ESB Rural Electrification of Clashmore in 1958
The ESB Rural Electrification Scheme rolled into the Clashmore District in the Spring of 1958 covering the areas of Clashmore, Piltown, Aglish & Villierstown. It was stated in the local press that “the introduction of this scheme should mark the beginning of a new era of progress and prosperity for the people of the district. It will eliminate drudgery and make life easier for all and on the farm will make for efficiency and lower production costs…” and it was initially expected to cost approx. £120,000.
Preparatory work began during March 1958 and it was reported in the first week of April that the scheme was progressing and had provided much employment in the area. As some will no doubt remember, Jack Douris, Coolbagh was a member of the initial planning and installation team (under a Rural Area Engineer Mr. Michael Kearney) and he was sent ahead of the main group by about six weeks to survey and peg where the poles were going to be located.
Unfortunately efforts had been seriously hindered by the fact that fifty initial applicants for installation had since defected due to an element of scaremongering that had gone on due to fears over the risk of fires in the home. It was said that if the number of defectors had been larger that it would surely have been a mortal blow for the scheme and the opportunity would be missed for all those patrons who had waited so long for connection. Within a week or so, the situation had dwindled further with only slightly over 50% of the total households signed up and the ESB had stated it would not be economical for them to continue. If the situation had persisted the ESB would certainly have moved on quickly to the next area and indeed work was stopped for a short time and up to thirty workers were temporarily laid off due to this hitch.
Strong appeals were made to patrons to take advantage of the scheme while it was available, including public appeals at Sunday masses. Doubling down on this effort, the Parish Curate at the time Fr. Michael Power was in such strong favour of the scheme that he took to touring around the parish, driven by local lady Mary Douris (nee Coughlan), to canvass every individual household in an effort to persuade and reassure patrons to sign up to the scheme. By the middle of April, it was reported that numbers of ‘acceptors’ in Clashmore and Aglish had significantly increased and that full-scale development of the scheme would resume by the end of the month. Other patrons who were yet to make up their mind were given until April 30th to register their interest.
An ESB office and salesroom was set up in Clashmore and another salesroom was located in the village of Aglish in Hallihan’s Pub/Shop (pictured) which was manned by a member of the ESB Sales Team named Joe Ryan, who was from Galway. It was reported in the Rural Electrification Office magazine, the “REO News” issue of August 1958 that “Sales are well organised in Clashmore. Mr. Ryan has a nice Showroom organised which stocks almost the full range of equipment. He introduces sales at the pre-construction canvas, records prospects and brings his records up-to-date during area construction…”.
Finally after ten years in the waiting for local residents, the lights were eventually switched on on Friday, May 30th 1958. Subsequently by the end of June, the ESB carried out demonstrations at both Clashmore an Aglish which were very well attended. As can be seen in the fantastic photo from the ESB Archives, the demo at Clashmore was held across from the creamery and was accompanied by a ‘film show’ to show off the advantages of electrical appliances. This particular photo appears to have been taken at ‘milk’ time, that time of day when farmers brought their milk churns to the Creamery which explains why there are so many vehicles around and indeed some drays pulled into the Creamery yard.
By the middle of August, the scheme had been so successful that it was reported that applications were to be made to extend the scope of installation to the areas of Ballycurrane, Lickeybeg & Kilgabriel. Between April and September of that year, a total of 1,003 poles had been installed in the area holding approx. 86km of lines and 184 premises had been connected and hence many lives had been changed forever in the process.
The final chapter of this pioneering story was a ‘Grand Social’ held in Clashmore on Friday September 19th to mark the completion of the scheme which by all accounts drew a huge local crowd to celebrate the success of such a large undertaking.
BibliographyDungarvan Observer, April – September 1958
ESB Archives & REO News Magazine, 1958
Sincere thanks to Edel Douris for her help in researching this article.