Turlough Hill, also known as Tomaneena, is a 681-metre-high (2,234 ft) mountain in County Wicklow and site of Ireland’s only pumped-storage hydro-electricity plant. IMELDA CONWAY DUFFY recalls her time working at the plant

Some believed that the gloomy Loughnahanagan, brooding in the shadow of Tomaneena Mountain, was haunted. Others, more accustomed to the vagaries of nature, swore that the strange sounds emanating from the direction of the lake on amber evenings were made by the trout ‘squealing’ in the inky waters.

Whatever they were, they are heard no more. Danger of a more mundane kind presented itself in the form of thick mountain mist rolling down from the crags clinging to the narrow, winding ‘Gap’ road, reducing visibility to a few feet. On foot, on horseback and on a bicycle, my father travelled this way, herding sheep, drawing loads of hay or turf with a pony and drey, or visiting family – always mindful that a ‘fog to the ground’ could slow the journey home.

By 1967 the demand for electricity was growing and a nuclear power station, proposed for Carnsore Point in County Wexford, was dropped after strong opposition from anti-nuclear lobby groups. While the nuclear debate raged, the hydro-electric option was pursued and this site, high in the Wicklow Mountains was chosen.
With the acquisition of Loughnahanagan and Tomaneena by the Electricity Supply Board in 1966, work on the road infrastructure brought engineers and surveyors from other parts of Ireland to the area. These lads were immediately co-opted onto the local football team.

My brother, Jimmy, was heavily involved in GAA and spent school holidays rambling about the mountain with a theodolite and measuring tape and pocketing a sizeable wage. Along with his football team, local businesses grew. New B&Bs opened and the hotel and the bars flourished despite the loss of staff to the ‘good money on the Gap’.
After some time working at Dublin Airport, I was over my fascination with bright city lights and longed for something closer to home.

Pre-fab offices were now sprouting at what was now called Turlough Hill and jobs were being advertised. In one of a cluster of Portakabins on the lakeshore, I stood in a corridor and waited nervously.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own (issue 5614)