Remembering when ‘the electric’ came to north Co Sligo

Family Fortunes: From just a single station, our family radio fed us all we needed to know

 The salvaged ‘glass tuning dial’ hangs framed in the kitchen of  Seán Foley’s home in Castlebar.

The salvaged ‘glass tuning dial’ hangs framed in the kitchen of Seán Foley’s home in Castlebar.

 

Growing up in my native north Co Sligo my dearly departed mother often reminded me that, to within a day or two of my own birth, rural electrification came to our area. The area in question is the townland of Mount Temple, 2km south of the village of Cliffoney. Commonly known at the time as “the electric” or “the light”, dwellings in the locality were finally connected to the national grid in the very early days of August 1950.

On connection to the grid, my family’s first mains-powered radio was a PYE P28. The Gallagher family who lived nearby also owned one. Growing up, I recall folk talking of what they listened to on the wireless rather than what they heard on the radio. Radios of the 1950s were still quite large affairs with beautifully polished cabinets made of the finest wood. While not seen as such at the time, radios of the day were fine pieces of furniture in their own right. Today, with all things vintage being very much in vogue, the small numbers that survive, working or not, must be much sought after by collectors.

One station

Well before the advent of television, from just a single station, Radio Éireann, our family radio fed us all we needed to know – the daily news, current affairs, sponsored programmes and general entertainment. Radio Éireann wasn’t listed on many tuning dials of the time. To find it on ours, one needed to be aware to tune in to Athlone. On occasion too, my father tuned in to BBC’s Light programme. However, as we children reached our teens, Radio Luxembourg became the “cool” station to listen to – or so we thought!

As a young boy just about able to read, I clearly recall taking note of all those far-lung cities throughout Europe and beyond listed on the radio’s backlit tuning dial. Hilversum, Stravanger, Helsinki and Oslo immediately come to mind.

Alas, in recent years I discovered that the cabinet of the long retired radio had been attacked by woodworm. Luckily, the woodworm didn’t show any interest in that glass tuning dial and only at the eleventh hour did I think of salvaging it for framing. Today, within its own scarlet red frame, it hangs in the kitchen of our home in Castlebar. Each time I look at it, it reminds me of those long gone happy days.

The fee for this article has been donated to Focus Ireland.

We would love to receive your family memories, anecdotes, traditions, mishaps and triumphs. Email 400 words and a relevant photograph to familyfortunes@irishtimes.com. A fee will be paid

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