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ESB/GEC Bread Baking Championships apron, sash and trophy, 1968

As part of their efforts to promote cooking by electricity, the ESB worked with appliance manufacturer GEC to sponsor the annual National Bread Baking Championships. This had categories for both adult women, which was held at the National Ploughing Championships in October each year, and for school girls, which was held in December in locations such as the Abbey Theatre in Dublin.
This competition played a large role in promoting home baking in an electric oven, but also a particular view of domestic femininity – no men or boys were allowed to enter, although they were often included amongst the judges. The ESB demonstrators were heavily involved in running the competition, judging local competitions as well as organising the competitors on the day.

Mary Lyons competed in the schools competition in 1968, representing Mayo, having won the local competition the previous month. As well as a County Champion Shield, each competitor received a AEG hairdryer and a cookbook as prizes. The bread was mixed offstage beforehand, and then cooked in a GEC Estate 4 oven onstage, while the audience was entertained by a short variety show. The winner, Margaret Shanley from Longford, received a cash prize of £100 and a perpetual shield trophy.

Listen to Mary Lyons talk about competing in the 1968 ESB/GEC Bread Baking schools competition:
Mary Lyons interviewed by Sorcha O’Brien in Dublin, April 2018


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