Limerick memories of Rural Electrification Scheme

Machinery being unloaded at Limerick Docks for Shannon hydro-electric scheme
Machinery being unloaded at Limerick Docks for Shannon hydro-electric scheme

The stories of two Limerick people feature prominently in a unique book of memories of the roll-out of the Rural Electrification Scheme across the country 70 years ago this month.

Then There Was Light is a collection of tales of the time when Ireland left the dark ages as the ESB brought electricity to even the most remote communities in the largest ever undertaking by the fledgling independent nation.

Clareview resident Pauline Brew tells an intriguing tale of how herself and her siblings used the recently installed electricity to ensure a hated cousin stopped coming from England to spend long summer holidays on their farm.

It involved sufficient understanding of knowing when a pulse ran through an electric fence to get their cousin to touch it at the wrong time. Like the cows, it only took one shock to repel him for life from visiting the place.

Retired University of Limerick vice-president, Noel Mulcahy, produces a story that hit the high notes during wet days while out working on the Rural Electrification Scheme.

Sometimes as he set out the route for the workers to follow with poles, Noel discovered that there was more to the job than positioning his survey tripod. While surveying in the field, there was also a scary encounter with a bull baying for blood.

This book, co-edited by PJ Cunningham and Dr Joe Kearney, contains scores of stories celebrating the 70th anniversary of the scheme that eventually wound up in the late 1970s.

The stories for this collection come from eyewitnesses, ESB employees and the general public as they recall the suspicions, worries and welcome the scheme faced during arguably the most important rural Ireland undertaking in our history.

They are diverse in subject matter and geographical spread and encapsulate the pioneering work carried out on what became a rapidly changing rural landscape.