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History of West Calder
Chapter XIII. Original Parish Banks


The following gives a peep into the political economy of the Parish, in respect of two somewhat primitive Savings’ Banks that existed in Dr Muckersy’s time. The first one evidently founded by himself in his private boarding school.

Regarding this private boarding school, I may mention a little incident that recently occurred, connecting the past with the present.

The Rev. R. W. Mackersy, presently of Craiglockhart parish church, Colinton, when a a few years ago in Paris, acting as preacher pro tem in the Church of Scotland’s Mission there, met with a gentleman well advanced in life, who, in his youth, had been a pupil at the school in the Manse of West Calder, of which he expressed the liveliest recollections, and the extreme pleasure it gave him to meet in a foreign land with a grandson of his old master—(the name Muckersy having been modernised to Mackersy).

Parish Bank.

“From the year 1800 the minister of this Parish began a Private Bank for the young gentlemen educated in his family. The objects of it were, to prevent the subscribers from spending profusely and improperly the sums which they might receive from their friends; to give them some idea of the uses of economy; and particularly to enable them to give, with judgment and effect, to any charitable demand which might occur to them as necessary. The interest was added half-yearly to their respective sums, and the balances paid to their parents or guardians when they left the academy. The whole sums thus collected, paid away, and remaining, amount to upwards of £150. When they agreed to give clothes, or shoes, or coals to the poor, the person holding the largest stock had the privilege of saying how much per cent, of his capital he chose to give, and the other young subscribers were ready enough to give their sums in the same proportion. .

it is not improbable that this juvenile idea gave rise to the plan of accumulating the savings and the surpluses of labourers and others, in a way similar to this. This scheme, after having been the subject of several conversations, was begun in October, 1807, under the name of the West Calder Friendly Bank.

The advantages proposed by it were—

1st, To preserve the savings of the industrious, to a time when sickness, old age, or any other cause, should make them useful.

2ndly, To prevent the waste of small sums, and at the same time show the advantages of gradual accumulation.

3rd. To demonstrate the superiority of hank security and small interest, to the common security of the country and greater interest, and by this means withdraw the money of the industrious from the reach of the speculative.

It was believed, at the same time, that frequent meetings would be attended with expense to the subscribers, and were in other respects unsuitable to a population scattered over a great extent of country ; and therefore it was judged expedient to meet quarterly, and to hold the meeting at the same place and time with a nourishing Friendly Society, which had been established in the parish some years before. The Banking and Friendly Society are, of course, under different regulations and management, but the business of both is conducted without a single instance of interference or confusion.

The regulations of the Parish Bank are extremely simple. Every subscriber pays 2s. 6d. quarterly, or any larger sum. The cash is lodged in two banks in Edinburgh, one of which exchanges a receipt after every quarterly meeting, in which is included the sums collected and one half-year’s interest at four per cent. Every subscriber has his interest added to his sum at the rate of Id. for every 5s. half-yearly, and he draws out or deposits, as he may think fit, at every quarterly meeting. But as Id. on 5s. for six months does not amount to four per cent, per annum, the differences between the united stocks and the sums in bank receipts, together with all the contingences arising from the time of lodging, and the charge on equal sums of 5s. each, are collected into one sum, and added proportionately to the stocks which have been more than 12 months in the bank before division. Those who do not pay in April and October, when the half-year’s interest is added to each account, are subjected to a small fine, which is imposed by allowing them less interest for the preceding past year. A list of the subscribers is entered into the cash-book before every meeting, and at the meeting the sum paid is filled up in the cash column after the name. The interest in April and October is calculated at Id. for every 5s. of stock, placed in an inner column, and extended along with the payment, when each of the lines is carried to the respective accounts in the ledger. The whole expense of books since October, 1807, has not amounted to five shillings.

When a report of the Bank was sent to the Highland Society some years ago, at the request of the secretary, they objected to the fines, and to the quarterly meetings, and preferred the Edinburgh mode of keeping the accounts.

They did not consider that local circumstances, the habits of the people, and causes with which strangers are altogether unacquainted, must direct the varieties of every institution of this kind.

What is a very good regulation in our place may be a very bad one in another. The Edinburgh Reviewers also took up the subject, and with that extensive knowledge which comprehends all things, whether literary or political, they pretended to laugh at Dr Duncan’s Bank at Ruthwell, which may still be considered, in as much as great exertion is of more importance than priority of date, as the parent institution of this country. Parish Banks, like everything else, will flourish more when every parish is left to regulate its Bank by its own circumstances, and to frame its constitution by its own ingenuity. The following statement will give the reader a correct view of the transactions of the West Calder Parish Bank, together with the number of subscribers :—

Total subscribers since the commencement, 82; sums repaid, £868 19s. 6½d.; present subscribers, 35; sum in bank, £402 1s. 11d.”


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