THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: The the privilege of enjoying electric lighting must be paid for says letter writer

From the News Letter, July 26, 1921

Monday, 26th July 2021, 9:49 am
Newcastle, Co Down. Picture: Eleanor Ferguson
Newcastle, Co Down. Picture: Eleanor Ferguson

A Newcastle resident had written to the News Letter on July 23, 1921, on the matter of plans for electric lighting in the Co Down seaside town. This letter was published by the News Letter on this day in 1921.

The letter read: “As a resident in Newcastle I have read with great interest the reports of the meetings convened by consumers in the above matter [Newcastle Electric Lighting], and I have listened with even more interest to the ‘pros and cons’ of the case being discussed in the village and during the railway journey between Newcastle and Belfast.

“Whilst one must concede some of the points made by the gentlemen who are fighting behalf the consumer, one must also in strict justice consider the expense and difficulties under which the lighting Company has laboured.

“I feel that the point of view of the Lighting Company has been overlooked. To begin with, initial outlay must considered. I venture to say that the first few years’ working of such an undertaking would show, if not an actual loss, at least only a ‘line ball’ affair.

“Then must be remembered the effect which the late war had on costs - wages, material, rents, rates. &c, and, in fact, on all overhead charges.

“Some the consumers’ grievances are probably justified; take one of them (and I should think they are all open to discussion), it is surely not unreasonable for the Lighting Company to demand a small minimum for the privilege enjoying electric lighting, not only in our houses, but also in practically the whole urban district.

“I quite anticipate a shoal of letters questioning my use of the term ‘enjoying’, and also pointing out that the lighting of the district is paid for the rates; but if I may be allowed to anticipats such criticisms, I would say that I was as angry as any other consumer about the occasional failure the lights, and that I went to the fountain head to lodge my complaints I was courteously received and all the difficulties as to the replacement plant &c. were shown to me, and I arrived at the conclusion that the Lighting Company deserved a vast amount credit for the way in which they had carried on in the face of difficulties which would have caused many another similar undertaking to close down altogether.

“To sum up, one is bound to arrive at the conclusion that an undertaking of the kind should be in the hands of the local authority and, therefore, the Urban District Council should acquire the undertaking, even if it should be worked merely pay its own way.

“By this means, more especially if the demands the UDC and the consumers are justified, we should enjoy a cheaper and better service than heretofore; for, after all, a private undertaking must look for a return on outlay of a considerable amount of capital.”