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East Lothian Banking Company Papers
- Ref No: EL34
- Repository: East Lothian Archive Service
- Date: 1811-1821
- Description: East Lothian Banking Company, Dunbar, Five Pound Banknote and a large amount of letters addressed to William Borthwick in his position as Cashier
- AdminHistory: The East Lothian Banking Company was established on 1st June 1810 when it opened for business in Dunbar. The main mover in establishing this bank is thought to have been Christopher Middlemass who was not only a well respected local dignitary but was also an experienced banker, having been employed in the town as agent of the British Linen Company in 1808, when he was dismissed for negligence following a robbery of the British Linen Company office. The initial contract of copartnery for the Company was for 21 years; the capital 80,000, in 400 shares of 200 each. There were 27 Partners, chiefly small landed proprietors or tenant farmers; 9 ordinary Directors and 3 extra ordinary Directors. The bank issued its own notes and these reflected the County's strong ties with agriculture and fishing. The 5 note above depicts images of agricultural produce and Dunbar harbour. Note too the dodgy spelling of 'Lothian' around the wheat! The Cashier was William Borthwick, who was recruited at the outset of the business from the Falkirk Union Banking Company, when he was aged about 20 - 22. His youth for such a position is thought to be reflective of the general lack of experienced Scottish bankers as a consequence many having been recruited by other Scottish, UK and International banks. At first, the Bank flourished and soon further staff were employed and branches opened in Haddington and Selkirk. They also had various agents in London, Belfast and Edinburgh conducting business on behalf of the Bank. However, due to recession and the mistakes and mismanagement of some of its untrained staff, the bank soon foundered. By 1816 only the Haddington branch remained. The final nail in the coffin came six years later on 10th April 1822, when Borthwick ran off to America with a large number of the banks bills, resulting in the closure of the bank. It has been suggested that the economic climate of the time was causing other businesses in which Borthwick had an interest (with his brother, Bruce) financial difficulty and that he was propping up these businesses using the Bank's funds and that when he could support this no longer he fled. There is some debate as to whether he ever stood trial for the offence although it is known that he was arrested in either South America or Savannah but released and history is unclear as to whether he ever stood trial for his crime. Although the Bank closed, the Edinburgh agents - Sir William Forbes, James Hunter & Co. - assisted the directors in their difficulty and provided credit of 100,000, on ample security over the Partners' estates, until the assets could be realised. Mr William Paul, Accountant, Edinburgh was appointed to assist a committee of Partners in the winding up of the Bank. This took many years (actions still seen in the 1840s) although all Creditors were paid in full.
- PreviousNumbers: EL63
- Extent: 0.070
- Level: Fonds
- Related People:
- Access Status: Open
- Associated Period:
- For more information contact: East Lothian Archive Service