Stornoway is a town in Scotland. The Royal Bank of Scotland traces its heritage there back to 1830.

National Bank of Scotland

The Royal Bank of Scotland’s Stornoway branch first opened in June 1830 as a branch of National Bank of Scotland. National Bank at that time was barely five years old, but it already had a track-record of opening branches in areas remote from Edinburgh. In March that year it received a letter from Roderick Morrison of Stornoway, asking the bank to open a branch in his home town. National Bank, aware of Stornoway’s growing importance, was pleased to approve the suggestion, and invited Roderick and his father William, merchants and fishcurers in the town, to take control of the new enterprise. The branch opened on 21 June 1830. It initially traded from the Morrisons’ business premises in Cromwell Street, but later moved to Francis Street.

By the 1860s both Stornoway and the bank’s branch there had grown busier, thanks to the expansion of the herring industry and improvements to the transport links between Stornoway and the mainland. In recognition of this growth, National Bank of Scotland bought a site at 17 North Beach, and between 1866 and 1868 built new premises there for its Stornoway branch.

Harder times

The outbreak of war in 1914 brought more difficult times. For banks it meant additional responsibilities and, most seriously, the loss of skilled staff to the armed services, including four men from Stornoway branch. For the town, too, these were hard times; the herring industry, for so long central to the town’s identity, fell into steep decline. That decline continued into the 1920s and 1930s, and in 1939 the hardship was compounded by the outbreak of the Second World War. Three men from Stornoway branch left to go on active service.

The mobile bank

Soon after the return of peace, banking history was made at Stornoway branch. In 1946 it became home to a mobile banking service, using a specially converted van to take the bank out to customers' own doorsteps. This innovative solution to one of the challenges of life in remote communities soon spread to other branches, and was copied by rival banks, not only in Scotland but around the world.

A period of mergers

The post-war era was also a time of consolidation for the Scottish banks. In barely 30 years, a series of mergers reduced the number of note-issuing banks in Scotland from eight to just three. In 1959, National Bank of Scotland merged with Commercial Bank of Scotland to form National Commercial Bank of Scotland. A decade later, this bank merged with The Royal Bank of Scotland.