Saturday, August 11, 2007

People Fret About the Most Inconsequential Trivia

The Wall Street Journal carries a post: ‘ Enigmatic Elgar’s Anniversary Year’ by Barrymore Laurence (9 August):

This year, Britain began changing the design of its £20 note. Why, you might ask, should this concern a music critic? Because while the obverse of the note bears a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, since 1999 the reverse has shown the composer Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934). And now, during his 150th anniversary year, Elgar is being replaced by the pioneering 18th-century economist Adam Smith. The timing seemed awkward, at least to this Yank.

“By telephone from London, the Bank of England's chief cashier, Andrew Bailey -- whose signature is on current British banknotes -- explained that the change came out of the periodic need to outsmart counterfeiters, "who tend to target the £20 note because it is the one most commonly circulated." Mr. Bailey assured me, however, that the changeover from Elgar to Smith will probably last through 2010. At this point, he said, only 10% to 20% of the 1.2 billion or 1.3 billion £20 notes in circulation have been replaced. "So you can see that a very large number of Elgar notes will remain in circulation throughout the Elgar year

So there we are a fuss about nothing by devotees of Elgar who fretted because Adam Smith, of whom some had never heard of, and some objected because he was Scottish and they wrongly thought the Bank of England was ‘English’, though it was founded by a Scotsman and is in fact the central bank of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and not specifically ‘English’.

So everybody has a 80-90 per cent chance throughout Elgar’s 150th anniversary year of receiving a £20 note with his image on it, not Smith’s, because the roll-out will take three years to replace it with the new Adam Smith note.

10 October 2007 is, of course, the 270th anniversary of Adam Smith’s matriculation at the University of Glasgow in 1737… and my family bought me a mint-condition ‘Adam Smith’ twenty-pound note and framed it for our dining room wall. In due course, the Bank of England will replace Adam Smith’s image with another.

I wonder if Scotland will still be in the United Kingdom by then?


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