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British Banking History Society

East Lothian Banking Company  

The East Lothian Banking Company was founded in Dunbar in 1810. The partners were mainly tenant farmers who were aware of the

"singular utility and advantage of having a banking company in the County of East Lothian for promoting trade, manufacture, agriculture and industry and facilitating every branch of commerce."

By far the most important industry in East Lothian was agriculture. Not only was that County 'the most fruitful province in North Britain' and the 'most fertile and finest farming land' that Cobbett had ever seen, but war conditions had acted as an incentive to even greater efforts. Large numbers of troops had been stationed in the County and that influx of population had acted as a spur to the economy. "The cattle and victual consumed by the troops was the means of farmers, traders and merchants attaining to moderate wealth, and no wonder they sang with zest: Bonapartes a friend o'mine, I sell my wheat at ninety nine"

The prime mover of this bank was Christopher Middlemass. He had been agent for the British Linen Bank in Dunbar until 1808, when he had been dismissed for negligence following a robbery.

In 1822 the East Lothian Banking Company closed its doors because the directors had failed to give that degree of attention to the business required of them. The failure was caused by the disappearance of the cashier, William Borthwick, with the company's funds.

At the close, liabilities were 129,191 and assets 63,186, leaving a deficit of 66,006 for which the partners were of course liable. Only a few of the partners remained solvent after paying the debts of the bank - those who did not lost not only their capital, but an additional call of 250 per share.

The Cashier, William Borthwick, escaped to America. He had been appointed cashier to the newly formed bank at the age of 20 or 22, and was placed in charge of the daily running of the company.

The East Lothian Banking Company had branches in Dunbar, Selkirk and Haddington.

Donald Swift

Copyright 2010 BBHS