Donegal workers feature in electrifying new book

History of ESB Rural Electric Scheme

By Staff Reporter

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Book

The cover of the new release "Then There Was Light".

The stories of three Donegal residents 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.


John McArt is originally from Raphoe but now lives in Sligo. He recalls how his father Pat got a two-week start from a kind boss and ended up working for 40 years in the ESB.
Creeslough resident, Moira Gallagher now lives in Lifford and her contribution is a moving poem entitled Measuring The Poles, where she focuses on her blind granduncle’s reaction to the coming of the light around their home.


Malin Head-Cardonagh native Des Doherty is a former ESB manager. His story, The Donegal Coasters, explains how the poles sourced for the Rural Electrification Scheme, mostly from Scandinavia, landed in western ports that were often too small for the size of ship trying to dock with the poles on board.


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.