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CONTACT: Autumn 1960
 
THE RETIREMENT OF FRED PARSONAGE
Deputy General Manager 1957 - 1960
 
Frederick William Parsonage, AIB, retired in August 1960, shortly prior to his 65th Birthday.
He joined the staff of the Birmingham Corporation Savings Bank on November 26th 1917, and was therefore one of the original employees of the Birmingham Municipal Bank from September 1st 1919. The following article, describing an event held in the Broad Street Head Office to mark his retirement, appeared in the Autumn 1960 edition of the Bank's staff magazine. In the absence, due to illness, of the Bank's General Manager (H J Sutherland)
Mr J W Raftery deputised for him in the evening's proceedings.
 
Prior to this evening, the Bank's Chairman (Councillor Seymour Brown)
had made a presentation to Fred Parsonage - see Image 121
In 1969, Fred recalled many aspects of his career with the Bank - see Memory 034
To mark the special occasion, an appropriate cover was designed for CONTACT magazine
 

The Staff of the Birmingham Municipal Bank said farewell on Saturday, August 27th to their Deputy General Manager Mr. F. W. Parsonage on his retirement after 43 years service. That is the fact and fact is cold and hard; this occasion was warm and full of feeling.

 

There was a jovial atmosphere in the Assembly Room as 230 people jostled and shouted, waved and laughed "Haven't seen you for ages", "You're putting on a bit of weight", "Meet the wife", "How's that manager of yours?", "What time is Fred due?", "Two gin and orange, please" "What time is Fred due?", "You look well since you retired", "What time is Fred due?", "It's getting warm in here", "Where's Fred?", "Where's Fred?" , "WHERE'S FRED?". And then an announcement and in came Councillor and Mrs. Seymour Brown, Mr. and Mrs. F. W. Parsonage and Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Raftery. Bouquets were presented to the ladies but most of the eyes in the room were focussed on Fred - perhaps he did look a little pale - not really pale, perhaps a little apprehensive. We could forgive him that for this was quite an evening.

 

For the next few minutes Fred made a short but thorough circuit of the room, shaking hands with the men, and holding hands with the ladies. The drink was flowing merrily, the air was thick with chatter and smoke and the buffet was open. Sausage rolls and sandwiches, cake and ice-cream - good food and plenty of it. So we munched and talked and drank and talked until the formal part of the proceedings was opened by Mr. K. N. Whittaker, Chairman of the Staff Association. Silence descended as we put down our glasses and sat back to hear 'the speeches'.

 

Mr. Whittaker informed us that a Greetings Telegram had been received from Mr. and Mrs. H. J. Sutherland regretting their absence and wishing Mr. and Mrs. Parsonage health and happiness for the future. A gift of flowers and fruit had been sent to Mr. Sutherland that afternoon. The following telegram was sent in reply "Mr. and Mrs. Parsonage delighted to receive yourmessage - All send their sympathy and best wishes for a speedy recovery".

 

Mr. Whittaker referred to Mr. Parsonage as "one of the pillars on which this institution was founded" and a man who "could get loyalty from a position of authority" - "if he is familiar with the works of Stephen Potter, I am sure that he will soon become proficient at Retiremanship". Mr. Whittaker then recalled an incident at a Branch when he was leaning on a cash desk reading a book; the work was up to date and there were no customers in, "I am not sure if this ever happened before or will ever happen again - Suddenly a hand came round the desk and grabbed my book. I then found that the hand, Sir, was yours; fortunately the book was a text-book that I was studying for the forthcoming examinations. Without a word the book was handed back to me. It was typical that you would pick on that day".

 

Mr. Whittaker concluded:- "To you, Sir, and to your wife - Greetings, Good Health, Long Life and Good Luck".

 

In introducing Councillor Seymour Brown, Mr. Whittaker recalled the Annual Outing and the use of the word 'blistering' in connection with some car trouble. He was still not sure if this referred to Councillor Brown's hands or his language.

 

Councillor Seymour J Brown, Chairman of the Bank Committee commenced by saying that he deemed it an honour to join the gathering on this evening and, with thanks for the bouquet presented to his wife, he continued - "I have known Fred since 1925 when my wife and I bought a house through the Bank. After the first visit we had to go in again and my wife said 'Are we going to see Smiler?'" The Bank Committee had already made a presentation and he went on "Mr. Parsonage has fully deserved the position of Deputy General Manager and, during the whole of his career, he has always had the Staff in mind. You have all shown a great tribute by turning up in such numbers this evening". Councillor Brown explained Fred's complexion "the sun is usually in the south and Fred's kitchen faces south - what he'll be like in two years time I don't know". He quoted the story of the Black Country gentleman of 85 who had worked for 74 years and was eventually retired by his employers; in disgust he said "If I'd known this was only a temporary job I'd never have started". Councillor Brown concluded by wishing Mr. and Mrs. Parsonage on behalf of the Bank Committee a happy retirement "but this is not Good-bye, just Farewell".

 

The next speaker, Mr. J. W. Raftery, Deputy General Manager designate, commenced by saying that he had seen the General Manager on Friday and that he had expressed much regret at his inability to attend. However, Mr. Raftery hoped that we would associate Mr. Sutherland with the nice remarks that he would make. He continued "I should like to thank the Staff Association for arranging the evening with particular thanks to the Sub-Committee who were in charge of the details." He went on "My first recollection of Mr. Parsonage was in 1919, I remember he was a dark, slim, handsome young man who wore a sports coat and had a habit of scratching his pen and wiping it on his coat." - "Why is he held in such esteem? Why do we regret his retirement? It is a combination of his many qualities, we are all aware of the great part he has played in the Bank through his skill, knowledge and practical ability. His service has always been at Head Office and this is measure of the confidence that the various General Managers have had in his ability. He is a man of sterling character, fair mind and kindly nature, a man of punctuality, of discipline and most of us have had a caution at some time - always well­-deserved. As a family man he is naturally sympathetic and, with seven grand-children he almost deserves the name "Patriarch" but he has yet to grow the beard. His experience helps him to give wise advice and, of course, he has a sense of humour - he has the facility of getting to the root of a problem, by his NOUS. As a wicket-keeper he could always get the bails off before he got the ball. He enjoys football and still thinks that Birmingham are the best team. I am sure that Mrs. Parsonage will recognise her husband from these remarks for she must take the credit for developing his latent talents. He has had a distinguished career and has recently been called the last of the Old Contemptibles. On behalf of all here and those unable to attend may I wish you and your wife many happy years of retirement, serenity and peace of mind."

 

Thus were our thoughts expressed and we would not have had one word changed for this was a true and accurate description of the man in whose honour we had braved the elements this evening.

 

Mr. Whittaker next introduced Miss Carver, the 'C' part of the Head Office reference 'P/C', to speak on behalf of the ladies. Miss Carver's impression was of a man who had "enthusiasm for his work, respect, a sense of justice and the interest of the Staff at heart - an upright, well-groomed figure and a commanding personality." - "He will be fully occupied entertaining his children and working in his garden. Some of us have been privileged to see him trying on an apron but he had to admit that it ought to be lengthened." Miss Carver concluded by wishing Mr. and Mrs. Parsonage a happy retirement.

 

When Miss Carver started her speech she told us that public speaking was not one of her strong points, we all knew by the time she had finished that no-one could have done it better.

 

The actual presentations followed and this was performed by Mr. J A Smith, the chairman of the Sub-Committee who had worked so hard to ensure the success of this evening. As Mr. Smith was introduced we all sat back in anticipation - it is always a pleasure to hear Jim 'in action' - he didn't let us down. ---"The difficulty of following other speakers is that all your pet quips are stripped from you like ripe acorns falling from an oak. However there are two points that have been missed. The first - when you ring up Head Office, you will no longer hear the answer "yes" before you put the question. The second - in 1938-39 all Branch Managers were expected to become air raid wardens and classes were held in this very room. I remember Mr. Parsonage dressed in anti-gas equipment, gas cape, the lot, and I only say, Sir, please pardon me for this, that you reminded me of a Barrage Balloon". When the laughter had subsided, Mr. Smith continued - "There is nothing else left for me to say" and did we hear Mr. Parsonage say "Jolly good job, too"?

 

To Mrs. Parsonage was given a travelling case and to Mr. Parsonage a handsome clock, a trouser-press according to Mr. Smith "also a coat-hanger, will brush your shoes and do most things that a valet would do", a wrought iron standard lamp that was not on exhibition and the book of signatures. Mr. Smith concluded by wishing Mr. and Mrs. Parsonage "everything you wish yourself - this is not Goodbye but Au Revoir".

 

So we were waiting for 'the reply'. Who cared that the Bar would be closing in a few minutes? They were more or less sold out anyway. There were some who were near to tears but everyone felt, in some measure, the emotion that swept through the room as, with perfect timing, Mr. Parsonage rose to a crescendo of applause. In typical fashion his sense of humour came to the fore "it's amazing - all these wonderful things that have been said about me - I've been telling my wife for years." So we laughed and clapped and cheered as he took us on a journey through his 43 years, stopping here and there, retracing his steps and picking up mostly happy moments.

 

"Since I joined the Staff in 1917, much water has flowed under the bridge and here we are to-day with 84 million pounds standing to the credit of our depositors. In the early days - working three nights a week, we used to go out to factories and collect savings in the form of coupons, after a while we found that we had to do the licking ourselves - conditions were not good in the Water Department basement, we were cramped and Mr. Hilton would come out and shout - 'Parsonage, more coupons missing, tell the girls to turn out their drawers' - when the new Bank was formed I had instructions to see that the ladies were properly dressed.

 

"We must remember that if we'd had no old Bank, we should have had no Bank to-day - the Staff worked hard so that the new bank could be formed after the First World War, they were all temporary, but out of 24,000 accounts in the old bank, 22,000 were transferred." Here Mr. Parsonage read out an appreciation of the work performed by these pioneers written by the late J. P. Hilton, the Bank's first General Manager, in his book Britain's First Municipal Savings Bank. - "We worked night after night in September 1919 on the transfers of these accounts and one man said to 'J.P.' 'I'm going to put a notice in my window - Half bed to let, man's side'. We moved from the Water Department basement to Edmund Street and I used to put my hat under the clock and one day somebody busted my bowler. I tried to get something out of Petty Cash but couldn't - to-day you can get away with murder. Then we moved into this building - architect's paradise we called it. After we'd been here three weeks we had a North-East blizzard, talk about frozen rabbits. We had no revolving doors, I saw 'J. P.' and we got those, then we wanted a date calendar, I got that. Then one day Mr. Hilton was walking along the corridor and we had the lights on - not very good ones - and J. P. opened the window and shouted 'Parsonage, put those lights out' - if he'd been nearer ---. We had keys, keys to every drawer, I had to get to work again. Looking back my most trying period was the last two weeks in August 1939. Mr. Hilton was away, Mr.Ellison was away, and I had to look after A.R.P. arrangements and I should like to thank Mr. Maggs once again for the help that he gave to me. If I was an author and tried to write a history of the Bank I'm not sure if it would be a comedy or a tragedy. We had our tragedies but humour, too. I remember one dinner I had in Edmund Street, about a week after Christmas, I didn't like the taste of it - nobody else complained, some people would eat anything - I asked the cook what it was and she said 'It's beef but I thought you'd like some turkey gravy with it'. When I left, a week yesterday, was it? I found an old ledger binder in my car when I was clearing it out - it had a label on it - DORMANTS, I suppose that meant Dormants over 65. I remember another retirement when it was said that, nothwithstanding the years he'd spent with the Bank, he's fortunate to leave with all his faculties, I hope I'm leaving none of mine. I can't say Goodbye without a tribute to the Staff who have been so good to me over the years - Miss Bullock, Miss Pogson, Miss Gregory - my old battle-axes, Marion Robottom, Miss Pogson, Biddy Taylor, Miss Carver and Miss Cowley who have worked with me over the last 11 years. I've often looked at a letter and said 'This isn't right' and got the reply 'Well, that's what you said'. - And there's Miss Lewis who has given me so much help, Mr. Raftery, Mr. Whitehouse, Mr. Ling, Mr. Guy and the Inspectors who have all worked so very well; as Mr. Raftery said we've had our differences but we've usually finished with a joke - I could joke in the front line when I was up to the middle in mud, but of course, you can't be facetious when things are serious, just get in a bit of humour as soon as you can.

 

"I'm amazed at the letters I've had from present and retired members of the Staff. I don't deserve it but I do appreciate it, and thank you very much for the presents. We were going to have furniture - my wife and I had a Committee meeting and decided - why should we get rid of our old stuff, we've had it all our married life. Then I was walking up Broad Street and saw an automatic washing machine but decided against that. Thank you all for the wonderful tribute you have paid me - this is Goodbye - thank you very, very much."

 

As he sat down we applauded - we applauded those 43 years and the pleasure that we had got from them. We did not applaud the Deputy General Manager but the man. We had signed our names in a book given 'to Frederick William Parsonage on the occasion of his retirement as a mark of the affection and esteem in which he is held by us, the Staff of the Birmingham Municipal Bank' and now we took our chance to show that we meant it.

 

To round off the evening, the vocal group of Wilf Thomas, John Cox and Stanley Wilson calling themselves the Bank Notes, entertained us, and Fred, with some variations on old English ballads with the help of Miss Tyzzer on piano.

 

And so, to the strains of "For he's a Jolly Good Fellow", we took our leave of a man who has become a legend in his life-time, a man of whom we shall always be proud to say "He was my friend".

 

The lyrics of the variations on old English ballads performed by the Bank Notes were also reproduced in CONTACT:

 

The Quarters-Master's Stores

 

There were cheques, cheques, piled up to your necks,

In the Bank, in the Bank.

There were Bills, Bills, filling up the tills

In the Municipal Bank.

 

Chorus.          Look out below, here comes Old Fred

                       He's got two eyes in the back of his head.

                      He's got two eyes in the back of his head.

 

There were keys, keys, hanging round your knees

In the Bank, in the Bank.

There were queues, queues, no time for a snooze

In the Municipal Bank.        (Chorus)

 

There was char, char, black as flipping tar

In the Bank, in the Bank,

There was lunch, lunch, a thirty-minute munch

In the Municipal Bank.        (Chorus)

 

There were shorts, shorts, Penny for your thoughts

In the Bank, in the Bank.

There were overs, overs, leave it to the rovers

Of the Municipal Bank.         (Chorus)

 

There was Quink, Quink, extravagant as mink

In the Bank, in the Bank.

There were whistles, whistles, and ink-pots used as miss'les

In the Municipal Bank.       (Chorus)

 

 

Billy Boy

 

Where have you been all the day, Freddy Boy, Freddy Boy,

Where have you been all the day, my Freddy Boy?

I have supervised a Test, Brian Statham bowled the best.

How your fancies tickle the Branches, O my charming Freddy Boy.

 

Can I have a half-day off, Freddy Boy, Freddy Boy,

Can I have a half-day off, please, Freddy Boy?

You must first let me say "No", then of course I'll let you go.

How your fancies tickle the Branches, O my charming Freddy Boy.

 

Will you let me join the Staff, Freddy Boy, Freddy Boy,

Will you let me join the Staff, please, Freddy Boy?

If you do this sum I might, no-one ever gets it right.

How your fancies tickle the Branches, O my charming Freddy Boy.

 

At the balance what d'you do, Freddy boy, Freddy Boy,

At the balance what d'you do, my Freddy Boy?

I've the comp girls in my care, and their figures make me stare.

How your fancies tickle the Branches, O my charming Freddy Boy.

 

My Bonnie

 

Dear Fred I am over the ocean

Please send out some money to me,

Control this exchange with quick motion,

My Anna would like a rupee.

 

Chorus   Bring back, bring back,

                O bring back my Freddy to me, to me,

                Bring back, bring back,

                O bring back my Freddy to me.

 

Last night as I lay on my pillow,

My cash shortage filling my head,

I suddenly wept like a willow,

I'd not sent a letter to Fred.                     (Chorus)

 

My cashier's gone over the ocean,

You've sent no relief yet, you see,

And, Freddy, you haven't a notion

How busy two Branches can be.            (Chorus)

 

One next-of-kin's over the ocean

Another one's over the sea.

Before we get this one in motion

They'll be granting a Probate for me.    (Chorus)

 

 

 

Bless 'em all

 

Cheer up, 'F.P.', bless 'em all,

The long and the short and the tail,

Bless all Inspectors and A.P.T.1s,

Bless all the B.M.'s and their blinking sons,

For you're saying Goodbye to it all

As home from this evening you crawl,

You'll get no frustration on Sup'rannuation

So cheer up, 'F.P.', bless 'em all.

 

Cheer up, 'F.P.', bless 'em all,

Margaret and Peter and paul,

Bless all the typists and Clearing as well,

Bless Maggie R, and her telephone bell,

Though you're saying Goodbye to us all

We'll always be glad if you'll call

From your lofty station on Sup'rannuation,

So cheer up, 'F.P.', bless 'em all.

 Following the event described above, Fred Parsonage wrote to Ken Whittaker, Chairman of the Bank's Staff Association:

 

30th August

 

Dear Mr. Whittaker,

 

I am writing, to ask you to convey to the Staff Committee the very warm thanks of my wife and myself for the wonderful evening they arranged last Saturday.

 

It will always remain a memorable evening to me as I have no doubt it will to many others. What a magnificent gathering it was - notwithstanding the weather.

 

Talk about butterflies in the tummy, I felt as if I had got a dozen cuckoos in the nest.

 

I have retired with mixed feelings - sad and happy. Sad that I am leaving the Staff I have worked for and with for so many years and happy in the knowledge that I now know I have left with their esteem and affection. Nothing else matters to me and I should have been terribly sorry had it been otherwise.

 

I must thank those members of the Staff who have been very close to me in my work and who made things so much easier for me; and also the other members of the H.O. Staff and the Staffs at all the Branches for their help and co-operation.

 

My wife and I have received numerous letters and cards which have given us much pleasure.

 

To the members of the Staff I say "Thank you" very very much indeed for your wonderful gifts to myself and Mrs. Parsonage and thanks once again to the Staff Committee for that memorable evening.

 

I give my humble thanks to the Staff for the affection and esteem which they have shown towards me.

 

Yours very sincerely,

 

F W Parsonage

 

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