Thursday, 21 May 2009

10 August 1942

Yesterday evening the lights were blacked out from about 7.30 to 11pm and, I hear, for some hours also during the night but impossible to tell the real reason.  Today, however, all outside lights have been shaded with blue covers, which certainly looks like business.  Another pleasant outing this afternoon from 3.30 – 5pm with 3 ball games.  Started today on my bottle of Piccalilli (fruit chutney) finished 3 days ago.  Have still got some soya sauce but don’t trust it altogether – smells like beer now.  Have still two pieces of Swiss milk toffee but probably won’t have these tomorrow).


Changes in branch management occurred now and then, but in general during my time, the disposition was: Easter – Henry J Milne, Northern – James Grainger, Holburn (formerly Torry) – Alex Thompson, Rosemoutn – William Ewen, Torry (formerly Woodside) – William J Cheyne.  Each of these gentlemen had his peculiarities, pleasant or otherwise.  Mr Milne was a big man but rather thin.  His general health was never too good unfortunately.  In speech he was very, very broad and would have been taken to be, from his speech and manner, rather a farmer than a banker.  He was very easy going but a capable man and very good hearted.  He once did me a service which I can never hope to repay and I shall always remember him with gratitude and respect.  James Grainger, until one came to know him well, was a real terror to the junior staff.  He was of average height squarely built, very fresh complexioned and wore glasses with rather strong lenses.  He had a most effective and terrifying trick of gazing with his blue eyes through these spectacles in a fashion calculated to reduce a weaker minded individual to a state of trembling apprehension.  I got to know and like him very much and indeed when he really unbent, he kept us in fits of laughter.  On days when he became really exuberant, and after the doors had closed at 3 o’clock, he would treat us to a representation of grand opera in which he sang all the parts alternately.  It was screamingly funny and I used to quite limp with laughter, hanging over the counter with the tears streaming down my cheeks.  I am quite sure that anybody knowing Mr Grainger superficially and remembering his usually severe aspect would be inclined to doubt this, and I would excuse them.  Sometimes he could be very impressive and often said to me, with his most piercing glare to give emphasis,’ If there’s an onus, William, get rid of it’.  he was merciless to inefficients and not a few of my contemporaries had a tough time of it at Northern Branch.  Talking of Northern branch reminds me of Mrs Moir, who had been charwoman there since the office was built about 25 years before.  She was a garrulous old body getting on for 70 years of age and with a grudge against Mr Grainger.  She told me her grudge at least on twenty different occasions.  One day she had said to Mr Grainger, ‘Mr Grainger, do you know it’s 20 years today since I started cleaning this office?’ ‘And do ye ken fit he said to me, Wullie?’ He jist said, ‘Well, see and keep that way then!’  She never forgave him for that and I don’t know that I blame her altogether.  Alex Thompson was a cold blooded, tall, angular man with pale blue eyes and a sallow complexion.  He was very unemotional and serious minded and one had difficulty in imagining that he had ever had any boyhood.  Generally speaking, he was not well liked but I believer this was due to his seriousness and to certain habits in regard to the treatment of his staff which were not exactly endearing but which were practiced, I feel, with the best motives.  He wanted efficiency and so on.  He was quite right, of course, but at that age few of us realise that our education does not cease automatically on our leaving school or college and resent being lectured to.  He also kept a ‘Black Book’ in which every error discovered in the ledgers etc was noted with date, particulars and the name of the offender.  It was this, more than anything else, which made him disliked, but looking back I feel that the idea at the back of his mind was to shame the careless ones, by this means, into being more careful in their work and that his method was the result of natural tactlessness.  I followed his advice by taking a course with the School of Accountancy, for which I am thankful to this day.  When I was on the staff at Holburn during one bitterly cold winter, he would switch on the electric radiators as soon as we came into the office and from then on would consult repeatedly the thermometer hanging on the wall.  As soon as the thermometer registered 58 degrees he switched off the radiators.  He certainly considered the interests of his employees first and foremost, an admirable trait, but one which we were unable to appreciate naturally. 


Apparently we were going to have black out tonight – getting dark but no lights on in the cells.  Can no longer see to write.

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