Tuesday 21 May 2019

Long serving meter reader Mick retires after 56 years

Mick Duffin (left) in John F Kennedy Arboretum with John Carroll
Mick Duffin (left) in John F Kennedy Arboretum with John Carroll

David Looby

Mick Duffin was one of the youngest meter readers in the country when he set out across the district with his father John 'Ginger' Duffin in the 1950s.

By the time he retired in September after 56 years service with the ESB, he left with the distinction of being the longest serving meter man in the country. Mick, 72, from Ballycullane, recalled travelling across the district in all kinds of weather with his father as a youngster,

'I'd be standing on the chair and reading them for him. Back then there was only 100 houses from Fethard to the Hook and now there are 1,250 houses in the same area.'

The meter run his father had differed greatly to Mick's. When Ginger started rural electrification had only recently arrived in parts of the district. Today there are over ten thousand houses powered by electricity across the district.

When Mick turned 18 in 1962 he started working and enjoyed the freedom the job allowed him. 'You would do the readings over four days in your own time. People would invite you in for tea and it was like the postmen years ago. People's didn't see anyone for a long time and you would have to talk to them. I met lovely people in my work.'

In the old days he had to copy and write down every MPRN and meter reading and they would be posted in. After a few decades hand-held computers came in and he was able to download the readings to Cork. Mick recalls his days working in New Ross as being among his busiest. 'On Hospital Road I could take around 250 readings on average in a day and one some days up to 400.'

Barring exceptionally snowy or windy days, Mick was always able to get his readings. One of the hazards of the job was the dog bite and Mick got his fair share over the years. These days its big electrical gates that posed most problems for the friendly meter reader.

For 47 of the 56 years Mick also worked driving a taxi for the health board from County Wexford to hospitals in Dublin, Cork and Galway. He considered retiring 15 years ago when his son Ivan died in a crash in Slieverue, but decided to continue working.

A friendly man, who always goes out of his way to help people, Mick would always be stopped in New Ross when his wife Carmel was in shopping with a big 'Hello Mick!'.

He has fond memories of working with people like John Caulfield, Barry McManus, Tom Sullivan, Pat Sheehan and many more men at the ESB compound on Robert Street.

Mick said with plans to introduce smart electricity meter readers the days of the meter man will soon be no more. 'People have changed. They used to ask you in for a cup of tea but now everyone is too busy.'

Mick did his final reading in Campile in late September.

'People knew I was going but it was emotional once I handed back the hand-held meter reader. They had a little party for me and my family and I went to Kelly's on Saturday night for a treat.'

He was thrilled to get a lovely card signed by all of the ESB staff in Cork thanking him for his support over the years, saying Mick was always a friendly voice on the other end of the phone.

Now living in Burkestown, Ballycullane, Mick is looking forward to spending more time with his wife Carmel, son John and daughter Melissa.

New Ross Standard