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Ballindalloch Works Notes - Safety in Numbers?

Paper Money of the Industrial Revolution

 

Eric C Hodge

 

Merchant countermarks on Spanish colonial dollars are known from a number of industrial concerns in the early years of the nineteenth century and, though rare, have been studied and written about for a number of years. Much less well known are the very rare issues of paper money. OWLNS member Eric Hodge presents here an account of the notes issued from the Ballindalloch Cotton Works, a business which had previously issued countermarked dollars.

Paper money has always seemed to me to have a fairly basic control feature. As a note is produced, it is sequentially numbered, one after the other. In the case of Ballindalloch Works, however, this does not appear to be the case and perhaps more research is required to understand their method of control.

 

The reason for this article is to list the known notes, or checks as they are referred to, and from the available examples (Table 1), make some attempt at understanding the reasons for their issue and the use of such an apparently unusual numbering system.

Ballindalloch Works issued two types of notes. One is designated Five Shillings with the text ‘A One Pound Note Will be paid for an equal Amount of our Checks, if presented at the Works within Three Months from this Date. To the Merchants of Balfron.’ (Fig 1)

 

The other is for Seven Shillings with the text ‘A Guinea Note Will be paid for an equal Amount of our Checks, if presented at the Works within Three Months from this Date. To the Merchants of Balfron.’ (Fig. 2)

To see the notes in greater detail, hover your cursor over each of the small images in turn

Fig 1

Fig 2

Both notes (Figs. 1 & 2) are signed by Matt. Finlayson and Peter Marshall and, according to Symes¹: “they have the two principal security devices of the period - a vignette and several different styles of writing used in the text.” He also explains that the Ballindalloch notes were probably in the form of “checks” to circumvent points in law governing bank note issues.

 

The position of Peter Marshall at the Works is not known. He was probably the accountant, or accounts officer, as his signature is next to ‘Entḏ.’ presumably meaning the note details had been recorded in the Books of Account before issue. Matthew Finlayson was the manager of the Ballindalloch Cotton Works owned by James Finlay & Co. - according to Manville² - so his would have been the authorising signature.

 

Andrew Macmillan, whose Scottish banknotes were sold in Spink 5027 on 12th September 2005, passed on to me his records of Ballindalloch notes. This was the foundation of Table 1, that lists six Five Shillings notes, all prefixed A and numbered from 106 to 164, and fourteen Seven Shillings notes, all prefixed B and numbered 103 to 194.

Table 1 Ballindallloch 5/- and 7/- Notes

Notes shown in serial number order, by value

AUCTION
DATE
YEAR
LOT NO
NOTE
VALUE
SERIAL
NUMBER
NOTE
YEAR
NOTE
DATED
DAY OF
WEEK
1
Spink 6002
27 Apr
2006
1167
5/-
A106
1830
28 Jan
Thursday
2
Spink - Keith Austin
14 Sep
1999
16
5/-
A131
1829
31 Dec
Thursday
Spink
02 Oct
1997
759
5/-
A131
1829
31 Dec
Thursday
3
Spink 5027
12 Sep
2005
134
5/-
A134
1830
24 Mar
Wednesday
4
Spink Stock
01 Feb
1997
-
5/-
A144
1830
10 Mar
Wednesday
5
Spink Edinburgh 1024
14 Jun
2010
16
5/-
A161
1830
30 Jan
Saturday
Per SNC 01/79 p9
01 Jan
1979
-
5/-
A161
1830
30 Jan
Saturday
6
Banking Mem - Carlisle
01 Sep
2008
162
5/-
A164
1830
30 Jan
Saturday
Spink 5027
12 Sep
2005
133
5/-
A164
1830
30 Jan
Saturday
1
Per SNC 01/79 p9
01 Jan
1979
-
7/-
B103
1830
30 Mar
Tuesday
2
Spink 5027
12 sep
2005
134
7/-
B123
1830
24 Mar
Wednesday
3
Spink Banknote Circular
01 Oct
1999
135
7/-
B124
1829
20 Nov
Friday
Spink
30 Sep
1999
645
7/-
B124
1829
20 Nov
Friday
4
National Museum Edinburgh
-
-
-
7/-
B125
1830
24 Mar
Wednesday
5
CNG/Seaby - New York
11 Jun
1994
599
7/-
B126
1830
24 Feb
Wednesday
6
Symes Australia
01 Apr
1995
-
7/-
B130
1830
24 Feb
Wednesday
7
Spink 4017/4031
30 Sep
2004
1225
7/-
B137
1830
24 Mar
Wednesday
8
Comp Gen de Bourse Billets
01 Aug
1999
830
7/-
B144
1830
28 Jan
Thursday
9
CNG/Seaby - New York
11 Jun
1994
600
7/-
B149
1830
24 Mar
Wedesday
10
Phillips
02 Oct
1998
359
7/-
B151
1830
28 Jan
Thursday
11
Banking Mem - Carlisle
01 Sep
2008
163
7/-
B153
1829
16 Sep
Wednesday
12
Spink - Keith Austin
14 Sep
1999
17
7/-
B168
1830
30 Jan
Saturday
13
Spink Edinburgh 1024
14 Jun
2010
15
7/-
B178
1829
10 Dec
Thursday
Spink
16 Apr
1997
403
7/-
B178
1829
10 Dec
Thursday
14
Spink
06 Oct
1994
841
7/-
B194
1830
24 Feb
Wednesday

From Table 1 I have created Tables 2 and 3, below, which show I have obtained photos for all examples except two Seven Shillings notes, B126 and B149, both of which were listed in the same CNG auction, with similar dates to other notes in Table 1 above e.g. B130 and A134 respectively.

 

In Manville², page 16, it is stated that wages were paid weekly, generally on Thursdays. As can be seen from Table 1, the note dates are not always a Thursday. This could be because the notes were made out when accounting staff were available, but paid out on Thursdays, or it could indicate that the notes were used for a variety of reasons, such as paying local Balfron merchants for supplies to the Works, as well as being used for wages.

 

‘Obviously the notes had to be acceptable to those receiving them, so presumably they did not fear that the works were in any financial difficulty.  Lack of silver coin seems the likely reason for their issue.’ (Macmillan)

 

It is certainly interesting that the notes state ‘To the Merchants of Balfron.’ leaving us in no doubt that the notes were expected to be spent in the village of Balfron and not in any ‘work’s-shop.’

PHOTO
NOTE
VALUE
SERIAL
NUMBER
NOTE
YEAR
NOTE
DATED
Yes
7/-
B153
1829
16 Sep
Yes
7/-
B124
1829
20 Nov
Yes
7/-
B178
1829
10 Dec
Yes
5/-
A131
1829
31 Dec
Yes
5/-
A106
1830
28 Jan
Yes
7/-
B144
1830
28 Jan
Yes
7/-
B151
1830
28 Jan
Yes
5/-
A161
1830
30 Jan
Yes
5/-
A164
1830
30 jan
Yes
7/-
B168
1830
30 Jan
No
7/-
B126
1830
24 Feb
Yes
7/-
B130
1830
24 Feb
Yes
7/-
B194
1830
24 Feb
Yes
5/-
A144
1830
10 Mar
Yes
5/-
A134
1830
24 Mar
Yes
7/-
B123
1830
24 Mar
Yes
7/-
B125
1830
24 Mar
Yes
7/-
B137
1830
24 Mar
No
7/-
B149
1830
24 Mar
Yes
7/-
B103
1830
20 Mar
PHOTO
NOTE
VALUE
SERIAL
NUMBER
NOTE
YEAR
NOTE
DATED
Yes
7/-
103
1830
30 Mar
Yes
5/-
106
1830
28 Jan
Yes
7/-
123
1830
24 Mar
Yes
7/-
124
1829
20 Nov
Yes
7/-
125
1830
24 Mar
No
7/-
126
1830
24 Feb
Yes
7/-
130
1830
24 Feb
Yes
5/-
131
1829
31 Dec
Yes
5/-
134
1830
24 Mar
Yes
7/-
137
1830
24 Mar
Yes
5/-
144
1830
10 Mar
Yes
7/-
144
1830
28 Jan
No
7/-
149
1830
24 mar
Yes
7/-
51
1830
28 Jan
Yes
7/-
153
1829
16 Sep
Yes
5/-
161
1830
30 Jan
Yes
5/-
164
1830
30 Jan
Yes
7/-
168
1830
30 Jan
Yes
7/-
178
1829
10 Dec
Yes
7/-
194
1830
24 Feb

Table 2 Ballindallloch 5/- and 7/- Notes

Notes shown in Issue Date order

Table 3 Ballindallloch 5/- and 7/- Notes

Notes shown in Serial Number order

In Table 2, I have listed the notes in issue date order ignoring the different values. The period spans from 16 September 1829 to 30 March 1830, approximately seven months. The issue dates do not seem to bear any relationship to the note values as the five-shillings notes are spread throughout the issue period.

 

In Table 3, I have sorted the notes into serial number order leaving out the prefix A for Five Shillings and B for Seven Shillings notes. It can be seen from the illustrations, Figs. 1 & 2, that only the number was hand written, so it seems logical that notes were numbered as issued without any differentiation for value. The most salient point here is the duplication of number 144.

 

Our sample of notes is only twenty, listed in Tables 2 & 3, so we must bear in mind that any conclusions are conjectural. If we take the period of issue as seven months then this is a fairly short time span and must reflect a type of emergency issue.

This was a period of British silver-coin famine and even though the Ballindalloch Cotton Works had issued countermarked dollars, it is estimated these ceased circa 1810. The latest dated host coin for any countermarked dollar is 1827, so the time of issue of the Ballindalloch notes is at the end of this period. It is therefore assumed that silver coins were available to businesses in the Glasgow environs.

Why, therefore, did the Ballindalloch Cotton Works need to issue these notes?

 

Is it possible that the business was temporarily embarrassed for a lack of coin due to adverse trading conditions, and the notes were a means of avoiding more difficult decisions such as increasing borrowings or laying off workers? In fact in Manville², mention is made that the original business (pre Finlay) went bankrupt in 1794 and the owner, Dunmore, in 1800. The reason seems to have been too much reliance on the water supply to drive the mill. The supply was not constant and coal to operate steam machinery was found to be too expensive to bring to the mill.

 

‘By mid-century, closure of the mill became inevitable in the face of sweeping changes in industrial processes.’ (Manville)

 

Whatever the reason for their issue, the Ballindalloch notes do appear to be a stop-gap measure.

If notes were dated and issued (we must assume if they are dated they would have been issued) in strict numerical sequence, Tables 2 and 3 should reflect the same order of detail. This is not the case so we must speculate as to the reasons.

 

The notes were issued for payment ‘within Three Months from this Date.’ One can therefore presume that when the three months were up, the note number could be used again. When a note had been presented for payment, it could not be re-used because it was dated, but the number could be re-used and we have a perfect example of that in Table 3, where note number 144 is recorded for 7/- issued on 28 January 1830, (Fig. 3) then again for 5/- on 10 March 1830 (Fig. 4) the two dates being well within the three month time limit.

To see the notes in greater detail, hover your cursor over each of the small images in turn

Fig 3

Fig 4

It would appear that note numbers could be re-used without the original note being destroyed, as long as the note had been presented for payment. What is strange is that neither of the notes in Figs. 3 & 4 seems to have been cancelled in any way. It is worth noting that the 5/- prior to 144 was 164 dated 30 January 1830 and the subsequent one was 134 dated 24 March 1830, (Table 2) highlighting the lack of numerical order in the issue sequence.

 

We have no detailed provenance for the notes in Table 1. There are not many notes known, but Jonathan Callaway, a bank note expert, in private correspondence, asked ‘why have so many of these notes survived, all fully signed and issued…Other non-bank note issues are much scarcer.’

 

Part of the answer to that query could be the retention of the notes at the Works, after presentation, and then the re-use of the note number. So the notes remaining to us today could all have come from one source, say from a file of cashed notes held at the Works. It is unlikely that they were all held by one person and not cashed, and the duplicated note number 144 rather precludes this idea.

 

Another reasonable assumption is that Table 1 is made up of notes from many different sources over the years and is therefore a good cross section of the notes issued for the seven months, as only the month of October 1829 is missing.

So the question now is why are all the notes numbered between 100 and 200? Could it be possible that numbering commenced at 100 and very few numbers were issued because most notes were returned to the Works very quickly and the numbers re-used?

 

The earliest dated note, 16 September 1829, is numbered 153 (Fig. 2, and Table 2). This should mean that there were at least 53 notes, assuming the numbering started at 100, issued before this one, and all dated 16 September 1829 or before. We in fact have fourteen notes (Table 3) numbered before 153, but all dated later than 16 September 1829. I believe this is highly significant in supporting the number re-use theory. There are only five numbers issued after 153 (Table 3) during the seven month period.

 

Another clear indication for re-using numbers is shown in Table 3 where we see a run of numbers 123, 124, 125 and 126. 124 is dated very early in the issue whereas 123 and 125 are dated late in the issue with 126 in between.

 

A method for issuing and recording these notes, put forward by Macmillan, is that ‘the numbers might correspond with pages in a ledger - a page for each note issued.  When a note was returned…a record (would be) made on the relevant page. When another note had to be issued, a convenient page number could  be reused, assuming that all pages had been used at least once.  Thus numbers 101 to 200, or whatever, could be recycled until all the pages were filled.’

Why would the Works want to re-use numbers? One very good reason could be to prevent any outsiders becoming aware of the size of the issue - and as Macmillan stated earlier ‘fear that the works were in any financial difficulty’ - and therefore be able to work out the possible debt or liabilities that the Works were accumulating through the use of these notes.

A further idea for this unusual date and number sequencing could have been some sort of ‘privy mark’ or secret linking of date to number to prevent forgery. This is possible, but normal numbering and proper recording in the Books of Account should have given adequate control.

So if the Ballindalloch Cotton Works were experiencing short term liquidity problems at this time, then the issue of notes could have alleviated the problem and the re-use of note numbers obfuscated, to the outside world, the liability being incurred.

 

Perhaps, therefore, we should never take too much for granted, questioning even the most basic numbering system!

References & Requests

 

¹ Symes, Peter. The Ballindalloch Note Issue of 1830.

The International Bank Note Society Journal, volume 36, No. 4, 1997, (revised 2003).

 

² Manville, H.E. Tokens of the Industrial Revolution - Foreign Silver Coins Countermarked For Use In Great Britain, c.1787-1828

Spink, London, 2001, pp. 15-18.

BNS Special Publication No. 3

Winner of the 2002 book prize of the International Association of Professional Numismatists.

 

The Author would welcome any information regarding known notes not included in this survey. He may be contacted using the OWLNS Message page. Click on the quill, and the appropriate page will open.

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This paper was written in

November 2010