How the lights were turned off when the men were milking the cows - to save electricity
Published 05/10/2016 | 02:30
"To save power, he would get the men in under the cows milking and then turn off the electric light until they were finished about eight minutes later. He would then briefly turn on the light for them to strain the milk, and turn it off again between each cow milking."
This passage is from a story by Luke McGuinness of Meath, contained in an anthology of personal memories of rural electrification entitled Then There was Light, which has been published to mark the scheme's 70th anniversary.
I laughed at Luke's story, about a neighbour of his, which encapsulates one of the big obstacles to the scheme's roll-out, cost.
Rural dwellers of the era are often portrayed or regarded as mean but the country had been through tough times and people were wary of any wasteful behaviour.
The role of women
Women played a key role in the marketing of the scheme, recognising the potential to enhance their own lives. Farmers were often slow to see beyond the cost until they were asked by young ladies at dances whether they had "got the electricity in?"
Now when there is talk about restraining electricity use, is it more likely to be posited on environmental grounds than financial ones?
This is a delightful book, with its lively and moving evocation of the many events, suspicions and excitement associated with rural electrification. It is also a reminder of, excuse the pun, Ireland's darker days, with mention of fairies and superstitions. There is plenty of straight talk and colourful characters, such as Tadhg the Hill and Batt the Lift.