If the tale be true, there was
weeping and wailing at the board of the bank he left,
for the profit on the account formed a considerable
fraction in the dividend.

In concluding this chapter of anecdotes relating to
banking in Glasgow it is fitting to present with it the
portrait of Mr. Robert Gourlay, LL.D., a gentleman
who has been as well known in modern banking in
Glasgow as Robert Carrick was in the early banking
circles of the City. But while these two gentlemen were
alike prominent in their profession they took widely
different views of their duties towards the general well-
being of the community. Mr. Carrick, as one has seen,
stated that charities should be supported by those who
needed them; which statement, while saving to his
pocket, was somewhat of the nature of an Irish bull.
Mr. Gourlay, on the other hand, has been prominent
in connection with many of the charitable institutions
of the City, and has been a liberal supporter of the
U.P., and latterly of the U.F. Church.

His banking career has been in connection with the
Bank of Scotland—an institution which originally
had an unfavourable reception in Glasgow, but now
holds an honourable place in the City. Mr. Gourlay’s
father, Bailie James Gourlay, was highly respected in
commercial circles in Glasgow, and retired from busi-
ness in 1853. Two years later he was offered, and
accepted, the agency of the Bank of Scotland in
Laurieston; and under his care the business developed in
a manner which surprised the Directorate. He was
succeeded by his son,who in 1879 was promoted to be
Manager of the Head Office of the Bank in Glasgow;
a position which he filled to universal satisfaction
until his retirement in 1904.

Mr. Robert Gourlay was honoured by the Munici-
pality in 1900,in which year he was chosen Lord Dean
of Guild. He was also honoured by the University in
1901 ,when the degree of Doctor of Laws was confer-
red upon him. These distinctions are proofs of the
respect and esteem in which he is held in his native city, .
in which he has done much good of which his fellow-
citizens in general are aware, and possibly more of
which they are not.


£55,000 - TODAY- £4,906,000

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