Tuesday 6 December 2016

The shock of the new: ESB throws open its archive

Published 23/04/2016 | 02:30

Old Ireland meets new in 1957
Old Ireland meets new in 1957
A young Liam Cosgrave (on right) with his brother Michael and his parents, WT Cosgrave and his wife Louisa, at the official opening of Ardnacrusha power station on July 22, 1929
An RDS home exhibit from the 1960s
An RDS refrigeration exhibit from May 1960

The fascinating 90-year history of the ESB, which helped bring Ireland into the modern age, has been painstakingly catalogued in an electrifying new website.

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A four-person team of archivists has been amassing a wealth of photographs, film archives, records, maps and advertising posters since 1991 that traces the history of the Electricity Supply Board as it celebrates its 90th anniversary next year.

The website, www.esbarchives.ie, provides a stunning audio and visual history of Ireland's first semi-State body, which utterly transformed life in Ireland with the Shannon Scheme hydroelectric project in the 1920s.

The ground-breaking engineering feat - the largest in Europe at the time - was regarded as the "Eighth Wonder of the World".

It not only brought electricity to Ireland for the first time on a large scale, it was also regarded as a major national and international tourist attraction - some 250,000 visitors travelled to Limerick to marvel at its construction.

"It was constructed against all odds, at a time when we were just coming out of the Civil War," said chief archivist Deirdre McParland.

Fuelled by a slick advertising campaign that began in 1928 promoting the wonders of electricity to both the housewife and industrialist, "Switching On" celebrations took place in virtually every parish when the Rural Electrification Scheme was later rolled out to 792 rural districts.

"There was a great sense of national pride and opening the door to the world," Ms McParland said.

Irish Independent

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