Then there was Light’: A unique collection of stories shines a light into Ireland’s Rural Electrification

  • Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment Denis Naughten TD launches book at National Ploughing Championships
  • Colourful eyewitness stories recall the suspicions, worries and welcome surrounding the scheme
  • Edited by PJ Cunningham and Dr Joe Kearney, the book charts one of the defining projects that modernised Ireland

TULLAMORE, 20 September 2016: Denis Naughten T.D.  Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment has this afternoon launched a unique collection of stories from a wide range of contributors recalling their memories and experiences of the Rural Electrification Scheme.

'Then There Was Light’ Stories behind the installation of Ireland’s Rural Electrification Scheme charts one of the defining projects that modernised Ireland, and rural Ireland in particular.

Edited by PJ Cunningham and Dr Joe Kearney and published by Ballpoint Press,  the eyewitness stories for this collection come from ESB employees and the general public as they recall the suspicions, worries and welcome the scheme faced.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Naughten stated:  “This book is eminently readable and hugely enjoyable. The wide variety of stories from the sixty or so diverse contributors form a social record of both the events and the people behind the scheme that shaped modern Ireland. This book highlights with great colour the perspiration and inspiration behind this hugely significant project for rural Ireland, from which we can draw many lessons as we face future challenges. I also look forward to hearing the voices of the contributors on the accompanying RTÉ radio documentary to be broadcast later in the year. ”

PC Lynch, Head of High Voltage Delivery and Contracting at ESB Networks said: “ESB is pleased to support this book as part of our programme to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Rural Electrification Scheme. This collection of stories, so brilliantly brought together and edited by both PJ Cunningham and Dr  Joe Kearney, provides a fresh insight and understanding on what was one of the most transformative projects in the history of the State. We are pleased that this episode of our shared history has been captured and safeguarded for future generations.”

PJ Cunningham, Co-Editor, stated: “Even after so many decades had elapsed, what struck us most was how vivid people's memories were. You sensed some could still smell the poles and possibly the roses too from that time. It was as if everyone knew this was a special experience in their lives and in their country's history - it was something they would never forget."

Dr Joe Kearney added:  "There is no doubt that the Rural Electrification Scheme was a seminal time in Ireland and it was a real pleasure to document the events and occurrences in 'Then There Was Light' that otherwise might have been lost for future generations."

A documentary containing stories from the book and other interviews is being compiled by the co-editors. This will be completed in late October and is due to air on RTÉ Radio One on Saturday, 5 November 2016 – exactly 70 years to the day since the first pole was erected in the Rural Electrification Scheme.

The book is for sale online at and available on Kindle devices worldwide.