SBI chief general manager (Northeast Circle) Ramesh R S hands over the ATM to Dr R Nongrum, the medical superintendent of Dr Gordon Roberts Hospital. (HT photo)
SBI chief general manager (Northeast Circle) Ramesh R S hands over the ATM to Dr R Nongrum, the medical superintendent of Dr Gordon Roberts Hospital. (HT photo)

ATM installed at Shillong hospital where its inventor was born nearly a century ago

The historic Dr H
By David Laitphlang
PUBLISHED ON AUG 10, 2021 10:16 AM IST

The historic Dr H. Gordon Roberts Hospital in Shillong, which will cross a century next year, got an automated teller machine (ATM) installed at its premises this Saturday--thanks to the State Bank of India.

But authorities of both the bank and the hospital forgot about John Adrian Shepherd Barron, the inventor of the ATM machine, who was born in the same hospital almost a century ago.

Inaugurating the ATM, Ramesh RS, the Chief General Manager (Northeast Circle) of SBI told the small gathering, “On behalf of SBI, we are really delighted to have this opportunity to have an ATM in this iconic hospital, which has completed almost 100 by its hospital for the yeomen service to the people of Meghalaya and neighbouring states since time immemorial and now, especially amidst the greatest health challenge mankind has ever had to face; the life consuming Covid-19 pandemic.

The small but meaningful gathering was attended by the bank’s Deputy General Manager Amit Kumar and other officers while the hospital was represented by its Medical Superintendent, Dr Roken Nongrum.

John Adrian Shepherd Barron was born at the Gordon Robert Hospital in Shillong on June 23, 1925; about three years after the hospital came into existence. His father was Wilfred Shepherd Barron, the Chief Engineer of the Chittagong Port Commissionerate and his mother was Dorothy, an Olympic tennis player and a Wimbledon Women’s Doubles champion.

The Shillong-born British innovator had joined De La Rue a British company headquartered in Basingstoke, England that manufactures polymer and security printed products including banknotes and tax stamps in the 1950s as a management trainee and swiftly rose the ranks to become the Managing Director in record time.

Galvanised by chocolate vending machines, he conceived what at that point of time surely sounded ridiculous, the idea of cash vending machines as well. Interestingly, the ‘Eureka’ bolt of creating a self-service machine dispensing cash came to him whilst lying in the bath.

The first De La Rue Automatic Cash System (DACS) machine, called Barclaycash, was installed outside the Enfield branch of Barclays Bank in north London in June 1967. And, the first person to withdraw cash at the DACS machine was actor Reg Varney, a celebrity resident of Enfield.

Now, life without ATMs is almost impossible for all kinds of financial transactions across the globe.

Though there is no record of the British innovator leaving Shillong, it is apparent that the family left after his Scottish father took over as the Chief Engineer of the Port of London Authority.

John Adrian Shepherd Barron was educated at Stowe School, the University of Edinburgh and Trinity College, Cambridge. During World War II, he was commissioned into the Airborne Forces, serving with the 159th Parachute Light Regiment.

The innovator of ATM died on May 15, 2010 after a brief illness at the age of 84 at the Raigmore Hospital at Inverness in Scotland.

His son, Nicholas Shepherd-Barron is professor of algebraic geometry at the King’s College London. EOM

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