ESB Books: Generations

Book cover_GenerationsKieran McCarthy and Seamus O’Donoghue, Generations: Memories of the Lee Hydroelectric Scheme, County Cork (The Lilliput Press, 2008).

ISBN: 978-1-84351-139-7

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ESB’s Lee hydroelectric scheme is one of Ireland’s great engineering triumphs. Celebrating its fiftieth year in 2008, the Lee scheme has made a lasting impression on the local geography, economy and population of the Cork region and beyond. Generations begins by tracing the story of the river Lee. This is an area rich in ancient history, and a wealth of geographical detail and historical background is explored and explained. The geography of the valley is varied and ever-changing, and the river Lee’s progress through its many different townlands to disgorge at Cork Harbour and into the Irish Sea is carefully charted while telling the story of local saints such as St Finbarre, and of the origins of many of the townland names.

The ever-growing need to provide an improved level of electricity service for existing customers, as well as the new demands created by an ambitious programme for rural electrification set in motion the process for the building of the Lee stations and the damming of the valley, 40 kilometres in length and over 22 kilometres wide. This was a colossal task, and necessitated years of minute planning, geographical surveys and preservation orders on, for example, the Gearagh region, and land purchase, with the final contracts for the works in place towards the end of 1952. Detailed land – acquisition records and newspaper documentation afford a fascinating glimpse into what must have been an enormous upheaval for the 200 families
involved, many of whom relocated elsewhere as the on- a…i.a and their homes were submerged.