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Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Roll of Honour - April

Roll of Honour - April

It is with much sadness that the following bank officials died or were reported missing during either the Great War, World War II or the Northern Ireland Conflict.

21/04/1918 - McCunn, Thomas

23/04/1944 - Neely, Noel Montgomery


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 dibility' and had also been treated in Ballymena Cottage Hospital for appendicitus.
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 serach 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.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Roll of Honour - March

Roll of Honour - March

It is with much sadness that the following bank officials died or were reported missing during either the Great War, World War II or the Northern Ireland Conflict.

05/03/1945 - Kerr, Holman Gordon Stanley

21/03/1918 - O’Kane, Paul

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Roll of Honour - February

Roll of Honour - February

It is with much sadness that the following bank officials died or were reported missing during either the Great War, World War II or the Northern Ireland Conflict.

08/02/1944 - Anderson, Norman Alexander

12/02/1918 - Collier, Reginald John C

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). 

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.

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). 

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.

Sunday, 17 November 2013


Following the completion of extensive building works in the Northern Bank Head Office in Donegall Square West, the following important pieces of Northern Bank Heritage were re-installed in a new location on walls in the basement of the building:

The Great War & World War II – Roll of Honour / War Memorial – Belfast Banking Company & Northern Banking Company

These memorials, consisting of either Bronze plaques or pictorial posters feature those officials from each bank who served, went missing in action, died or were killed in either of the two conflicts. 

For those who may be unaware of the history of each bank, the Belfast Bank & the Northern Bank merged in 1970.   The Belfast Bank memorials were previously installed in their former Head Office in Waring Street prior to their removal and re-installation in the Donegall Square West building in 2000.   The Northern Bank memorials were re-installed at the same time.   They had been in storage since their removal from the old Victoria Street Head Office.   In 2000, Northern Bank took the opportunity to have the memorials re-dedicated by the Dean of Belfast, Dr Houston McKelvey at an event attended by war pensioners, officials and their families.

As it is many years since the memorials were in the public view, the opportunity is being taken now to catalogue the information thereon and make that information public.

In 1925, Northern Bank published a centenary volume (1824 to 1924) that listed in great detail the members of that Bank who had either served, went missing in action, died or were killed in the Great War.   As very few volumes of that book are currently in existence, this information has effectively been out of the public gaze since then. 

For the deceased staff of each bank, further information has been retrieved from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) website.  Great War  data has also been enhanced by using information from the 1901 and 1911 Irish Census website and other free on-line databases.

There have been many conflicts since the end of World War II; Northern Ireland, Iraq & Afghanistan to name a few.   A number of Northern Bank staff have volunteered and have served in some of those locations. 

One official, who was in the forces, paid the supreme sacrifice and another two officials (civilian) were killed as a result of incidents during the Northern Ireland conflict.

Their names are no less important than those who fell during the World Wars.
Northern Bank – The Great War
99 officials volunteered for service
  1 Reservist was called up for service
of which
11 were killed in action

  3 were reported missing

  1 died on active service
  7 were rejected for military service

Belfast Bank – The Great War                  
93 officials volunteered for service
of which
16 were killed in action

1 was accidently killed on active service

1 was reported missing

Northern Bank – World War II
44 officials volunteered for service
of which
3 were killed in action

1 was reported missing

Belfast Bank – World War II
52 officials volunteered for service
of which
9 were killed in action

Northern Bank – Northern Ireland
Many volunteered for service
of which
1 was killed whilst off-duty
 2 civilian bank officials were killed

Northern Bank – Afghanistan
1 Territorial Army (TA) Reservist was called up for service

I trust that you will find the forth-coming items both interesting and informative. 

Thank you.

Gavin Bamford

Thursday, 31 October 2013

We Will Remember Them


The following section of text is taken from page 203 of the Northern Bank Centenary Volume 1924 as it best describes those men who volunteered for war.

War Record
We have included in this volume a reproduction of the War Memorial, which hangs in the hall of the cash office at Head Office.  A perusal of the record of those who served will, we feel confident, engender a feeling of pride in the part the officials of the Bank took in the operations of the Great War.  Many banks have published separate war volumes recording the service of the members of their staffs.  In the case of kindred institutions across the water the numbers of those who so served run into figures larger perhaps by comparison than those we shew.  But it must be remembered that, with very few exceptions, every man who went from an Irish bank was a volunteer.  In the case of the Northern Bank there was but one such exception – William Pattenden, Head Office porter, a reservist of the Royal Sussex Regiment.  He was called up on the outbreak of war and went with the British Expeditionary Force, only to fall a few days after landing – the first casualty we had to record. Ninety-nine officials in all, or 25 per cent. of staff, volunteered; seven of the number were rejected on medical examination, and, of the remainder, fifteen made the supreme sacrifice.  We honour the names of those who volunteered, and, we hold in reverence the memory of those who fell, - many, alas, of whom were but lads on the threshold of life.

The following poem is by Laurence Robert Binyon, 1869-1943

For The Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Acknowledgements to The Western Front Association website.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Images of the Northern Bank War Memorial (Brass) - The Great War

The Great War - here are some more images of the Northern Bank brass 'Rolls of Honour' and 'War Memorial' in situ in the Northern Bank Head Office, Donegall Square West, Belfast.  Apologies for the poor angle, lighting, reflections etc, all due to the location in a narrow corridor.

Images of the Belfast Bank War Memorial (Brass) - The Great War

The Great War - here are some more images of the Belfast Bank brass 'Rolls of Honour' and 'War Memorial' in situ in the Northern Bank Head Office, Donegall Square West, Belfast. Apologies for the poor angle, lighting, reflections etc, all due to the location in a narrow corridor.