ESB launches new film archive

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the establishment of ESB’s Public Relations Department, ESB has launched previously unseen film footage commissioned by the organisation dating back to the 1920s.

The film archive – hosted on esbarchives.ie/film - offers a unique insight into the social, cultural and economic development of Ireland at this time and up to the 1980s. The archive was launched at the PRII 65th annual conference in Dublin.

ESB first dipped its toes into the film world when they entered an agreement in April 1928 with the First National Pathé Film Company to record the construction of Ireland’s first hydroelectric station on the River Shannon at Ardnacrusha in Co Clare. The film was subsequently shown in cinemas, school and colleges nationwide to educate the country on the importance of the development.

From the 1950s to 1980s, ESB employed the services of acclaimed Austrian filmmaker George Fleischmann who incidentally crash landed in Ireland while on a surveillance mission during World War II. Interned at the Curragh Camp, he produced 15 films for ESB.

The first of his documentaries – ‘Power to Progress’ – details the infrastructural work carried out by ESB up to 1955 including the development of hydro, peat and coal stations. Domestic and social scenes from the 1950s are also captured including the focus on promoting the all-electric house.

Outlining the importance of this archive to recording Ireland’s history, Pat O’Doherty, Chief Executive of ESB, said: “The films, preserved in ESB Archives, illustrate ESB’s contribution in the evolution of a new and changing Ireland with many having cultural, educational, historical and social significance. The early documentaries were broadcast in cinemas or local screenings at a time before television arrived, opening Irish society to a brighter future through the electrification of the entire country.  We are delighted to release the films online for everyone to enjoy from all corners of the world.”

The documentary More Power to the Farmer’ produced in 1957, 11 years into the Rural Electrification Scheme featured the Irish actor John Cowley who later starred in the television series, The Riordans. The documentary details the impactful story of rural electrification throughout this transformative time in Irish history, described as the greatest social revolution in Ireland since the land reforms of the 1880s.

The 1961 short film ‘Modern Living Country Style’ filmed at the RDS on the occasion of the Horse Show features the journalist and the first female Lord Mayor of Limerick City, Francis Condell, demonstrating the most modern country home equipped with new electric appliances transforming the lives of Irish housewives through innovative design.

ESB employees were a regular feature in many of the documentaries, in particular the 1972 documentary on Turlough Hill, Co Wicklow, Peak Power, dedicated entirely to the workers. It features interviews with the employees who contributed to the largest pumped storage civil engineering project of its time.

One of the most recent films in the archive is Tomorrow’s House Today which depicts the planning and construction of six houses in Kilcock, Co Kildare with each fitted with various different electrical and insulation systems. The results were monitored and analysed by ESB to ensure that the most efficient building and insulation techniques will be used in the future.

For further enquiries regarding the film archive please email esbarchives@esb.ie. Addition also ‘To view the complete film archive please visit www.esbarchives.ie/film

About ESB Archives

ESB Archives collect, preserve and make accessible the historical records of ESB from its foundation in 1927. This unique collection is a rich resource providing information on many aspects of ESB history including the Shannon Scheme, Rural Electrification, development of generation stations, overseas development, advertising marketing and promotional material and historical collections of photographs, film and video.

Visit www.esbarchives.ie for further information.

About the PRII

The PRII is the professional representative body for Public Relations and Communications specialists in Ireland. Established in 1953 by, among others, Ned Lawlor of the ESB, the Institute is dedicated to promoting the professional, ethical practice of public relations in Ireland, and to serving the best interests of people working in the profession. There are over 900 members of the Institute today working across all sectors, in consultancies, government and semi state bodies, voluntary and business organisations.