Ladybird Tuesday: ‘The Public Services’ Electricity


Just the title of this book has a vintage feel about it: "The Public Services" Electricity. It's been a fair while since electricity generation was a public service here in the UK, but when series 606E was published about the public services in the late 1960s it was a very different situation. This particular book was published in 1966 with ones about Gas and Water Supply following it.


The map inside the front and rear covers (yep – same in both – why?) shows how things were at the time – very different to the commercial companies all fighting for our custom today.

Whilst this book is described on the cover as being a Ladybird Easy Reader there is no doubt that books of the day went into a fair bit of technical detail for their young readers with history of electricity as well as details as to how atomic, hydroelectric and coal-fired power stations work. 


Some things haven't changed since the 1960s though and one of those is the iconic sight of pylons across the country. It's something I always fine comforting familiar when returning to the UK after time abroad. Somehow other country's pylons just aren't as good looking as ours are.


It's still the case that in times of a power surge (like at the end of a particularly gripping edition of a soap opera or half time in an international football match) we do "borrow" electricity from France much as we used to do. From what I remember from a documentary I watched a few years back I get the impression we'd be completely stuck if we couldn't borrow electricity in this way as there is no way to meet the peak demand in the UK when it happens so quickly – like at the start of an advert break. Obviously how things are generated has changed a bit since then as the book has no mention of wind power and if it were to be rewritten today it would surely include pictures of wind turbines that you now see dotted all over the country.


Despite coming with a safety warning of "You must never touch any of these" at the top the book didn't skimp on the detail of how writing in the house works. The wire colours may have changed since the 1960s but the basics are still the same and I'm sure there must have been a few fathers of the time who used this book as a bit of reference if they ever needed to change plugs or similar – especially when they were not used to electrical wiring in the homes.

I'm always amazed at just how many technical books Ladybird had in their series and in addition to this one I somewhere have a second book all about the history of nuclear power. And they say children were more educated in years gone by – certainly if you go by Ladybird books alone I can see where they got much of that education from!

If you have a collection of old Ladybird books then please feel free to join in with Ladybird Tuesday. There are no formal rules to follow, just leave a link to any post you write in the comments below and if you're feeling kind link back to my Ladybird Tuesday category here on Being Mrs C. Thanks!


  1. Chris says

    I remember reading, a very long time ago, probably before you were born, that a higher education establishment wanted Ladybird to republish its book about computers in “adult covers” because it was such an excellent introduction to what was then a very new technology. The publishers declined to do so.

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