Irish paper money
Interlink icon
Link to Irishpapermoney main page
Link to Irish papermoney Forum


Home < Main Site Map > Banknotes of the Irish Private Banks >
O'Neill's Bank, Waterford

Banknotes of the Irish Private Banks
O'Neill's Bank, Waterford


Waterford, Ireland mapO'Neill's Bank Waterford arms symbolO'Neill's Bank Waterford silver note

O'Neill's, Waterford - 2 Series, Sole banker

John O'Neill's Bank is notorious for being a small badly run bank with a large note issue

John O’Neill registered his bank on 24th May 1799, and ran it on his own with no other partners. It was not unusual for bankers to operate as sole traders, Bank of Kings Court in Co Cavan, Joseph Carshore in Co. Tipperary, and Denis Moylan in Cork are all examples of sole traders issuing notes in small quantities. However, what distinguishes O'Neill is the size of his note issue, and this is why O'Neill's bank is often held up as an example of what was wrong with private bankers who issued notes.

This bank has often been cited as an example of one of the more reckless operations, and an example of a bank founded simply to issue notes.

However, it may have been a case of inexperience in banking rather than a 'Cowboy' operation, as the bankruptcy proceedings indicate that John O’Neill had a substantial property portfolio in Waterford, Wexford, Tipperary and Limerick.

It appears that he made the mistake of having too much of his capital tied up in non-liquid assets and could not sustain a run on his bank.

O'Neills Bank Failure 1801

The bank failed on 27 May 1801. Bankruptcy proceedings were under way against John O’Neill in September 1802 [2. Saunders’s Newsletter, 25 August 1802, as cited by Kenny & Turner, 2019].

The bank survived in business for just two years and failed catastrophically with a substantial outstanding note issue, estimated at more than £88,000 of a total of £160,000 in issued notes [3. O'Kelly, 1959, p24], with an additional £30,000 of silver notes (those below £1 in value, denominated in shillings). Considering that many of the notes were denominted in shillings, this is a lot of paper.

John O'Neill died soon after the failure of his bank [4. Young, 1973]. It is not known what proportion of the debts of the bank were paid to the creditors.

O'Neill's Bank Note issues, Guinea Notes and Silver Notes denominated in Shillings

The bank issued 'silver notes', those denominated in Shillings payable to the bearer on demand in 'National Bank Paper', meaning Bank of Ireland notes. Many banks issued Silver Notes, the most well-known of which were the two Silver Banks, in Malahide and Bray. Silver notes have also been recorded for Ffrench's Tuam Bank.

O'Neill's also issued notes and post bills denominated in Guineas.

Two Series of notes known for O'Neill's Bank

There are two series by design known for O'Neill's Bank, and one Type by partnership.

Series 1. Banknotes payable in 'National Bank Paper', indicating notes of the Bank of Ireland. Earlier design with circonflex over O of O Neill in the bank title. Seen on notes denominated in Shillings dated in 1799.

Denominations recorded: 9 Shillings. Others likely

Series 2. Adjustments made to the design of banknotes. Circonflex over O of O Neill in the bank title discontinued, and an apostrophe added after the O, giving O'Neill. Denomination in words in the centre of notes changed to oblique title case in place of plain uppercase. Typeface of Waterford changed from script to gothic style. Redesign of border around the main denomination in words on bottom left. Small number added above the bank logo symbol on notes denominated in Shillings, but not on Guinea notes.

Denominations recorded: 3 Shillings nine and a half pence, 6 Shillings, 9 Shillings, 5 Guineas, 7 Guineas. Post Bills: 3 Guineas, 4 Guineas.

O'Neill's Bank, Series 1 and Series 2 notes, detail of circonflex

O'Neill's Bank design differences

Series 1

O'Neills Bank Waterford, 9 Shillings, 24 November 1799
O'Neills Bank Waterford, 9 Shillings, 24 November 1799, payable in 'National Bank Paper'

Series 2

O'Neills Bank Waterford, 9 Shillings, 12 July 1800
O'Neills Bank Waterford, 9 Shillings, 12 July 1800

O'Neills Bank Waterford, 6 Shillings, 1 March 1801
O'Neills Bank, 6 Shillings, 1 March 1801

O'Neills Bank, 3 Shillings 9 and a half Pence, 1st Sept 1800
O'Neills Bank, 3 Shillings 9 Pence Halfpenny, 1st Sept 1800

O'Neills Bank, 5 Guineas, 18 November 1799
O'Neills Bank, 5 Guineas, 18 November 1799 (Five Pounds, Thirteen Shillings and Ninepence)


1. Blake, R., Callaway, J. (2009). Paper Money of Ireland.
2. Kenny, S., Turner, J. D. (2019). "Wildcat bankers or political failure? The Irish financial pantomime, 1797–1826", European Review of Economic History 24(4).
3. O’Kelly, E. (1959). The Old Private Banks and Bankers of Munster. Cork: Cork University Press.
4. Young, D. (Sept-Oct 1973). The Private Banks and Their Notes, O'Neill's Bank (Waterford) 1799-1801, Irish Numismatics Magazine, No. 35, pp. 203-204.

TOP Version 3.0.3 Copyright ©2000 - 2022, M Mac Devitt.