An important part of the Electric Irish Homes project is the oral history interviews, run jointly with the project partners, the National Museum of Ireland. These are intergenerational oral history interviews carried out with women who were rural housewives during the rural electrification programme and remember their homes being electrified, as well as electrical demonstrators or women involved with promoting electricity in Irish in this period.
We have recorded the memories of women about rural electrification – how it affected their daily lives, what they thought of the products available and how they were sold, as well as what they were actually like to use. They contribute to our understanding of women’s lived experience in Ireland, and providing a record of twentieth century Ireland for future generations. The recordings are used to inform the research project, particularly the book and exhibition, and at the end of the project they will be archived in the National Museum of Ireland, and copies lodged with the Electricity Supply Board archives and the Digital Repository of Ireland.
To date, we have carried out about 60 interviews with older women across Ireland and some retired ESB staff. Many of these women participated through their local Irish Countrywomen’s Association guild, as well as neighbours and family members. We trained the interviewers in oral history techniques where needed, and provided the recording equipment. Each participant then received a CD of their interview recording, along with a written transcription. Clips from these interviews are included in the Kitchen Power exhibition opening in the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life in July 2019.
Listen to Maureen Gavan from Clones in County Monaghan talk to Geraldine O’Connor about her mother’s reaction to getting electricity into her home: