Connecting One Million Irish Homes to the National Grid 1929—1978: Note on sources

The data from ESB Archives’ map ‘Connecting One Million Irish Homes to the National Grid, 1929—1978’ has been compiled from a variety of sources.

To view the map, click here.

Local electricity suppliers in Ireland

Information relating to local electricity suppliers in Ireland before the establishment of ESB in 1927 is based on information gathered in the appendices to ESB’s Annual Reports. These appendices generally record the name and address of the local supplier, the number of homes and businesses it served, and in some cases, the unit cost of the electricity provided. Early appendices record the date individual suppliers were acquired by ESB, but for the most part, this information is spread throughout the main body of the text in the reports 1929—1966.

Appendix III to the annual report for the year ending 31st March 1929 is the first comprehensive list of this kind published in the annual reports, and its format is replicated in subsequent reports until 1960. These appendices record only those individuals or companies who had permits to commercially supply electricity to 3 or more homes and businesses in their local area. If a local company supplied electricity before ESB was established, it is listed in Appendix III of the 1929 report, but does not record when the supply was first established. Similarly, these appendices do not record local suppliers who: supplied less than 3 homes or businesses; operated ‘unofficially’, i.e. without a permit; provided electricity purely for their own consumption, i.e. using a diesel generator; or went out of business prior to the establishment of ESB in 1927. Archival sources relating to the date of establishment of these pre-ESB suppliers, if they survive, are most likely to be found in local county archives services, or alternatively mentioned incidentally in local or national newspapers. ESB Archives does not hold material relating to local electricity suppliers beyond what is already contained in the company’s annual reports, all of which are available to download and search online free of charge here.

In relation to ESB Archives’ map, local suppliers which existed before 1927 was established are given a start date of ‘before ESB’, while the start date of local suppliers which were set up after ESB was established is taken as the first time that supplier appears in the appendices to the annual reports as a permitted undertaking. Likewise, the date each supplier was acquired by ESB is taken as either: the exact month and year indicated in the annual report, i.e. August 1929; a date range of a year, i.e. 1929—1930, where the supplier is recorded as being acquired as of 31st March 1930; or the year the supplier last appears in the appendices to the annual reports.

Towns with electric public lighting

Information relating to the towns with electric public lighting contracts is based on the appendices to ESB’s annual reports for the years 1931—1933. These appendices list the number and total wattage of lamps in individual towns. They also detail the ‘normal lighting hours’ of each town, as well as the number of units consumed in any given year.

Towns connected to the national grid from 1929 via the Shannon Scheme

The Shannon Scheme first began to generate electricity for the national grid in October 1929, and began to supply the larger cities, towns and villages of Ireland. Information relating to the date individual cities, towns and villages were connected to the national grid, and therefore received their electricity supply directly from the Shannon Scheme, is based on data available in ESB’s Annual Reports. This information is either contained in the main body of the text, which periodically lists the number of towns connected in any given year, or in appendices listing the ‘Number of Consumers’ in any given year. The first of this type of appendix appears in the report for the year ending 31st March 1931. The date a town was connected to the grid is taken as either: the exact month and year indicated in the annual report, i.e. August 1929; a date range of a year, i.e. 1929—1930, where the town is recorded as being connected as of 31st March 1930; or the year the town first appears in the appendices listing consumer numbers. Where a consumer number is listed as ‘1’ for a given year, i.e. 1940, and then makes a significant jump in volume, i.e. to ‘100’ in 1941, the date of connection is taken as 1941, as this is the year the majority of the town’s population received supply.

Rural areas and smaller villages connected to the national grid from 1946 via the Rural Electrification Scheme

The Rural Electrification Scheme began in 1946, to bring electricity to Ireland’s rural areas, including smaller villages. During the roll-out of the scheme, Ireland was divided into 792 rural areas of about 25 square miles in size, the boundaries of which were based on local parishes. Information relating to the dates of connection, number of poles erected, km of line strung and the number of homes and businesses connected is based on progress reports published in ESB’s internal staff magazine REO News. Statistics relating to rural electrification are also available in the appendices to ESB’s annual reports from 1946.

Islands connected to the national grid

Information relating to the dates of connection of Ireland’s islands to the national grid is based on incidental references in ESB’s internal staff newspaper, the Electric Mail, while population statistics for these areas was taken from census reports available on the Central Statistics Office website.

We want to hear from you!

This project in a work is progress — we can only rely on the sources we have available to us here in ESB Archives. If you have any further information or know of any other useful sources relating to local electricity suppliers in Ireland etc., please contact us at esbarchives@esb.ie.

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