Page last updated at 16:59 GMT, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The age of Dad's Army bank bosses

By Steven McKenzie
Highlands and Islands reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Scene from Dad's Army
Arthur Lowe as Cpt Mainwaring, Ian Lavender as Pike and John Le Mesurier as Sgt Wilson

"Stupid boy," were Capt George Mainwaring's famous words as he berated Private Pike for some misdemeanour or other in BBC sitcom Dad's Army.

But while Arthur Lowe's stuffy Home Guard officer is often regarded as bumbling, his dual role as a bank manager seems to have some appeal.

He knew his customers by name and their financial predicaments and fortunes as acutely as his own.

The image of Capt Mainwaring was raised during Tuesday's Treasury Committee.

Following a scathing attack on the modern banking industry, Highlands MP John Thurso asked former Royal Bank of Scotland chairman Sir Tom McKillop: "Could we get back to Capt Mainwaring running a bank we could trust?"

3-6-3 model

Experts have said there were both good and bad aspects to the banking systems of old and new.

Today, banks no longer lend according to what they have in deposits and there is a feeling lenders have a much less understanding of the underlying credit-worthiness of those taking loans.

In the past, bankers knew the background to their borrowers and customers knew who the bank manager was.

It used to said the banking world followed the 3-6-3 model: borrow at 3% from customer deposits, lend at 6% and be on the golf course at three in the afternoon.

However, back then there was not the same competition between banks and lenders, mortgages were rationed and people could not borrow as much as they can now to purchase properties.

John Laurie as Pt Frazer
Pt Frazer's catch phrase was "We're doomed"
Iain Hardie, a lecturer in politics and international relations at the University of Edinburgh, said of harking back to the past: "People need to be careful of what they wish for here."

He said borrowers and lenders have been beneficiaries as well as victims of the modern banking system.

Amid the botched parades, training exercises and encounters with the German forces - "don't tell him your name Pike" among Capt Mainwaring's bungled warnings when the unit is captured - the Swallow Bank featured prominently in episodes of Dad's Army.

In The Miser's Hoard, Mainwaring tries to get undertaker Pt Frazer to bank his box of gold sovereigns to earn himself a commission.

Something Nasty in the Vault finds the captain and Sgt Wilson - a bank clerk - stuck in the Swallow's vault with an unexploded bomb.

Another episode, When Did You Last See Your Money?, has Cpl Jones going to the bank to deposit shopkeepers' 500 only to find he has turned up with a pound of sausages.

And High Finance sees Mainwaring trying to stop Jones from cashing cheques because the butcher's bank balance is in the red.

While some of the episode titles may ring true in today's banking crisis, banks, their customers and politicians may also have been borrowing recently from Cpl Jones best-known catch phrase: "Don't panic, don't panic."

Or even Pt Frazer's: "Dooomed, we're dooomed."

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