Lighting up the land - how electrification changed rural Ireland
Rural electrification, which began 70 years ago and finished in 1978, was an epic undertaking
Published 12/10/2016 | 02:30
The Rural Electrification Scheme took Ireland out of the dark ages as one million poles were erected to carry light and power to every corner of the country.
The roll out for that mammoth undertaking began 70 years ago this November and continued until 1978.
In that timespan, the countryside was transformed by ESB workers who brought electricity to the smallholdings and cottages and almost immediately by those same rural people who used the new resource to grow the wealth of the nation.
The historic installation by the ESB over more than 30 years spawned a myriad of stories, many of which are told for the first time in 'Then There Was Light'.
This is a collection of tales that arose during this seminal time in the making of modern Ireland. It is unique in that the anthology focuses on the recall from people who bought into the new venture as well as ESB staff and workers who were part of the major scheme.
Sometimes the communities and the staff got on well together and this led to new relationships and even marriage. In one story, two ESB staff who were staying in lodging over a pub while orchestrating the erection of polls across a county, took on a matchmaking role to get a shy publican up the aisle with the woman he loved but was afraid to seek out on his own.
On another occasion, as instanced in Con Foley's story 'Night of the Long Count in a Wicklow Village', the evening of the switch-on of power in Knockananna led to an all-night fracas between locals and ESB workers.