Hawick Cornets :
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1758 William Oliver – a batchelor banker

William Oliver was Cornet in 1758, and he was a banker.

Just as we have nicknames for bankers now , so it was then – he was “Old Cash”.

He was about the first one in Hawick – becoming agent for the Bank of Scotland in 1792 [though he may just have been pipped at the the post by the British Linen Company Bank].
He was a merchant of some description, and so presumably becoming a bank agent solved a problem for him and the Bank. For him, he had something to do his cash at the end of the day – before the days of night safes and so on – he lent it to other people on the bank’s behalf, and charged them interest. And for the Bank, as a merchant William would have secure storage – so somewhere to store the money which customers would want to deposit.
Roughly the same principle applies now as supermarkets are happy to offer cashback to debit card customers, because it means that the supermarket has less cash to bag up and take to the bank, where they are charged a paying-in fee.
But they don’t always give cash back, as my aged mother found out when she paid for her messages with cash – and then tried asking for £30 cash-back. It’s a different world up Waverley Terrace!

William was unmarried, and lived till 1808, so must only have taken to banking late in life, in his mid 50s.

His other interests included books, and the Church – he was the principal subscriber to building an addition to the Old Wilton Church in 1800 [Princes Street – demolished 1963]

And there are two poems about him – one about him as the Laird of Coffer Ha’, referring to the chest he kept the Bank money in – and this more personal tribute to Old Cash –

Banker Cash, a daintie carl
Wha was ower guid for sic a warl’;
Guid-natured soul! His doings tell,
He thought a’ ithers like himsel’ –
Trustworthy, honest, just and good,
Disinterested, naeways proud,
Had mony frien’s an’ ne’er a foe,
Nane could hate him that did him know;
For ne’er a neighbour would he wrang,
He’s sooner in  a halter hang;
Sae ilka bodies pickle gear
Was lodg’d wi’ him without a fear

Rev David Waters

The Rev Waters was a Hawick man, went to school in Damside, a spinner at Lynnwood Mill,  and the third person in the town to sign the Total Abstinence Pledge. He went into the ministry from evangelical meetings in the Cross Wynd Church – but died in Shipley, Bradford.

I don’t have anything else to illustrate the life of the 1758 Cornet – but Rev Waters tells us all we need to know about William Oliver in his poem – he was a worthy Cornet indeed


About Neil Wallace

Born in the Haig Maternity, lived in Dovemount Place, and started school there at Trinity. To Burnfoot Primary then the High School. Moved away from the town to Cardiff, then Edinburgh, and now an exile in Suffolk.


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