Louth sportswomen feature in new book on Irish sporting greats

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Hill Lowe’s monogrammed ‘yardbook’ and quiver that she used at the 1908 Olympics, courtesy of County Museum, Dundalk

Two Louth sports’ greats are featured in the new book Irish Sporting Lives.

Two pioneering Louth sportswomen are featured in a new book on Irish sporting greats.

Irish Sporting Lives (Royal Irish Academy, 2022) brings to life 60 figures who, in their individual ways, illustrate the drama and diversity of Irish sporting history, including Louth women Beatrice Hill Lowe and Philomena Garvey.

Philomena Garvey (1926–2009) was raised in Baltray, Co. Louth, where from an early age she played golf at every opportunity.

Garvey and her siblings played as much as possible at the links course at the County Louth Golf Club in Baltray. She won 15 Irish ladies’ amateur championships (1946–1970) and was a

leading member of the first team to claim the Curtis Cup from America in 1958. Garvey won the 1957 British ladies’ amateur open at Gleneagles, having lost in the final four times

previously. She had earlier refused a proposal of marriage as it was conditional on her giving up golf!

Garvey retired in 1970 and died of a heart attack as she entered the Baltray clubhouse in 2009.

Beatrice Hill–Lowe (1869–1951) is the first ever Irish woman to win an Olympic medal. She was born and raised in Ardee in comfortable circumstances, but settled in Shropshire, England,  where she first began competing in archery competitions.

Archery was popular at the turn of the nineteenth-century, especially with women, who usually outnumbered men at competitions. The event was the only one open to women at the 1908 London Olympic Games. Beatrice won the bronze medal, making her the first Irish woman to win an Olympic medal. She later lived in Wales, and for a time in Celbridge, Co. Kildare. She died in 1951. Her bronze medal is on display in the Louth County Museum in Dundalk.

This collection of biographical essays draws from the Dictionary of Irish Biography and spans 200 years, from the early nineteenth century. It is edited by Dictionary of Irish Biography researchers Terry Clavin and Turlough O’Riordan, with an introductory essay by Ireland’s foremost sports historian, Professor Paul Rouse of UCD.

The biographies in Irish Sporting Lives encompass serial winners and glorious losers, heroes and villains, role models and rogues, enduring legends and forgotten or overlooked greats.

Trailblazing women feature prominently, and their stories highlight the adversity they had to overcome in pursuing their sporting ambitions. As well as those physically engaged in sport, the book also includes sporting founders, promoters, coaches, trainers and organisers. The main disciplines—Gaelic games, soccer, rugby, athletics, horse racing and boxing—are well represented, but so too are minority sports such as croquet, cricket, tennis and hockey.

George Best , Jack Charlton and boxer Clara ‘Ma’ Copley are also featured amongst others in   Irish Sporting Lives, published by the Royal Irish Academy and available to buy from mid-November priced €19.95.

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