Mayo people recall rural electrification in new book

The stories of six Mayo people feature prominently in a new book recalling 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 undertaking by the fledgling independent nation.

Rhoda Twombly writes lyrically to describe the arrival of electricity in Inishlyre – but only at the turn of the century. She may like the modernity that it brought but is not above comparing the advantages of ‘outage’ time when it occurs.

Vincent Fahy, who was an ESB engineer and official in the early fifties, fondly recalls returning to his native Mayo to oversee work on various areas from Crossmolina to Belmullet through Bangor Erris.

Clogher-based Sean Hallian’s story, 'Solus Ar Bharr Bata', beautifully links light into the family story legacies. The stories of Mayo-born Mark McGaugh, now living in Surrey, England, and Anna Jacob Tolan help draw us into the fascination with what light and power could achieve, while Hollymount’s Joe Keane writes a contribution which has a sense of scene-setting and mischief in equal measure.

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.


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