‘Banking’ on memories at Coleraine Probus Club

Coleraine Probus President Mike Turner greets club member Derick Woods, with members Des Johnston (L) and Eric Fulton (R).
Coleraine Probus President Mike Turner greets club member Derick Woods, with members Des Johnston (L) and Eric Fulton (R).

The speaker at the first Coleraine Probus Club meeting in March was member Derick Woods, who entertained everyone with a look at the lighter side of banking.

This came as something of a surprise as most members didn’t think there was anything funny about banks!

Derick was born and brought up in Kilrea, christened ‘Frederick’, he soon shortened his name. He spent is secondary school years as an ‘Inst’ boarder, joining the Northern Bank from school in the ‘60s as a ‘Junior’ in the coin counting room of the very formal head office. After his initial training he

was transferred to the Limavady branch. During his three year stay, Derick rented digs, sharing the five bedroom house with the owners and the ten or twelve other young men that resided there as well - cosy it was, and with no fear of feeling lonely!

Derick’s next transfer was back to Belfast and the Winsor Road branch, followed by a move to Coleraine and the original Northern Bank branch, which is now the Halifax office. The 70’s then saw a transfer to Bangor and digs on Seafront Road - this was a very ‘civilised’ branch and something of a luxury before his next move.

Getting promoted to the post of Cashier, Derick found himself in Newtonbutler. This was a ‘three-handed’ branch; a Manager, Cashier and a Junior. However, the lodgings, locals and other staff were all very friendly, sometimes a little too friendly, as he did find the late night after hours drinking

somewhat challenging. But this was also the time of ‘the Troubles’. The bank and his digs were bombed more than once, as well as customers and friends becoming victims of the ‘tit for tat’ shootings.

However, there were also so lighter times. Derick recalled one day in his lodgings hearing a noise and coming into the entrance hall he saw two bullocks coming through the front door. They pushed past him and went into the front room, as another two entered the house. Trying to remove the animals from the front room was a difficult and rather messy task, but not as difficult as removing to second pair that had managed to climb the stairs into the bedroom.

Derick was thirteen years in Newtonbutler before his next promotion and transfer. This was to the post of assistant manager at the larger Enniskillen branch, where he soon made more friends among the staff and people of the town. He was returning to Enniskillen from holiday on the day of the big bomb.

The following two weeks were some of the worst he had ever known, with funerals every day, many of which were people that he knew well or the children of the families he knew.

Derick had his last transfer and promotion to be manager of the Portglenone branch. The bank building is no longer there, but thousands of people visit it every year...This is because it is now part of the Cultra Folk Park.

The bank and manager’s house have been set up as it would have looked in the 1920s. Inside the bank is a plaque with all the managers names, their starting and finishing dates, EXCEPT for Derick, which shows his starting date only - but please don’t expect to see him still working there when next you visit. After 34 years with the Northern, Derick retired for the quieter life of Probus talks.