Time flies. Hard to believe that it’s almost August Bank Holiday Monday. It set my mind to thinking about what exactly is a bank holiday and how long have they existed? A bank holiday is a public holiday in the UK although there is no automatic right to time off on these days. Bank holidays are currently regulated by the ‘Banking and Financial Dealing Act’ of 1971 but originate in the ‘Bank Holidays Act’ of 1871 introduced by the Liberal Party. The 1871 act recognized four days as Bank holidays – Easter Monday, Whit Monday, the first Monday in August and Boxing Day. Christmas Day and Good Friday were already recognized as Public holidays.
At one time the Bank of England recognized 33 saint’s days and religious festivals as holidays. Imagine 33 bank holidays a year! Great. Sadly in 1834 it was reduced to just 4 – 1st of May, 1st November (All Saints Day), Good Friday and Christmas Day. This remained the same until the 1871 act that replaced All Saints Day with the first Monday in August.
In 1965 the August Bank Holiday in England and Wales was moved from the first Monday of the month to the last Monday. This was at the request of the ailing tourist industry in Cornwall. They argued that the move would help to prolong the summer holiday season. Scotland did not change their holiday and still enjoy a Bank Holiday on the first Monday of August.
New Years Day in case you were wondering did not become a Bank Holiday until the first of January 1974. In Wales we currently enjoy eight Bank Holidays each year. Other parts of the United Kingdom have a better deal with Scotland enjoying nine Bank Holidays a year and Northern Ireland having the best deal with ten! Scottish Bank Holidays vary slightly from Wales with the second of January taken instead of Boxing Day. The extra Scottish Bank Holiday is St. Andrew’s Day celebrated on the 30 November. Northern Ireland has two extra Bank Holidays (lucky devils) celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on the 17 March and the Battle of the Boyne on the 12th July.
There is a campaign for an extra Bank Holiday to be provided in England and Wales. St. David’s Day (1st March), St. George’s Day (23 April) and St. Piran’s Day (5th March) have all been suggested. St. Piran by the way is the Patron Saint of Cornwall.
On Monday 27th August don’t forget to thank the Liberal Party for introducing Bank Holidays in 1871. But what does the future hold for Bank Holidays now the banks are closing most of their branches and moving more and more to an on-line system of banking? Will Bank Holidays survive? Tenby has lost three banks in recent years – Nat West, Lloyds and Santander. Only two remain – Barclays and HSBC. When the branches close the cash machines go as well resulting in the remaining machines running out of cash over Bank Holiday weekends! As we move towards a cashless society this may cease to be a problem but let’s all hope that Bank Holidays as we know and love them remain for future generations to enjoy as we do! I think they are pretty safe as can you see any political party proposing their abolition. It would be political suicide. Of course adding St. David’s Day to the list would be great for Pembrokeshire and Wales. Let’s hope the new Parliament in Cardiff will have the necessary power. In the meantime enjoy the Bank Holiday. Here’s hoping the sun shines!