Credit Crunch?

W.J.A. Bryce’s Closing Gift

Three hearty cheers for William J.A. Bryce concluded an event on a Wednesday evening in 1903 at the Milton School of Arts. Bryce had been manager of the Milton branch of the English, Scottish & Australian (ES&A) Bank for over thirteen years, but it was closing since the town had suffered a downturn in business. That evening, the townspeople expressed their thanks to Bryce by presenting him with this silver inkwell set. Today, their engraved message of thanks remains, but the rest of the gift – £20 10s 6d, which was placed under the lid of the crouching lion, was spent long ago.

Born in the Shoalhaven region, William J.A. Bryce (1858-1928) was appointed manager of the new branch of the ES&A Bank in Milton in 1891, at age 32. But it was a difficult time to be working in banking since the economic depression of the 1890s was one of the worst in Australian history. Milton’s businesses suffered a fifty per cent reduction in trade.

Bryce was known as a good community citizen who helped those in need, and readily approved loans for the local council and for the establishment of businesses such as the Conjola Butter Factory. He was courteous, cheerful, and generous and he considered it his duty to help with community progress. Despite the credit crunch, over 100 individuals contributed money for Bryce’s fancy farewell gift – testament to their appreciation and esteem.