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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Auld Robin Carrick of the Ship Bank, and his housekeeper


THIS worthy was the son of the Rev. Robert Carrick, minister of Houston parish, and was born in the manse there about 1760. His father had previously been tutor in the family of Provost Buchanan of Drumpellier, and had received his appointment to the parish of Houston through the family influence. When young Robin was about fifteen he entered the then well known, and through his energy, zeal, and tact, afterwards better known Ship Bank, subsequently merged in the Union Bank.

Robin, of whom some curious and characteristic stories are related elsewhere in this volume, was well known for his keen, saving, and economical habits, but his favourite niece and housekeeper, Miss Paisley, a scraggy old maid, was even still more notorious for these not over estimable or exalted qualities.

They lived in the upper flat of the bank premises, and while Robin was busy doing his utmost to make money in the flat below, his niece and housekeeper was doing her best to save it in the flat above. She would prig or higgle with the shopkeepers in King Street, then the chief provision place in the city, and try to beat them down a farthing on the price of beef, mutton, or veal.

Peter Mackenzie relates in his Reminiscences, that he had seen her "hurrying from the markets with a sheep’s head and trotters in her basket, and a string of flounders or caller herring in her hand." If auld Robin gave a dinner, she used to bargain with the greengrocer that if any apples or pears were left over they should be taken back and deducted from the account.

The bank itself was a dark, dingy place, well and securely guarded from the public gaze by means of a high wooden partition or screen with a shelf on the top of it, on which money was placed, and the customer had to stand upon tiptoe and bawl out what he wanted, so that very little was known of what passed inside. But Robin was a siccar chiel, and knew what he was about.

In the year 1793, three of the Glasgow banks failed, and the Royal Bank itself trembled. William Simpson and Gilbert Innes from Edinburgh, and David Dale and Scott Moncrieff from Glasgow, used to meet once a week half-way between the two cities, and discuss the position of affairs. But amidst the general panic, the Ship Bank stood like a rock, and Robin, hard and miserly at the best, put an extra button on his pocket during the crisis, and narrowed the discounts almost to a point. He remained a grim old bachelor, and died in 1821, at the age of 81, leaving about a million sterling.

The Ship Banking Company was established in 1750. It was the first institution of its kind belonging to Glasgow. Its office for twenty-six years was in the Bridgegate. In 1776, it was removed to the west wing of the once famous Shawfield Mansion, Argyle Street, corner of Glassford Street, and next door to the Black Bull Inn.


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