Descendants of Sir William Arrol have been presented with a commemorative version of Clydesdale Bank’s £5 polymer banknote.
The polymer notes entered circulation in March to mark the 125th anniversary of the Forth Bridge, which was constructed by Sir William’s company, and to celebrate the nomination of the Forth Bridge for UNESCO World Heritage status.
In honour of Sir William’s role, the note features a portrait of the celebrated Scottish engineer.
A polymer £5 with a serial number representing Sir William’s birth date was gifted to Ellen Arrol, the oldest family member and a great niece of Sir William on 26 June. Other family members received a note in a collector’s case.
The ceremony was held in Paisley Library, which is hosting an exhibition about Sir William, who was born in Houston, Renfrewshire. His father was a cotton-spinner who later became a manager at J&P Coats thread manufacturers in Paisley. Sir William left school at the age of nine to work in a cotton mill in Johnstone, Renfrewshire, before leaving the industry five years later to pursue a blacksmith apprenticeship with Reids of Paisley.
Sir William went onto to become one of the world’s most prominent bridge builders. In addition to constructing the Forth Bridge Sir William’s company was also responsible for building other famous British landmarks including Tower Bridge in London.
The exhibition, “Sir William Arrol (1839-1913): The Renfrewshire Connection”, is being staged by Friends of Seafield House (FoSH). FoSH is a campaigning group that is working with SAVE Britain’s Heritage and others to SAVE Seafield House, Sir William Arrol’s former home in Ayr.
Ellen Arrol, whose grandfather James, William’s brother, was also an engineer and director of Arrol and Co, said: “We’re very proud of our family and their role in building the Forth Bridge. Sir William and my grandfather James weren’t just great engineers; they also helped to shape modern Scotland, connecting the country and creating jobs.”
Jamie Martin, Head of Payments at Clydesdale Bank, said: “We wish to pay tribute to Sir William’s family for their support during the launch of our first polymer banknotes.
“Clydesdale Bank introduced polymer banknotes because they are more durable and secure than paper currency. We felt that the best way to celebrate their landmark design was to showcase the Forth Bridge, which 125 years after opening remains one of Scotland’s best known examples of innovation and continues to inspire people all over the world.
“The Bank is also grateful to Friends of Seafield House for their assistance during the design of the note.”
The first fully polymer banknotes to enter circulation in Great Britain are made of a more durable material than existing paper notes.
Two million notes, worth £10 million, which combine images of the bridge with new security measures to create a unique design, will eventually enter circulation.
Clydesdale Bank is the largest issuer by volume of notes in Scotland. It introduces around £400 million of new notes every year and, earlier this year, reached the milestone of having more than £2bn worth of notes in circulation on a single day.
The exhibition opened one day after Renfrewshire Council voted to give the official green light to Paisley's bid for UK City of Culture 2021, to which the town's proud architectural, textile and design history will be central.