Dowling, Patrick

Patrick Dowling (1904 - 1999)

Patrick Dowling, electrical engineer, was born near Tinryland in County Carlow in 1904. He attended Tinryland National School and afterwards studied at Clongowes Wood College before entering the Royal College of Science for Ireland. He was awarded an honours degree from the University of London in 1926 and returned to an academic position to work on electricity generators at the R.C.S.I. Later the same year, he joined the Shannon Power Development Board, transferring to the Electricity Supply Board (ESB) in 1928.

Dowling was one of the first eleven people to be employed by the ESB. He, along with those first engineers had the responsibility of connecting all the major towns in Ireland to the ESB grid, which was supplied with electricity from the Shannon Hydroelectric Scheme at Ardnacrusha. These graduates were to be the architects of the rural electrification process that was to leave an indelible mark on rural Ireland. The plan for the organisation to establish a national supply system, rather than sell to local distributors, was a model that paved the way for Dowling's own leading contribution in the organisation.

In 1937, Dowling proposed the idea of bringing electricity to rural areas. The idea was taken up by Sean Lemass, Minister of Industry & Commerce, and in 1939 the ESB was asked to produce a report. Under the direction of Thomas McLaughlin (Chief Engineer of the E.S.B.), Dowling (and A.J.McManus) together prepared a feasibility report. The report was adopted in 1942, approval given for the scheme in 1943, and a technical report prepared by Dowling in 1944/5. Dowling initially acted as assistant to William Roe, who was appointed to manage the scheme, but later took over as Chief Engineer. Dowling subsequently travelled widely and became known as an 'apostle of rural electrification'.

It was the pioneering work of men such as Dowling and Roe that helped ease the dramatic transformation, which was to become known as the 'Quiet Revolution'. Dowling liased with local parishes and organisations to dispel the doubts surrounding rural electrification. An academic knowledge of the working of electricity, together with his approachable, unassuming personality made him ideal for this role. The results were hugely impressive with over 99% of the population availing of electricity between 1947 and 1980.

Dowling died in December 1999 in Dublin.

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