Image: photograph of Thomas Lillie, 1920s © RBS 2018
Thomas Lillie (c.1877-1949) worked for the Royal Bank of Scotland from 1892 until his retirement in 1939.
Background and early life
Thomas Lillie was born in Glasgow in about 1877, the son of a banker and his wife. He had three brothers and three sisters.
The Royal Bank of Scotland
In March 1892, at the age of 15, Thomas Lillie went to work as an apprentice in Glasgow Trongate branch of the Royal Bank of Scotland. In January 1896 he transferred to Glasgow Charing Cross branch.
In 1898 he moved to the bank’s head office in Edinburgh, possibly through the influence of his aunt’s brother Adam Tait, who was then the bank’s secretary and later became its cashier and general manager. He worked in the bank’s law department, and also attended legal classes at Edinburgh University. In around 1907 he became a branch inspector.
In April 1910 he returned to Glasgow as sub agent of the bank’s main branch there. In June 1920 he was appointed Glasgow agent, one of the bank’s most senior executive roles. The job title changed to manager in 1924. He held the post until his retirement in June 1939. During those years, Glasgow was expanding rapidly to form new suburbs. Lillie was extensively involved in advising the bank on these developments, recommending suitable locations for new branches. Around a dozen new branches of the Royal Bank opened around Greater Glasgow in those years, in areas such as Stepps, Bearsden and indeed Strathblane, where Lillie himself lived.
Other roles, activities and interests
Thomas Lillie was a president of the Glasgow Bankers’ Debating Society and served for many years as a member of the council of the Institute of Bankers in Scotland.
He was a leading member of the Rotary International movement and had a long association with the League of Nations Union.
He was a justice of the peace for the city of Glasgow and treasurer of his local church. In retirement he became more active in Church of Scotland affairs, sitting on several of the church’s finance committees.
He enjoyed travelling in Europe and North and South America.
While living in Edinburgh Thomas Lillie fell in love with his cousin (daughter of his father’s brother) Helen Lillie. They married in 1912, initially living in Glasgow before moving out to Strathblane, 12 miles outside the city.
They had one daughter, Helen, born in September 1915. She became a well-known author and journalist, living most of her adult life in the United States of America.
Retirement and death
In November 1938 Lillie wrote to the bank’s head office asking for permission to retire, citing the constant pressure of a busy office, in particular the demands of the ‘perpetual telephone’. Arrangements for a successor were made, and Lillie retired in June 1939.
In 1947 Lillie and his wife moved to Edinburgh. Not long afterwards he became ill with lung cancer. He died around four months later, on 20 November 1949.