Tuesday, 18 June 2019

"THE SHANNON SCHEME"

WORKERS AT THE SHANNON SCHEME IN THE 1920's




In 1925 the Irish Free State decided that its people had been kept in the dark for long enough. The time had come to shed some light on the situation.

German firm, Siemens, was brought in to oversee the construction of a massive Shannon Hydro-Electric Scheme at Ardnacrusha, County Clare which, it was claimed, would generate electricity and supply power to the four corners of the country. The project became known as The Shannon Scheme.

It was a huge undertaking with an estimated cost of £5.2 million in old money. At its peak, it would require upwards of 3000 skilled and unskilled workers to complete the project.

The present National Broadband Plan would be only trotting after it!

The recruiting of a temporary labour force began immediately. Several Abbeyfeale men stepped up to answer the call and among them was my grandfather who had barely travelled beyond The Hill up to then.

Interviews were conducted locally. My grandfather was known to be a good worker and was one of those selected from the area. Off they headed for Clare and for one of the largest building projects in the world at the time.

It must have looked like the Klondyke Gold Rush to lads more used to the sedate surroundings of meadows and bogs, but they were a resilient bunch and settled in quickly. The work was hard and the pay small. They slept in wooden huts and ate in makeshift canteens. However, they were earning and saving the few bob which they could not do at home.

They managed to get back to Abbeyfeale for the odd weekend and neighbours would gather at night to hear stories of rocks being blasted, rivers diverted and locomotives pulling wagons of stones to build huge dams and fill concrete bunkers. Meanwhile, hundreds of men moved like ants across a barren landscape, digging with pick and shovel and drawing out gravel and dirt with horses and carts.

The grandfather boasted that he had been promoted and put in charge of a sophisticated transport vehicle and a new mechanical digger. It turned out to be a wheelbarrow and a spade!

After several months on the Shannon Scheme most of the casual labourers had finally completed the work for which they had been hired and began returning home. My grandfather received a glowing reference from Siemens stating that he had carried out his tasks in a satisfactory and diligent manner and recommending him to any prospective employer that might want to hire him. He took great pride in this and even presented it to his next-door neighbour, a big farmer, who had enquired if he’d be free to give a few days in the bog!

The grandfather eventually settled back to his everyday life of saving hay, cutting turf, tending to his handful of cattle and raising his young family while waiting for the promised electricity to arrive.

The Shannon Hydro-Electric Scheme was officially opened with much fanfare by President William Cosgrave on the 29th July 1929 and the rural electrification of Ireland began. Soon ESB workers were seen sinking poles and clambering up ladders to attach transformers and connect copper cabling. Meanwhile, down below, electricians were busy wiring houses, installing sacred heart lamps and getting ready for the big switch-on.

Demand was huge but progress was slow. By 1931 there were 127 homes and businesses connected to the network in Abbeyfeale from a recorded population in the town of 1,056.

The roll-out of electricity in rural areas was even slower and it would take another twenty odd years before “the light” as it was called, would be available to most outlying areas of the parish, and even then, some isolated pockets remained in darkness due to their remoteness and the cost of running poles for several miles to cater for a handful of homes.

Unfortunately an area at the very top of Abbeyfeale Hill where my grandfather lived was included in this category.

And so the man who worked on the historic Shannon Scheme and who received such a glowing reference for his troubles, would have to wait a while longer before reaping the rewards of his labour.

Sadly, he never lived to see the switching on of the lights on Abbeyfeale Hill.

He died in April of 1974 just as the last poles were being connected and the wiring of the house completed. Two weeks after his death the lights were switched on and electric current finally flowed all the way from Ardnacrusha to the little house on The Hill.

It was as if one light had been extinguished and another had been switched on to take its place.

LOCAL NOTES
DEATH:   We offer our sympathy to the family of Michelle O’Connor, Caherhayes whose funeral took place on Friday.  May she rest in peace.

TABLE QUIZ FOR MILFORD:  Jack O’Rourkes Bar Saturday, June 29 at 9pm.
HARNETT REUNION: Press Launch Leens Hotel Wednesday, June 19 at 7pm Three and a half weeks to go.   We have a full programme organised for our visitors but it is also open to anyone to join us.   Free admission on Friday, July 12 to the Genealogy workshops and the Patie Boy Historical Collection in the Devon Inn.  Tickets for the variety concert in Tournafulla on Friday, July 12 will be available on the door. Brian Harnett Tenor has confirmed that he will be performing.  Tickets for the Gala banquet and bus tour available from Batt Harnett or Ann Lyons. There will be genealogy, bus tours, a concert, a gala banquet and a memorial Mass, all at different venues around West Limerick/North Kerry. Please spread the word far and wide. The event is open to everybody.  Further information 087 2500929.
SUMMER OUTING:  Abbeyfeale Community Alert are travelling to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park on Tuesday, July 16.  The bus will depart from Church at 9.30am.  Tickets €40 which include soup and sandwiches in Durty Nellies, a stop in the Crescent and dinner in the Devon Inn will be  available in Ann Lyons’s, The Square and Kathleen Collins’s Foodstore, Convent St. from early next week.
AGM:  Abbeyfeale Community Alert will hold their AGM in Leens Hotel on Wednesday, June 26 at 8pm.  New members are always welcome.

BROTHERS OF CHARITY AT THE GLÓRACH:  We are delighted to be collaborating with the Brothers of Charity with local service users bringing a musical drama to the Glórach stage. Directed by Mary Hartney, the group will be putting on their own unique version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The fertile imagination of service user Glen Ward has been the driving force behind this production, and it takes place at the Glórach Theatre on the mornings of Wednesday June 19 and Thursday June 20. Doors open at 10.30am, with the show, which lasts approximately an hour starting at 11.30am. Admission is €5 and there will also be a raffle each day with all funds raised going directly to the Brothers of Charity. Tea, Coffee and biscuits served with the compliments of Glórach.

LOCAL ARTIST ON RTE 1:  Brian O'Rourke is a local, award winning artist, who received his Honours Degree in Fine Art Painting from Limerick School of Art and Design (LSAD) in 2018.  He is one of 6 artists, selected nationally, to take part in RTE'S upcoming documentary focusing on preparation and Artistic process for Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA)open call show.  The documentary is called Exhibitionists: Road to The RHA and will be shown on
RTE1 on June 27 at 10.15pm.

CLEAN UP:  Reilig Ide Graveyard every Tuesday from 7-8pm.   More help is always appreciated as the graveyard is quite large.  In order to help with this families are encouraged to maintain their own graves and one near yours if that family is no longer able to. We appreciate any help you can give.  
SUMMER CONCERTS AT THE GLÓRACH THEATRE:  We are delighted to announce that well known Irish soprano Regina Nathan will be appearing at the Glórach Theatre on Friday, July 5 at 8 pm.  Regina has sung at some of the most prestigious venues in the world and the Glórach will be soon added to that illustrious list.  Be it operatic numbers, sacred songs, or renditions of popular songs by artists such Edith Piaf, Leonard Cohen and Janis Ian, Regina's incredible voice has garnered her much critical acclaim throughout her career.  This was well captured by Declan Hassett in The Examiner, who commented that "Regina Nathan has all the star qualitites.  A deceptively powerful voice, always under control and a stillness of delivery which stamps class on her entire performance."  For bookings or enquiries, please contact 0871383940, message us on our facebook page or you can email us at glorachabbeyfeale@gmail.com.  
SUNFLOWER DAYS:   On behalf of Milford Hospice we wish to thank the people of Abbeyfeale for their generous support on our Sunflower days collection last week. A special thank you to our wonderful volunteers who give their time. The amount raised this year was €3,628.

CORPUS CHRISTI PROCESSION:  The Annual Corpus Christi Procession will take place after the  Vigil Mass next Saturday evening.  All are welcome especially the children who received First Holy Communion. The procession will proceed from the church to Lourdes Shrine in the car park. (Weather permitting).