Living without electricity for 29 years
By Cathal McNaughton
John McCarter is 77 years old and has been living without mains electricity at his home at Downhill, Londonderry county, for 29 years.
It seems incredible that a pensioner who lives so close to the prosperous Causeway Coast tourist area in Northern Ireland is allowed to live in such basic conditions.
However, John is the perfect host and couldn’t have made me more welcome when I arrived at his modest wooden cottage set against the backdrop of the dramatic Co Derry coastline.
He explained that he has been having a drawn out dispute with his landlord and a family member about getting mains electricity connected to the property. The mains supply is just at the end of his garden but, while the dispute continues, John remains without electricity relying instead on coal fires and candles as temperatures drop.
He has no fridge, a basic gas cooker and reads by candlelight during the long winter evenings. Perhaps because of his Spartan living conditions, John is an incredible healthy, fit man for his age but the freezing temperatures he is living in for yet another winter are taking its toll.
I spent a couple of days with John to see how he copes, arriving early in the morning to make use of the available light. As John went about his laborious daily chores of setting fires and changing candles, he told me it wasn’t so much the cold that bothered him as much as the threat of eviction.
“Last winter it went down to -4 (25 degrees Fahrenheit), but this is my home and I just want to stay here,” John told me.
As I drove home in the hazy winter sunlight, I noticed that inside my car the temperature read 24 degrees (75 degrees Fahrenheit); inside John’s house it was 10 degrees (50 degrees Fahrenheit)…