This post is only tangentially – oh, go on then, not at all – related to money laundering, but I figure you will forgive me as it’s the daftest day of the year. Yesterday (Easter Sunday) I went out to dinner to a local restaurant – one of a chain of Italian eateries. I had downloaded from their website a voucher for money off our meal, and in the T&Cs it said “Not valid on Bank Holidays”. Being of a literal, compliant turn of mind, I checked at source (the UK government website) and confirmed that Easter Sunday is not a bank holiday – only Good Friday and Easter Monday are. But (you can see where this is going) the restaurant manager refused to agree with me and the government on this, and so I went home for beans on toast.
However, it did get me thinking about the whole concept of the “bank holiday”. I had vaguely thought that a bank holiday was a day on which the banking systems (originally human and now electronic) were shut down, and that therefore it was a day excluded from all calculations for cheque clearance, conveyancing, probate, etc. But the only banking link, as far as some cursory research reveals, is that in 1871 the banker Sir John Lubbock submitted to parliament a piece of legislation (which was passed as the Bank Holidays Act 1871) designating four extra days off work which were then termed Bank Holidays. (Christmas Day, Good Friday and all Sundays were already considered days of rest and worship and so did not need to be specified.) However, Sir John’s motivation was not to improve the lot of the working man, but to ensure that he himself could attend certain cricket matches. So it seems that it’s nothing whatsoever to do with whether the banks are open or not; had Sir John been a surgeon we might have end up with Hospital Holidays instead.