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Then there was Light - Irelands Rural Electrification

Then there was light


Donegal County Museum, as part of the Bealtaine Festival, invites you to join PJ Cunningham and Dr Joe Kearney, authors of the book 'Then There Was Light’ - Stories behind the installation of Ireland’s Rural Electrification Scheme, to hear eyewitness memories and stories of the roll-out of the Rural Electrification Scheme across Ireland and Donegal over 70 years ago.


This event will take place in the County Museum at 2pm on Saturday 20 May 2017.


Ireland’s Rural Electrification Scheme was one of the defining and most transformative projects in the history of the State, particularly for rural Ireland and cost billions in the terms of today’s money.


In May 1939, Sean Lemass, Minister for Industry and Commerce, asked the ESB to prepare plans for supplying rural areas with electricity. A detailed investigation was undertaken, directed by Dr Thomas McLaughlin with two assistants, Paddy Dowling and Alphonsus McManus who was from County Donegal. The Rural Electrification Scheme began in 1946 and by the mid 1960s over 80% of rural households had been connected.


It was known as The Quiet Revolution’. It transformed lives by helping to get rid of the drudgery of both home and farm life, by providing “electricity at the flick of a switch”. We often forget that many Irish families made do with candle light, paraffin lamps and hauled water from pumps and wells until the mid 1960s.


Bringing electricity to rural Ireland was quite a challenge, and obstacles were faced both practically and culturally.   Many people were originally afraid of “the electric” and were concerned that it would set fire to their houses. Others could not afford to install it.  JJ O'Kane Electrical Engineering was responsible for bringing electricity to the homes of West Donegal in the rural electrification of the 1950s.


Admission free and all are welcome.


Bookings to Donegal County Museum, High Road, Letterkenny, Co Donegal


Tel: 074 9124613 Email:


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