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‘Breaks my heart as children suffer’

by Jimmy Rhatigan

ROOTING through drawers at his rural home, a local one time Postman Pat found an ESB bill from another time that played with his emotions.

The irony is that our Pat, aka Jimmy Walsh was happy to get an electricity bill back in 1988 or more aptly delighted to get a very low charge for usage.

Today he is angry and fears of the fall-out for families and elderly people being persecuted by rocketing gas and electricity prices.

Our Jimmy, best known as a pugilist, coach and a champion senior hurler with John Lockes GAA was also a local postie at a time when his community disliked, make that dreaded, what was dubbed the charge of the light brigade.

The ESB bill (pictured) for an old Irish penny, a pingin, colloquially a copper, thrilled Jimmy and the love of his life, his late wife Stella.

Like most others, the couple would have preferred not to have got any periodic bills or at least to have got the power to heat their water, light up their kitchens and fuel their cookers at more reasonable rates.

Reason Jimmy and Stella got the remarkably low bill was that they were in credit. 

It was a rare reprieve but was very welcome.

The irony was that the bill demanding a penny would cost the ESB four pence to collect, the cost of a stamp in the late ‘Eighties.

The bill that has been in the Walsh family home since it was sent out on July 19. 1988 reminds of happy times with Stella, daughter Ann and daughter Brenda who was married and living in Mullinahone.


The penny bill was akin to Manna from Heaven at the time as Jimmy was out of work with a heart attack.

But it rankled with him that at other times he had delivered bills to local families that openly expressed their disappointment as the postman dished out what some called scourge letters.

“My conscience really bothered me but it was my job to deliver the mail to the people of Callan and even though it was tormenting me, I simply had to do it.

“When I came across the penny bill again it reminded me that history does repeat itself.

“Back in the day, parents worried about how they would pay their ESB bills.

“Today, families are in an awful state, some saying that they have to choose between eating and heating for their children. That is horrible and can’t be right.

“Crazy ESB bills, along with big rises in food prices and practically everything that a family needs to survive, are making life Hell on Earth for decent people who are living from hand to mouth.

“As an 89 year old pensioner, I can empathize with what my age group is going through. 

“It seems that with old age in Ireland, you are often pushed to one side by uncaring politicians who appear to have no respect for senior years.

“Similarly, parents with young families are left to battle for themselves, hoping to get a doctor’s appointment, a move up a waiting list to see a consultant with a sick child.


“Everyday life in Ireland can be tough enough for the young and young at heart without piling financial misery onto their already overburdened shoulders.

“My last two ESB bills were €220 and €240 respectively but the old age pension is only a little more than €250 so when the bills were dropped into my letter box, it reminded me of the days when I had no choice but to deliver similar bad news.

“A winter fuel allowance from Government is certainly a help for the elderly but for oft cold old souls like me with fading eyesight and tired, cold bodies, eating and proper food are vital but it is not easy to balance the books.

“Hopefully if I ever again get a bill for the equivalent of an old penny, I will have the money to pay up.

“I am told things can be that tight in many homes. A sad war and carbon taxes may be at least partly responsible for spiralling prices.

“But it is politicians that are not reacting to the plight of families that may have to choose between a delivery of heating oil or the weekly groceries to feed hungry children.

“Please God, things will change, in particular it breaks my heart to know that children are suffering. 

“God would never have wanted what after all is a man-made problem.”

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