Royal Bank of Canada (Bahamas) RBC, opened its doors to savings customers on 2nd November 1908. The bank’s first three depositors, standing eagerly in line, were Bahamians. It could have easily been an Englishman or an American. There were a number of foreign residents living and working in Nassau at that time. We now know who these Bahamians were because in 1967, the last surviving of those three persons, named the other two.
There was tremendous anticipation surrounding RBC’s opening. More than anything else, for the people of New Providence, and the government of 1908, it meant a growing international confidence, in the small island chain, to produce domestic revenue. Revenue, by extension meant that enough money was being generated locally to underwrite the cost of banking operations. Revenue also meant surplus customer savings worth depositing.
Royal Bank opened in direct competition with local Bank of Nassau. As a result of Royal Bank of Canada just across the street, Bank of Nassau opened a new savings department in the hopes on not losing customers to RBC.
“A SAVINGS DEPARTMENT has been opened at the Bank of Nassau, in which accounts will be credited with interest at the rate of 3% per annum on the minimum monthly balance, payable quarterly.”
First 3 Bahamian depositors in Royal Bank of Canada in 1908
We now know who they are because in 1967, the last surviving of three, named the other two in a thoughtful letter to the newspaper. What is particularly interesting was that one of the depositors, on the line that morning of 2nd November 1908, was black. Whatever colour bars that existed at the time, it didn’t seem to extend to money.
1. Stafford Sands Sr.
Stafford Sands Sr. started working at Royal Bank of Canada shortly after it opened. Sands Sr. went on to build the City Markets food store chain across Nassau and a store in Abaco. He died in 1965 at the age of 77. He was born around 1888.
In 1908, when Stafford stood in line, as one of the first three depositors in RBC, he would have been around 20 years old.
2. Bill Albury
Whoever Bill Albury was remains a mystery. We know that Albury was Bahamian. There were a number of William Alburys of the era. However, the exact one, is unknown at this time.
3. Cleveland H. Reeves
Cleveland Harrington Reeves (1889-1985)
C. H. Reeves would have been 19 years old, in November 1908, as he stood in the queue, to open a savings account at the new Royal Bank of Canada. By October 1916, whatever savings Reeves had probably came in handy as he was married that year. Reeves married Mary Lucille Robinson, originally from Fort Davis, Alabama. She was an educator like her new husband Cleveland.
By 1955, Cleveland H. Reeves, had already completed an astonishing 40 years of government service. Reeves had served in the Nassau school system, as a customs officer in the Bahamas General Hospital, as a magistrate and district commissioner as well as paymaster of the Bahamas Police Force.
There is a school in Nassau named after Cleveland H. Reeves.
LETTER WRITTEN BY C. H. Reeves 1967
PRAISE FOR THE MAN AT THE ROYAL BANK
As one goes about our City and visits business places, banks, government departments etc, one comes into contact with many, many different types of people. From the encounters one gets to know something about people. Now Sir, for over 55 years I have been doing business with many organisations, including the Royal Bank of Canada. Today I am the only living Bahamian who has been a regular and constant depositor at the Bank and this without a single break.
I can well remember the morning the doors of this now popular Bank opened for the first time. Waiting to go in and make a deposit with three Bahamians – the late Bill Albury, the late Stafford Sands senior, and your humble servant.
Sir George Gamblin was, if I remember rightly, the Royal Banks first Bahamian Manager. But, this is not the beginning of the Royal Banks history of operating in the Bahamas. I would like to mention one of the banks officers, Mr J McNabb, who has served the public well and has attracted not only the attention of my wife and myself, but also many customers who daily visit the Bank.
I have travelled quite a bit over Europe, Canada, and America, visiting banks and bankers, and I can honestly say that in all my travels I have never met a nicer gentleman in his dealings with the public and Mr McNabb.
I feel that when one finds such an individual in any of our public places here, we should bring such high qualities to the notice of both the public and the individual’s employer. Yours et cetera. CLEVELAND H. REEVES , J.P.