By Seán Creedon
Long before the arrival of ‘Women’s Lib’ in Ireland we had a female racing driver called Rosemary Smith, who was well able to compete in the mostly male world of car racing.
In the 1960s, and 1970s, one of the biggest sporting events in Ireland at Easter time was the Circuit of Ireland Rally. As children, we found a safe place, preferably near a sharp bend on the narrow roads near our house in east Kerry, while the drivers and their co-drivers tried to navigate their way to an overnight stop in Killarney.
Paddy Hopkirk from Belfast was the big name in the Sixties, as was Millstreet’s Billy Coleman. But also in contention was a young lady from Dublin named Rosemary Smith, who certainly attracted most of the male attention. Fast forward then to a cafe in County Kildare and I am slightly overawed sitting across the table from this elegant lady, now in her seventies, who has spent almost all of her life in the motoring business.
Motor Racing was in Rosemary’s blood. Her father John Metcalf Smith owned a garage in Rathmines in South Dublin, and used to race cars at weekends. As a teenager, Rosemary often went to see her father and her elder brother Roger compete in races in Dublin, Kildare, Meath and in the North of Ireland.
She was only 16 when she left Loreto Convent in Rathfarnham.
Rosemary trained a dress designer in the Grafton Academy and opened her own business on South Anne Street, Dublin, where one of her first customers was Delphine Bigger, who owned the ‘Coffee Inn’ across the street. Delphine’s husband Frank had won the 1956 Monte Carlo Rally.