Oh Those Power Cuts!

By Dorothy Davies

candles used in power cutsBritain in the early 70s was plagued by industrial action, particularly by miners and others, and electricity had to be conserved at all costs.  This led to the phenomenon of power cuts, which were signalled by a serious dip in supply five minutes before the electricity went off.  I was working at that time in a solicitors’ office in Fleet Street, using a state of the art (to me) electric typewriter.  The dip of the electric, often at 11.55, meant a mad dash to get a kettle boiled to ensure the bosses got some tea, and then to finish off, if possible, whatever I was working on, or at least quietly shut the machine down until the electricity came back on again. 

There was a classic moment when the senior partner walked in to the secretaries’ room, put a load of papers down, looked at his secretary and said, ‘could you photocopy that lot while the power’s off?’ and wondered why we all collapsed with laughter.

Restaurants were badly affected by this problem, although those who cooked with gas could carry on.  At that time my husband had a job in the City, also working for a firm of solicitors, so we would meet for lunch.  (This after travelling to work together and then meeting up to go home together.  It did mean I could be sure the car would be at the station when I got there…) We used to go regularly to a small restaurant, almost a café really, where the meals were good and reasonable.  The Italian waiter got used to us and would put a RESERVED sign on a table for us.  We were very much young lovers then, newly married, and it obviously showed and touched his romantic Italian heart!

I recall we were able to eat there, despite the electricity being off, as it was light enough to see what we were doing.  Enterprising people found ways of carrying on.

Fortunately I had left work to become a mother by the time the Three Day Week came into force.  It caused a great many problems to a lot of people. 


Dorothy Davies’ website is www.oneinspecyal.com

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2 Responses

  1. […] that offices and businesses shut down on those days and the world effectively ground to a halt. Dorothy remembers having to rush to make cups of tea for her bosses before the electricity was cut off. I was too […]

  2. I remember the power cuts really well. I was practising my guitar by candlelight one dark evening and when my mum came home from work she told me off for having too many candles burning. Maybe I was being a fire hazard – but I couldn’t make the room bright enough to see the music. I knew there was a reason why I didn’t get to Grade 5!

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