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Our first banknotes

We received our licence to issue banknotes from the Lieutenant Governor on the very day we first opened for business in 1865, and within a few weeks of opening we had over 5,000 1 banknotes in circulation. These new notes had to be backed by securities deposited with the Manx government and, until our infant bank could afford to do this itself, our entire note issue was personally guaranteed by William Callister, the bank’s promoter and chairman.

Our first banknotes were coloured black and brown and featured a view of Douglas harbour, showing the arrival of Governor Piggott, on one side and the Isle of Man triune and motto on the other. The notes were printed in Edinburgh by the specialist firm of W & AK Johnston and then individually numbered, dated and signed by the bank’s manager and cashier. In 1914, presumably due to the large number of extra notes that had to be issued in wartime, the handwritten signatures were replaced by facsimiles.

5 banknotes arrive

Our 1 notes were well trusted and circulated widely. For almost three decades they proved sufficient to meet our customers’ needs, so it was not until 1894 that we issued our first 5 notes. These new notes, printed in blue and black, were of a much plainer design. Meanwhile our established 1 banknotes remained virtually unchanged beyond minor retouching of the original harbour image.

A new name

In 1926, when we changed our name from Isle of Man Banking Co to Isle of Man Bank, a new note design was considered essential. A reformatted view of Douglas harbour was introduced, accompanied by the old and new arms of the Lords of Mann. The triune and motto continued to feature on the reverse. The new 1 notes were green and the new 5 notes, introduced the following year, were blue, green and pink. The latter were larger in format, but much more like the 1 notes than had previously been the case. Indeed in 1937 the colour of the 5 notes had to be altered to differentiate them from our 1 notes. Other small changes were made in 1934, but our notes remained unaltered thereafter until our last note was issued in 1960.

Our issue ends

In 1961 the note issue licences of all the commercial banks on the Isle of Man were revoked in preparation for the introduction of the Isle of Man government’s own note issue. All of our notes were withdrawn and cancelled, but given our exceptional and long experience of note issue on the island we were subsequently appointed to manage the Manx government’s notes. Today Isle of Man Bank continues to assist and advise the government’s Treasury on matters of note issue, including monitoring circulation, holding reserves, sorting notes for ATMs across the island and destroying old and unfit notes.