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Electricity & Muintir na Tíre

Ardmore Memory and Story - Events and Changes

2. Electricity & Muintir na Tíre
In 1947, a branch of Muintir na Tíre was founded in Ardmore with sections representing farmers, business people, professionals, labourers and last but not least, a ladies' section. At its very first meeting, Rural Electrification was on the agenda, and letters were written to the E.S.B. Fr. John Walsh had initiated it, but resigned in 1948. Michael Moloney, the first secretary retired at the end of the first year and John Cashman succeeded him. the long arduous campaign went on for many years under the auspices of Muintir na Tíre.

The Parish Council members of 1954 were:

Hon. President - Rev. Fr. W. Cahill P.P.
Chairman - Francis D. Nugent
Treasurer - James Prendergast
Hon. Secretary - John Cashman

The other members were: Ref. Fr. Phelan C.C., James Quain, Richard Lincoln, Declan O'Connell, Maurice Colbert, John Larkin, James McGrath, Tower View, Edmond Lenane, Mrs Johanna Cullen, Mrs Helen Fitzgerald, Mrs B. O'Brien.

Members of the organisation had to do the very difficult job of canvassing through the countryside, but at last, it was successful and it was announced that preliminary work would start shortly. The Area Office was set up in Coláiste Deuglán, then vacant. Some lorries were distributing poles, coils of wire and other equipment. Householders began preparing and electrical contractors got busy, but there were still a reluctant few who had refused to accept.

Finally, 'the switch on' was announced for 24th May 1954 and crowds flocked into the village and speches were made on a platform near the Boathouse. About 10pm, Fr. Cahill flicked the switch, the church was illuminated, so was the Round Tower and there was loud cheering as lights appeared all around, from the village over to Curragh, Ballyquin and Lisarow. People wended their way to the church for Benediction and later on to Halla Deuglán for the dance. All were in jubliant mood. It is difficult to imagine now, the excitement of the occasion and what a wonderful, extraordinary event it was in the life of Ardmore. Rural Electrification and Muintir na Tíre are terms which go hand in hand in Ardmore. It is easy to forget now what an enormouse milestone it was in our lives and it was Muintir na Tíre made it possible.

The last account of the Rural Electrification campaign has been condensed from an account by John Cashman in The Ardmore Journal of 1992.

A point worthy of comment as regards the introduction of new improvements was the suspicion and reluctance with which they were met. Both the piped water and the electricity programmes were reluctantly received and the canvassers found it very difficult to get people to sign up for either scheme. At first the piped water extended only as far as the Parish Priests house. The E.S.B. scheme wasn't enthusiastically received initially, but that was nearly twenty years later and the housekeepers, i.e. the ladies were exerting domestic pressure. The joys and wonders of it soon made themselves apparent. One old man in the village said wonderingly "Little did I think I'd live for the day I'd see the kettle boiling out of a hole in the wall."

A central village household installed one light. This was a house always used as a rendezvous for the lads, even though the presiding genius was a lady, who pointing to her fireplace on occasion said, "that wall was the dividing line between Cork and Waterford", as so many of the wives who lived at the top of the village were from the neighbouring county. Anyhow she was gone before the coming of the E.S.B. and her son installed one electric light in the house and bought a kettle, but after the arrival of the first E.S.B. bill he had the electricity disconnected and reverted to his former domestic arrangements.

Previous to this in the 30's Gaeltacht grants became available for glass-houses. We were then classed as a Gaeltacht area and my father tried to persuade the Curragh people to avail of the grant but to no avail. Later on, he installed a glass-house himself, self-paid, independent of any grant and he teased the others, telling them he had got a grant for it.

Muintir na Tíre is the national organisation founded by the late Rev. John M. Hayes of Bansha, having branches throughout the ocuntry. In the late 1930's, they began to have Rural Weeks at various centres in Ireland. These were conventions with a family atmosphere, attended by delegates from all the branches and by people well known in public life.

Rural Weeks were held in Ardmore, centred in Coláiste Deuglán, both in 1937 and 1938. Fireside chats were held nightly, as well as various daily lectures by people prominent in different aspects of Irish life. Maud Gonne Mac Bride was one of those who spoke; Dev and Dr. Ryan then Minister for Agritulture stayed at Coláiste Deuglán. Dev walked down to daily mass in the local church and en route visited William Harris from Bruree, Co. Limerick, his own native place. He even took to the floor at one of the céilithe in the Grianán, having been asked to dance in Rogha na mBan (Ladies Choice).

At the 1938 Rural Week, there was an International Day and it was strange to see the Union Jack among those flying from the College. There was an Italian Count there who spoke of the monastery of Bobbio, the Italian foundation of St. Columbanus being on his lands.

Well known newspaper correspondents, like Gertrude Gaffney for the Irish Independent and Aodh de Blacam for the Irish Press gave first hand accounts of the day to day events in their respective newspapers. Ardmore figured very much in the news for both of these Rural Weeks.

Muintir na Tíre interested itself in various aspects of life in the parish, apart from the rural electrification campaign. One memento is the concrete stiles placed here and there out on the cliffs, to prevent cattle from straying, but they have no function nowadays. There just is no bovine presence on the cliffs, and bracken and briars are taking over from grass. The field at the left-hand side, on the way down to St. Declan's Well was grass-grown in our youth, also the fields beyond, both above and below the path. Musgraves did have cows when they owned Rock House in the 30's and 40's; Johnie Brien from the village worked for them and was always up and down on his donkey, so Johnie's donkey must have been partially responsible for the preservation of the grass. There was a little plot out beyond Faill na Sleannaire, which was the last plot that people remember being tilled.

Author: Siobhan Lincoln

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