An 80-year-old woman in Fermanagh who has lived her entire life without electricity has said she doesn’t “know what change is all about!”
Margaret Gallagher was born in 1942 in a house that her grandfather bought from cousins in 1887 when they emigrated; she has lived there her entire life without electricity, a television or running water.
When she wants to wash her clothes or cook she fetches water from a nearby well and to keep in touch with the wider world she has a windup radio.
By any measure it is as simple a life as you can find in 21st century Ireland:
“My father was born into it and married there and my sister and I were born in the house and I just didn’t see any need to change it,” Ms Gallagher explained to Moncreiff.
“I don’t know what change is all about because as long as you have a bed to lie in and a roof over your head and food to put on the table, sure, we’re brilliant.”
The one major concession she has made to modern life is that she has a pay as you go mobile phone - which she charges in her car. It can receive calls and send texts but Ms Gallagher does not use it to connect to the internet. She is quite happy without social media:
“[It’s] a little thing for £3.59 which is brilliant; I can make a call, take a call when there’s money in it and text and that’s it!
“I don’t need a Facebook to find out what people are having for their dinner or what they’re doing in outer Mongolia. It doesn’t interest me in the slightest.”
She keeps in touch with the wider world by listening to BBC Radio Ulster but has little interest in travelling away from her home. She visited Rome for her 50th and 60th birthdays but prefers to stay close to home where she can call in on her friends - something she believes is a dying tradition:
“The days of socialising are over,” she complained.
“Because everyone is swiping something or pressing knobs or buttons or whatever. The art of socialising seems to have died over the last few years and COVID didn’t help things either.
“Community is a very big thing here but I mean the younger generation are good at communication but it’s by the internet or whatever.
“They don’t seem to bother with the skill of conversation or whatever.”
Her sister and nephew both live in England and before the pandemic Ms Gallagher visited them often. However, she was never tempted to make the move permanently:
“I just love my own space and my own place and it’s my identity. It shaped my future the rearing I got and I’m so proud of it.
“I am very, very proud of who I am and where I live.
“I couldn’t wish for more contentment. I have everything I want.”
Main image: The remains of an old stone thatched cottage on the Aran Islands, 09-09-2011. Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews