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Monday, 4 August 2014

Great War Centenary - 4th August 1914 to 4th August 2014

Great War Centenary - 4th August 1914 to 4th August 2014

At 11 o'clock in the evening of 4th August 1914, Great Britain declared war on Germany.

For individuals and employers, no one was sure of what was coming.

Within the Northern Banking Company, one of its officials, William Pattenden (a caretaker) would be called up immediately as he was already a reservist.

Over the course of the war, nearly 200 officials from both the Belfast Banking Company and its rival bank, the Northern Banking Company would volunteer for service.  Some would be rejected for military service due to medical reasons.

On 15th December 1944 the Belfast News Letter reported:

(Courtesy of Nigel Henderson)

Of those nearly 200 men, 33 were to be die on active service or be reported missing.

If we bring ourselves forward 100 years and think of our current workplaces, be it a branch, a Head Office department, a back office, a call centre or a service centre, there would be perhaps 1 or 2 thinking of volunteering for service.  One friend will maybe persuade another to join up.  An office junior may be impressed by an older colleague and join up.  Either way, young men are about to tell their manager or department head that they are going off to war.

Whatever way you choose to remember the centenary of the Great War starting, just take a moment to think about the bank officials that served and remember those that didn't return.

We will remember them.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Belfast Banking Company - Roll of Honour - 2000

I have just come across this photo from 2000 at around the time we moved the tablets to the canteen corridor location on 4th floor, Head Office.

The photogragh was taken prior to the Dedication Service by Dean Houston McKelvey of St Anne's Cathedral.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Smyth, Robert - "Missing from the Roll of Honour"

Sergeant Robert Smyth

was born in 1876.

He was the son of George Rock Smyth and Elizabeth Smyth.  His surname is sometimes recorded as Smythe.

Following his education, Smyth may have joined the Northern Banking Company around 1893 (about 17 years old).

In 1901, the family were residing in house 11, Cullybackey Road, Ballymena, Co. Antrim. Robert describes his occupation as a Bank Clerk. His father is an accountant and another brother is a clerk. He also has 2 sisters.

By 1911, the family address is now recorded as house 16, Cullybackey Road, Ballymena, Co. Antrim. Again, Robert is described as a Bank Clerk. The sisters still live at home but brother George is not recorded there on census day.

It is probable that Smyth volunteered and enlisted in 1916 into the 1st Bn. Welsh Guards as a Guardsman. His service number was 1820. He would have been aged 40 at this time.

Smyth records that he served in France from 26th September 1916 till April 1919 as a Corporal, Lance Sergeant and then a Sergeant.

Smyth was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.  His Medal Index Card is shown below:

Following his demobilisation, Smyth applied for an Army Pension and completed the army document (below) known as a 'Statement By A Soldier Concerning His Own Case' [*] on 17th January 1920.  He stated that he had 'varicose veins and debility' and had also been treated in Ballymena Cottage Hospital for appendicitis.

In Section 7 of the document, Smyth records his employer before joining the army as the Northern Banking Company Limited, Belfast.

[*]  The document was obtained by Alan Rosborough who is a researcher for the Cullybackey & District Historical Society.


E D Hill in his book, 'Northern Banking Co. Limited Belfast - 1824 - 1924 Centenary Volume' does not record a Robert Smyth as serving in the Great War.  This is evidenced on page 230 (below):

The above page records the names on the brass Roll of Honour (see below):

Missing from the Northern Bank 'Roll of Honour'

We have 2 documents that record Robert Smyth as a Bank Clerk (Irish Census 1901 & 1911).  The returns would have been completed by the head of household, George R Smyth.

We have the Army Pension form completed by Robert Smyth in 1920 stating Northern Banking Company as his pre-war employer.

We have the Centenary Book published in 1925 that omits Robert Smyth from the list of officials who served.

We have the actual Roll of Honour with the name of Robert Smyth omitted.

In response to a previous request by Alan Rosborough, the writer was able to visit the archives of Northern Bank (with their permission) and examine the Staff Record books.  No record was found in the the early 20th century books.  If he had joined the bank in 1893 it is possible that a further search may find him. 

Without the staff record, it is not possible to tell if he rejoined the bank on demobilisation.

Why would E D Hill not have Smyth recorded in his book?  There are many men who did not return to banking who are included in the book.  We don't know when the Roll of Honour was made and installed in the bank Head Office.

Further Research?

Robert had a brother George who was not recorded in the family home in 1911.  A further search of the Irish Census 1911 has discovered a 39 year old George Smyth residing in house 2.1, Charlotte Street, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim.  Age, religion and occupation (now a bookkeeper) match up. George and his wife, Emma Jane Smyth have 2 daughters and a son George Hill Smyth (age less than 1).

Further research on this part of the family may help find out the story of Robert Smyth.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Kearney, Denis

Lieutenant Denis Kearney
was born on 15th February 1910.  

He was the son of Henry Ernest Kearney who in 1911 lived in house 14, Church Street, Downpatrick.  The head of family has his occupation recorded as an Assistant Bank Manager. 
On 20th August 1928 Kearney joined Northern Bank at Head Office.  Transfers followed to Dromore (1928), Falls (1930), Boyle (1932), Banbridge (1936), Antrim Road (1937), Magherafelt (1938) and Head Office (1939). 
Kearney was ‘Called up for Active Service’ on 2nd September 1939 into one of the Anti-Aircraft Regiments, Royal Artillery. 
On 7th January 1946 Kearney resumed duty with the Northern bank at Head Office.  Transfers followed on Relief Staff (1946 to 1949), Newry (1949), Fintona (1951), Head Office (1951), Portrush (1951), Londonderry (1955) and Grafton Street (1963). 

Northern Banking Company Limited, Londonderry

Kearney died on 26th April 1969.

On 27th January 2014 the writer noticed an 'Illuminated Address' book in the name of Henry E Kearney' for sale in Ballinderry Antiques, Lower Ballinderry Road, Upper Ballinderry, Lisburn, BT28 2EP.  Best price would have been circa £260.  The book had been produced on the transfer of Kearney from Downpatrick.

Northern Banking Company Limited, Downpatrick

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Alexander, George

2nd Lieutenant George Alexander
was born in Belfast on 8th April 1897.  

He was the son of Francis Alexander and Charlotte Alexander.  Francis was the 7th son of a 7th son.  In 1901 the family lived in house 8, St. Ives Gardens, Cromac, Belfast.  He had a sister called Fanny Alexander who was 2 at the time of the 1901 census. 

By 1911 the family had moved to house 5, Stranmillis Park, Belfast. 

Alexander applied to join the Northern Bank in 1912.  He received a letter from the bank advising him that he had been successful in an examination held on 30th October 1912.

Later he attended a medical examination with a Dr Victor George Leopold Fielden of 84 Dublin Road, Belfast at a cost of 10/6 (£0.52.5).  In the 1911 census, Dr Fielden described himself as a Medical Practioner, anaeathesist, Queen's University Belfast.

Alexander started the bank at Head Office on 26th November 1912.  He was of Independent faith. 
In 1915 he enlisted as a Private into the 17th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles (Cadet Company) aged 18. 

On 5th August 1916 he was promoted to a Temporary 2nd Lieutenant with the 17th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles.  His Warrant from the King is pictured below.  The front of the document is dated 28th August 1916.

Within the actual warrant, it has been dated as 26th August 1916 (within the seventh year of the reign of King George V)
Later he was posted to the 6th Bn. Royal Irish Rifles.  Alexander later served with the Salonica Expeditionary Force and was later promoted to Lieutenant.  He saw action at Struma River (Macedonia).   

On 24th October 1916, Alexander became a Prisoner of War in Bulgaria.  The Belfast News Letter of 13th December 1916 reports:


Alexander was released from being a Prisoner of War in 1918 and returned to the United Kingdom.  A printed letter from the King dated 1918 was sent to him 'welcoming him on his release'.  The envelope and letter are pictured below:

Following demobilisation, Alexander rejoined the Northern Bank on 14th April 1919 and was posted to Newry branch.  Transfers followed to Head Office (1921), Randalstown (1921) and Royal Avenue (1923).  Whilst based in Royal Avenue branch, Alexander studied for his Institute of Bankers in Ireland examinations.  On 15th June 1926, Edwin D Hill (director and author of the Northern Banking Company Centenry Volume 1824 to 1924) wrote a hand written letter to Alexander giving unofficial notice of his examination result.

On 26th June 1926, the bank wrote to Alexander and congratulated him on securing first place in the preliminary examination.  He received a cheque for £15 15/- (£15.75).

During 1930 Alexander applied to join the Irish Bank Officials' Association (IBOA) Medical Benefits Fund and was accepted in a letter dated 9th December 1930.  The letter was addressed to Alexander at Head Office.

Later transfers were to Head Office (1930), Londonderry (1931), Head Office (1931) and Shaftesbury Square (1931). 

Northern Banking Company Limited, Londonderry

On 27th August 1931, Alexander was found dead (poisoned by gas) at 5 Stranmillis Park, Belfast.  This was his sister’s residence.  The 1918 Belfast Street Directory records ‘F Alexander’ as living at that address.  He is buried in Belfast City Cemetry with his parents who had previously died in 1909 (Charlotte) and 1924 (Francis).

The Staff Magazine ‘The Link (Summer 1978)’ contains a photograph of Alexander appearing in the Northern Bank Cricket Team of 1928.

Additional family information has been kindly supplied by Charlie Alexander.