THE RAMBLER RECALLS THE TIME WHEN POWER CUTS DIDN’T MATTER
It certainly wasn't the end of the world
YOUNGER members of the present generation who regard a power cut as the end of the world sometimes express incredulity when I tell them that I grew to manhood in a farmhouse which had neither electricity nor gas supplies, just solid fuel, paraffin lamps and candles. I recently received an appeal from a missionary in Africa for help to cover the cost of getting a supply of electricity for his flock.
My conception of conditions in his parish, where battling with mosquitoes and hunger and homelessness are major daily problems, caused me to question how availability of electricity could be a priority.
However, he convinced me that his people did indeed need electric light and power to make a livelihood.
Nowadays, with street lighting at every hole in the hedge in rural areas, the lights of the greater
Belfast area turning the hills around the city into a giant Christmas tree, the Aldergrove Airport lights reflected in the night sky and the motorway intersection's floodlighting, the moon and the stars no longer outshine man's artificial lighting.
It was very different when I was a lad. Occasionally, I enjoyed a jaunt in a governess horse drawn trap on a dark night. We jogged along, at maybe eight or 10 miles an hour, with only a small lantern containing a single lighted candle mounted on either side of the trap (in front of the wheels) to light the way.
On a clear night when the moon was riding high and the sky was aglow with stars, it was natural for my Dad to identify the major constellations for me and to joke about the man on the moon.
He would have been totally incredulous it anyone had suggested that in my lifetime it would indeed come to pass that man would walk on the moon, and return to walk the streets of Lisburn.
My father only knew a lifestyle where a bicycle lamp, powered by carbide was the brightest light available. After dark paraffin lamps had to be used indoors and out-of-doors - everywhere that light was needed. Candles were used for cart and trap lamps and also to supplement paraffin lamps indoors.
In spite of the fact that the dwelling house had a thatched roof, the place was not burned down. In retrospect, remembering how carelessly we rambled around indoors bearing lighted candles I feel that it was a miracle that the old house survived!
Poets used to write reams about moonlight and the constellations, but even Seamus Heaney hasn't been inspired by the lights on the Kinnego radar station or those on the Sprucefield complex, as far as I know. There are folk who cannot see the wood for the trees, or so they say. I must confess that I can no longer discern the beauty of the full moon or identify one star overhead.