Cheque completion guide, 1938

NatWest Group History 100 object 97: booklet compiled by staff of the Royal Bank of Scotland to help a customer who did not speak English, 1938.

This booklet was made in 1938 by the staff of a small-town branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland. It was intended to help one of their customers, an Italian man who - like many of his fellow Italian immigrants in the early 20th century - hoped to set up a café in the town that had become his new home.

It must have taken hard work and determination, but he got his café. This little booklet is one of the tools that helped him on his way. When he started out, he didn't speak English. Just to complicate matters further, he had come from a country with a decimal currency and was now grappling with Britain's system of pounds, shillings and pence. The staff in his local branch of The Royal Bank of Scotland made this booklet as a reference guide to help him write cheques, which had to have their value written in words as well as digits. It lists amounts of money ranging from £1.0.1 up to £150, showing how each amount should be written in words. With its help, he would know how to write a cheque for any required sum.

The booklet was evidently well-used. From time to time through the book, entries have a little pen mark against them, where someone has marked a particular sum of money. A stain on the first couple of pages might have been caused by a splash of coffee, or perhaps a blob of the ice cream for which Scotland's Italian cafés became famous.

No doubt the book's owner still faced many obstacles on his way to building a successful business, but this simple booklet helped with one of them. It solved a frustrating problem, and made one necessary task a little bit easier.