Death of the Banshee, 1996

Two part documentary celebrating the 50th anniversary of rural electrification narrated by Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh with interviews and memoirs from ESB staff and rural customers on the operations and aftermath of the Rural Electrification Scheme.

Opening scenes depict aerial views of Irish landscape and original footage of the Rural Electrification Scheme.

Begins with interview with Jim Nolan, Storyteller, Kilkenny and Peggy O’Brien, Housewife, Co. Wexford relating traditional stories about the banshee and depicting what Ireland was like before rural electrification.

Paddy Lowry, Farmer, Co. Laois provides his memoirs about radio entertainment, noting how traditionally the radio battery was spared in the lead up to All Ireland final days.

Traces the origins of ESB and development of the Shannon Scheme, story of ESB’s first Managing Director, Thomas McLaughlin. Includes footage of interview with McLaughlin, Patrick McGilligan, Minister for Industry and Commerce and opening speech of President of the Executive Council, William T. Cosgrave all originally recorded for the 1967 RTE documentary 40 Light Years from Parteen.

Includes background footage depicting life in Ireland before electrification with scenes of rural Ireland, Dublin city including tramways and cyclists.

Continues to footage of Dail Eireann and political opposition at the time of the Shannon Scheme with interview with Jim Kemmy, TD and Editor of Old Limerick Journal about the impact of the Scheme and continues with still footage of switch-ons and domestic scenes throughout Ireland in the 1930s.

Continues with the story of the beginnings of Rural Electrification with interview with P.J. Dowling, ESB Engineer 1927, detailing life before rural electrification and footage of rural villages before electrification, horse on carts. Dowling provides explanations of the distribution of electricity throughout the towns and cities, footage of Pigeon House and high tension cables.

Chronicles the political situation at the time, economic war with Britain, scenes of cattle being exported and footage of outbreak of World War Two including footage of Éamonn de Valera and Séan LeMass.

Interviews with Michael J. Shiel (Author of the Quiet Revolution) on the role of LeMass in bringing the Rural Electrification to Ireland.

Interview with Sylvia Dawson, Irish Countrywomen’s Association on rationing during World War Two, emigration from Ireland and later in the interview returns to the role of canvassers in Rural Electrification.

Provides footage of the planning and roll out of Rural Electrification with scenes of ESB staff in drawing room, control and establishment of Rural Electrification Office. Returns to interview with Dowling explaining the roll out of the scheme and rationale behind the organisation of the scheme.

Dowling provides intricate details of the scheme including: connection of economical areas first; c. 1000 poles were used to wire up a parish. Poles used first were Irish poles and ESB waited until they got 7000 poles before they could start the scheme in earnest, later importing 1 million poles from Finland; story of Bansha in Co. Tipperary, first area in the county to be signed up for electrification and influence of Canon Hayes relating the anecdote of Canon Hayes reading names of parishioners from the pulpit who had not signed up to electricity. Features scenes of poles stacked up in yards and arriving to docklands in Ireland for distribution throughout the country. Features footage of transformers, cables and erection of poles throughout Ireland.

Interview with Michael Lynch and Philip McGovern, ESB Rural Area Supervisors, detailing the roll out of the scheme and particularly the role and influencing skills of the canvasser. Includes perceptions and myths surrounding electricity held by some rural dwellers.

Interview with John F Ryan, ESB Rural Area Engineer also provides insights into the local rivalry between Bansha and Emly in Co. Tipperary.

Jack Stratton, ESB Linesman Rural Electrification Scheme recalls the role of voluntary organisations such as Muintir na Tire, Macra na Feirme and Irish Countrywomen’s Association.

Interview with Peter Murphy, National Organiser Macra Na Feirme 1953 about his job and the roll out of ESB’s film on rural electrification showed at Muintir na Tire gatherings nationwide.

Relates the importance of pumped water and the role of schoolmasters and parish priests throughout Ireland in helping to sign up people to the many benefits of piped water.

Interview with Phil Cox, ESB Rural Area Organiser about his time on the scheme in Kilkenny, particularly the hospitality of the people in rural areas.

Interview with John Corbally, Oldtown, Co. Dublin who attended the first switch on ceremony and relates his memories of the switch on particularly how all the bulbs blew at the first switch on.

Includes the impact of Rural Electrification on improving the literacy of the nation.

The second part of the documentary details the impact and transformative roll of the scheme.

Interview with Albert Reynolds, T.D. and Former Entertainer Promoter on the scheme and particularly benefits to the entertainment industry and rise of the showbands era including footage of this time in the 1960s.

Interviews with Gerry O’Malley and Chris Shouldice, ESB Rural Area Engineers, about entrance procedures for employment at ESB, their own memoirs working on the scheme, in particular the story of backsliders and fear of digging poles into fairy rings.

Provides further footage and details of erection of poles, digging and blasting, explanation of fixed charge, switch on ceremonies and footage from the Electrical Association of Women on electrical appliances.

Dorothy Cox, Waterford provides her recollections of the social scene and ESB wiremen at the local dance halls.

Interviews with Peter Mullane, ESB Linesman Rural Electrification Scheme and Eithne Mills, ESB Demonstrator Rural Electrification Scheme.

Returns to storyteller at the beginning Jim Nolan lamenting about difference between milking cows pre and post rural electrification and includes footage of same. Laments about the ending of the tradition of storytelling in Ireland.

Interview with Michael Lynch Muintir na Tire recalling the benefits of to rural industry including the beginnings of the jam factory for Bansha, Co. Tipperary.

Final interviews with Wally Rafter, ESB Rural Area Organiser speaking about his pride of working on Rural Electrification and Dowling lamenting about the tradition of the ending of ghost stories.

Documentary concludes with footage of ESB scenes in 1996 including: network renewal, customer call centres and the role of technology including computerised maintenance and automated systems.

Duration: 00:46:38

Camera: Tim Lawless
Producer/Director: Liam Walsh
Sound Recording: Michael Cassidy and Gerry McGrath
Script: Frank Kelly
Commentary: Mícheál Ó Muircheartaigh