Snapshots in Time – Bank of Ireland serving town and country for 175 years

This year Bank of Ireland marks the 175th anniversary of its establishment in Ballinasloe. Founded in 1783, and set up in Ballinasloe in 1836, Bank of Ireland has been an integral part of the economic development of the town and its large agricultural hinterland over those 175 years. A search through the archives reveals some interesting snapshots in time.

One of the earliest archives notes that the following won first prizes for vegetables at the sixth Annual Exhibition of Agriculture in 1843 – Mr Carleton, Master of the Workhouse and Mr R. Bell, manager of the Bank of Ireland.

The Bank acquired the lease to its current building in Main Street in 1871. This building was previously the town mansion of the Earl of Clancarty and was built c 1850 by the Trench family.

In October 1882, the Nation newspaper reported that “At Ballinasloe the roofs of Catholic and Protestant churches, and of the Post-office, were blown off, and many houses were also unroofed. Mrs Kennedy, wife of the manager of the Bank of Ireland, had her arm broken. At Haydon’s hotel the chimney fell through the roof, severely injuring the proprietor and the cook.”

The Bank premises also served as a residence for many years, providing living accommodation for two families. The 1901 Census shows Mr James Dudgeon, Agent, residing at No 1.1 Main Street and Mr Richard Fetherstonhaugh, Bank Official, at No 1.2. The 1911 Census shows Mr Digby Morse, Agent, residing at No 19.1 Main Street and Mr Richard W. Topp, sub Agent, at No 19.2.

In 1915, The Irish Times wedding announcements included: “COLAHAN and MORSE – January 28, 1915, in Franciscan Church, Athlone, by the Reverend Father Fidelis Griffin O’Finn, MARTIN L. COLAHAN, son of Joseph M. Colahan, of Ballyeighter, Ballinasloe, to ETTLE B., daughter of D. S. MORSE, of Bank of Ireland, Ballinasloe”.

In 1918, World War I brought its own difficulties with the Weekly Irish Times reporting that “Second Lieutenant (Acting Captain ) David Noel Karney, Royal Dublin Fusiliers, is reported killed in action on March 21. Lieutenant Karney was in the service of the Bank of Ireland at Ballinasloe before the war”.

The Irish Times reported that one of the winning entries in the Ballinasloe show of October 1932 was in the category of “FLOWERS – Mrs George Harrison Johnston, Bank of Ireland, Ballinasloe”.

A notable TV and radio celebrity, Bunny Carr, worked in the bank in the 1940s. He is perhaps best remembered for his TV quiz show Quicksilver and the phrase ‘Stop the lights’.

In 1970, pounds, shillings, and pence were replaced by the new decimal currency, with the Connacht Tribune reporting “a very big attendance in the Social Centre to hear Mr Sean McQuaid of the Bank of Ireland Group give a lecture on Retailing in Decimals…Mr John Campbell, M.P.S.I., thanked Mr McQuaid for a most interesting and instructive lecture. The vote of thanks was seconded by Mr Hector Clarke, Agent, Bank of Ireland.”

Ballinasloe has also made a big contribution to Bank of Ireland through the work of Pat Molloy, a Ballinasloe native. Pat joined Bank of Ireland in 1957. He was to rise through the ranks to become group chief executive officer from 1991 to 1998. He returned to the bank as chairman in 2009, a position he still holds today. Given a civic reception by the then Ballinasloe Urban District Council in 1991, as reported in the Connacht Tribune, Pat noted that his fondest youthful memories were of growing up in Ballinasloe and one of his regrets was that he no longer had time for shooting and fishing around Ballinasloe.

Branch managers in recent memory include Ted Fullerton, Claude Stringer, Hector Clarke, Fred Connor, Dick Lyng, Rory O’Mara, George O’Dea, Frank McDonagh, and Gerry O’Sullivan.

With a staff of over 30, today’s manager is Gerard Real, who leads a team of people looking after personal, business, and farming customers in Ballinasloe and the surrounding hinterland. Despite the current economic difficulties, the bank continues to support its customers, providing credit facilities to viable enterprises, and a traditional home for savings and investments, as it has done over the last 175 years.

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