was the wish of the Rev Henry Duncan to do something of real and
lasting value for the under-privileged that led to the beginning
of his savings bank movement.
He believed deeply in the dignity of the ordinary
working man. Wherever he saw injustice he worked and spoke against
it. Despite the appalling poverty of the time, he was totally against
the introduction of a poor rate - something he fought against all
his life, believing subsidies were degrading and did nothing to
create a spirit of pride and independence.
Despite his successful efforts at revival, he was
not satisfied that the Friendly Society was the total answer to
the relief of poverty. Drawing on the experience gained during the
three years he had spent working in Heywoods Bank in Liverpool,
and with his knowledge of savings schemes already tried but found
wanting, he concluded that a savings bank could only succeed if
it were self-supporting and based on business principles. He succeeded
in gaining the backing of the heritors or landowners - who must
have welcomed the idea that the poor might no longer need their
support. Realising the value of publicity, six months before he
opened his bank, he founded a local newspaper, The Dumfries &
Galloway Courier, in which he published his proposal for a parish
bank in Ruthwell.
10 May 1810 in the Society Room in Ruthwell he put to his parishioners
his ideas for a parish bank. The established banks needed £10
to open an account; in Ruthwell sixpence was enough. The deposits
were placed with the Linen Bank in Dumfries and received 5% interest.
Members received 4% interest - on whole pounds. The surplus provided
a charity fund, tiered interest for long-term savers and a sum for
administering the bank. All the administration in Ruthwell was done
by the Minister himself. Instead of taking any remuneration, Henry
Duncan used the money due to him to build another school in the
Within five years of the bank opening in Ruthwell,
there were savings banks throughout the UK; the following year they
spread to Europe and the United States. During that first year the
total savings amounted to £151. Ten years later in the United
Kingdom the total had reached over three million pounds.
By 2002 there were 109 savings banks organisations
in 92 countries.
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