Object 60: Konkani-English leaflet, 1950s

Konkani-English dual language Westminster Bank leaflet, mid-1950s

Konkani-English dual language Westminster Bank leaflet, mid-1950s. © RBS

This leaflet was produced by Westminster Bank to advertise its international money transfer services to Goans in London. Thanks to large-scale migration after the Second World War, the 1950s were perhaps the first time in history when large numbers of ordinary people needed to send money across long distances. Among them were Goans, most of whom had arrived in London as sailors. This leaflet explains in both English and a Roman-script version of the Goan language Konkani how the bank could airmail or cable money to their families in Goa, safely and inexpensively.

Never has our world expanded more rapidly than in the decades after the Second World War. International trade continued to grow, as it had before, but ordinary people also migrated in greater numbers than ever. Tens of thousands of Britons - 80,000 in 1969 alone - became so-called 'ten-pound poms', emigrating to Australia to begin new lives on the other side of the world. In the same period, thousands of immigrants from the West Indies and South Asia arrived in Britain, also keen to build new futures for themselves. Unprecedented numbers of people found themselves living on the other side of the planet from loved ones who depended on them financially. They needed cheap, effective money transfer services.

Sailors ended up settling in far-flung ports all over the globe

Goans have a centuries-old reputation as seafaring people, and are known to have served on British ships as far back as the 18th century. Some of these sailors ended up settling in far-flung ports all over the globe, including London. By the end of the 19th century there were around 200 Goans living in London, and that number rose steadily throughout the first half of the 20th century.

By the late 1960s, a decade after this leaflet was published, London's Goan population would see a more rapid rise, as sizeable populations of South Asians arrived from East Africa. But in the mid-1950s, London's Goan population was still primarily composed of people who had arrived as sailors, and was therefore focussed on the East End docklands. That was why this leaflet particularly mentioned Tilbury Docks branch.

Advertising transfer services in Konkani was only a gesture. Anyone who took the leaflet's advice to speak to a bank manager probably could not do so in Konkani, and it would have been hard to organise a money transfer without using any English. Nevertheless, it was a way for the bank to demonstrate its interest in, and respect for, these potential customers. Meeting anyone in their own language is a way of valuing and perhaps learning something from their perspective.