[Dave Birch] Younger readers of the this blog may be unaware that the noted celebrity Sir Paul McCartney, who is famous for being divorced by a woman with one leg, was once a member of a popular beat combo, “The Beatles“, who were very well-known indeed in the 1960s. Other members of The Beatles included the now no longer with us George Harrison and John Lennon.

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Younger readers, having grown up in the era of Visa and PayPal, may also be unaware that at the time The Beatles were famous, the British government had instituted “exchange controls”. Under that system, there were strict regulations concerning the export and import of money from the United Kingdom. You weren’t allowed to take as much money as you liked on holiday and that sort of thing. I’m not entirely sure why. According to my history book, exchange controls were instituted to stabilise the economy, so they must have worked pretty well in 1973 when there was a three-day week because of power cuts, hyper-inflation and a collapsing pound. Perhaps they were a hangover from 17th century mercantilism of the kind that was so successful in retaining North America as part of the British Empire by preventing the export of bullion to the colonies (so our inventive Yankee cousins used the Native Americans’ seashells — wampun — instead and went on to use it buy coffee instead of tea). Anyway, the U.K. newspapers are today reporting that hitherto unpublished Bank of England documents show that, in 1973, the aforementioned George Harrison and John Lennon were under investigation by the Bank for violating exchange controls, shipping millions of pounds (at today’s values) in and out of the U.K. on the quiet. The Bank found that the popsters were technically guilty of the offenses but that prosecuting them would not be in the public interest.

What an window on a vanished world! Apparently, in those days, if you sent money from one bank account to another it could take three days to get there! Of course now we have laser beams and computers, so that today (well, sometime next year anyway) it will only take hours.

3 comments

  1. Those were the days! I remember working on the Foreign Desk when you were only allowed £25 of spending money (which actually went quite a long way in Greece in the 1970s). That, of course, was only for the normal punters as there were various ways round this such as Business Trips and a certificate from your Doctor saying you needed to live on the shores of the Med during the winter!

  2. I was just about to say that I remember the £25 limit too. It was this that was almost solely responsible for the growth of the British package tourism industry.

  3. “I was just about to say that I remember the £25 limit too”
    I’m proud to say that I don’t, but I’m not sure if it was because I was too young or too poor.

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