Have you ever wondered why Bank Holidays are called that?
After all, it isn’t only the banks that get a holiday.
So is it because the holidays started with the banks?
Well yes and no.
Sir John Lubbock was a Liberal MP.
He was a reformer who wanted to improve the lot of the working class.
Which, until that time, had been poverty and misery.
The Liberal party had already made some improvements:
Children under nine were no longer allowed to work.
Children under thirteen could only work six hours a day.
Children under thirteen also had to have two hours a day schooling.
Women could work no more than ten hours a day.
But Sir John Lubbock wanted more.
He wanted something that was unheard of for poor people.
The only time they got off was Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Lubbock wanted them to have four more days throughout the year.
He chose: Boxing Day, Easter Monday, Whit Monday, and the first Monday in August.
But this would never get through the House of Commons.
Most of the MPs, particularly the Conservatives, were landowners and industrialists.
The moneyed classes, who didn’t see why the work-shy lower classes should get time off to laze around and do nothing but sleep and drink.
It could start a trend.
They would start wanting more and more time off for more and more pay.
Until it became impossible for the ruling classes to keep the factories open at a profit.
Giving the working class time off would be taking money straight out of their employers’ pockets.
They’d never vote for it, Sir John Lubbock knew that.
But he also knew that the banks needed to close at various times during the year.
They needed to suspend transactions while they got their books in order.
And of course, lots of the MPs were bankers themselves, they could understand that.
So John Lubbock presented his bill as The Bank Holidays Act 1871.
It went through Parliament pretty much on the nod.
Most of the MPs who would have voted against public holidays didn’t even bother turning up to vote.
The Bank Holidays Act was passed.
The MPs had no idea how important this innocent sounding act was.
But Sir John Lubbock knew, if the banks were formally closed no business could be done.
A day off was inevitable for everyone.
And now it had passed into law.
Sir John Lubbock regarded it as his greatest political achievement.
He said "If we had called our bill the "General Holiday Bill" or the "National Holiday Bill" I doubt that it would have been approved. But the more modest name the "Bank Holiday Bill" attracted no attention".
Thanks to Sir John Lubbock, most of us who now work for a living take holiday entitlement for granted.
Because he got upstream and changed a problem he couldn’t solve into one he could.
That’s predatory thinking.
Sir John Lubbock
Dave Trott is chairman of The Gate
This article was first published on