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High Tension

Life on the Shannon Scheme

By: Michael McCarthy

Publication Date: December 2004


High Tension: Life on the Shannon Scheme by Michael McCarthy

High Tension: Life on the Shannon Scheme lends an entirely different dimension to the history of the great hydro-electric Shannon Scheme of 1925-1929. Hitherto the story has been told from an engineering viewpoint. Now historian Michael McCarthy brings new perspectives to bear on the Irish Free State’s most audacious construction project at Ardnacrusha. How did the German and Irish workforces get on? What was life like for the 5000-odd navvies and their families, many of them living in barns and pigsties along the nine-mile stretch of the ‘Irish Klondyke’? How did the local farmers and householders in Clare and Limerick cope with the massive explosions and disruptions? How did those who lost homes, lands, livelihoods and loved ones (53 died and hundreds were injured during construction) cope with the trauma and hardship?

The guns of the Civil War were scarcely silenced when the Irish government embarked on this huge undertaking, with vision and scarce resources. High Tension: Life on the Shannon Scheme details the interdepartmental rivalry among civil servants, the struggles with the labour movement and strong-arm tactics of Joe McGrath, the dogfights with vested interest groups and overburdened local services, and the compensation battles that dragged on years after the Scheme opened. On the 75th anniversary of that opening it seems fitting to tell for the first time this fascinating story.


MICHAEL MCCARTHY studied in University College Galway, Leeds and Rome. He joined RTE in 1975 as a television producer-director, was Departmental Head from 1993-1997, and took early retirement in 2002. He is currently writing a history of The Irish Institute for International Affairs.

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Weight 1 kg
Dimensions 240 × 170 mm
Publication Date

December 2004


Paperback, 316pp