On 5 November 1946, the first pole of the Rural Electrification Scheme was erected at Kilsallaghan, Co. Dublin. Present were WF Roe, Engineer-in-Charge, PJ Dowling, ESB Secretary, and a small gathering of Rural Electrification Office (REO) staff. The event is recalled in detailed the November edition of the REO News from 1948:
The evening was cold as we got to Kilsallaghan. We were glad it was not raining but doubts were expressed as to whether the light was good enough for a photograph… Mr. Ennis took charge of the camera and the photo taken is now a treasured possession of Rural Head Office. There was no ceremony. The times were not suitable: rationing was being enforced…
…as the pole was raised in the gathering dusk of that November evening, those present realised that start was being made on a scheme which was to bring new life to the hills and valleys of rural Ireland, and a new outlook and renewed hope to those who dwell there.
As Michael Sheil noted in The Quiet Revolution, ‘it was to be a long journey to the erection of the millionth pole and the connection to the national electricity network of well over 400,000 rural households in 792 areas.’
The Government instructed that one area in each county should always be under development, to ensure that electricity would be dispersed evenly throughout the country. The second area to be selected was Patrickswell, Co. Limerick, and work commenced there in February 1947. By September 1947, Roe reported that electricity was fully connected in Kilsallaghan. Since the first pole was erected, the scheme gathered considerable pace – by March 1949, 49,000 poles had been erected, bringing electricity to over 11,500 rural households, and by March 1976, 405,890 consumers had been connected, approximately 99% of all rural dwellings.
Above: Erecting the first pole at Kilsallaghan. PJ Dowling, ESB Secretary is pictured on the far right, next to WF Roe, Engineer-in-Charge.