Alfred enjoyed a wealth of experiences with bank

Alfred George Campbell, a banker who signed the £5 note and once helped tackle a major forgery attempt, has died, aged 98.

Mr Campbell was born in Selkirk in 1913, and educated as a boarder at John Watson’s School in Edinburgh, and later Selkirk High School.

He began a three-year apprenticeship in 1930 with the Selkirk branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland, when his first year’s salary was £30. Following his 100 per cent pass in the practical banking exam he was summoned to the head office in Edinburgh, but always maintained his connections with Selkirk, singing in the choral society and administering its accounts.

By 1936 he was based in London as part of the bank’s inspection teams, and got engaged to Ina Bell, from Selkirk, who was working as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

With the approach of war he was enlisted in the Royal Artillery and as a serving soldier his gunner’s pay was enhanced by a married allowance, so he wed Ina in Edinburgh.

He was transferred to the Royal Engineers for a period, before going back to the Royal Artillery.

After three years of war he was reunited with Ina in Edinburgh, and rejoined the Royal Bank, this time in the law department.

By 1952 he was a senior inspector, later moving to the chief accountant’s department where he was responsible for the installation of 50 Burroughs ledger machines as part of the first bank mechanisation.

He also oversaw the destruction of old banknotes, a formidable process requiring up to 18 staff identifying notes and stacking them against numbers.


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The old notes were burnt under strict supervision in the bank’s own furnace, which began to breach the newly-introduced clean air Acts.

During one firing, pieces of burnt and blackened notes were being found all over central Edinburgh. He must have tidied up the process, however, and he was appointed chief accountant in 1954, and signed the £5 bank notes.

It was in this role that he helped identify a batch of forged notes, and a new issue of the £5 note was introduced with advanced anti-forgery techniques.

By 1969, Alfred had become assistant general manager and executive director, and he retired in 1972, noting that all he had to do was to live, and he and Ina were very good at this, taking up painting, undertaking the daily ritual of The Scotsman crossword and travelling around the world but always staying in touch with his family.


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In his old age, his reaction to the banking crisis was to note that the problems were down to excessive greed, noting the difference between his silver retirement platter and the tens of millions being dispensed today.