The 2nd D-Day was on the 15th of Feb 1971. I remember it well as I was heavily involved converting ICI’s Sales & Purchases Accounts (SPA) computer system to the new currency. We had to balance the total change in every account to the penny(d) including all rounding’s There had to be rounding’s in the conversion as 1 new pence equalled 2.4 old pence. Total money involved was around £250 million and it had to be done on 1 single day. My annual salary at that time was around £1300 so that £250 million would be several billions in today’s prices.
Of course, I’m talking about Decimalisation of Pounds, Shillings & Pence to Pounds & New Pence. Many people were confused by the new currency and annoyed that they hadn’t been consulted. There was no referendum and they didn’t want to get rid of the half-crown and ha’penny and the thruppenny bit and the sixpence and shillings and later the 10 Bob Note and they were used L s d not P &NP (Pounds/New Pence). They also thought that prices would go up. Funnily enough the Irish had to convert their currency on the same day but not to the Euro. The Banks were closed from the 10th Feb to 10 am on the 15th Feb so that they could clear outstanding Cheques and transactions and convert our Accounts. Most of this was done manually as they were not very computerised at that time and Business’s had update their tills and price lists to the new currency. Shops generally displayed old and new prices and shopkeepers complained bitterly that they weren’t compensated for the extra cost. Most Business’s allowed for both currencies to be used as the Government realised that there would be riots if old money couldn’t be used for some time. Market traders in particular hated the new money. ”10 pairs of Nylons for 50p” instead of ”10 for 10 bob”!!
The Government had introduced 5p and 10p coins ahead of time and allowed 1 shilling & 2 shillings coins to be used alongside them. The new coins were 1p,2p,5p,10p and 50p. The coins that were disappearing were 1/2d,3d,6d and the half-crown (2s/6d). The guinea (£1/1s) was still legal tender for certain purposes but was now (£1&5p).
There was a very vocal campaign to retain the much-loved sixpence which was exactly 2 and a half new pence and this was successful. My Mother always put sixpences covered in greaseproof paper in her Christmas Puds.
What I miss most is the change to our language. Gone are phrases like two bob and half a sixpence, thruppence and a ha’penny, and a tanner and farthings and a 10-bob note. We however still use terms like a “quid” and tenpence. No youngster would understand ”half a crown” or Florin today but would understand 10p(ee). The Government wanted people to call the currency New Pence but everybody just used the letter P(ee).
My old Maths professor at Edinburgh University thought Decimalisation was an adverse step as it would make the general public less numerate as they wouldn’t have to deal with 12 pence to the shilling and 20 shillings to the pound!! I think I agree.
Cllr Rab Parry FEB 21