IRELAND’S FIRST FEMALE OLYMPIAN
1868 – 1951
Beatrice Geraldine Hill-Lowe from Ardee, Co Louth, Ireland's first female Olympian, took a bronze medal for archery at the 1908 London Olympic.
At the time, archery was the only sporting event open to women because women were only allowed to compete in a sport while fully clothed. Hill-Lowe finished third with 618 points, 70 points behind the gold medal winner, Queenie Newall, from Bolton in England and the great all-rounder Lottie Dod, who was second. All 25 competitors in the "Double National Round" - 48 arrows shot at 60 yards, followed by 24 arrows shot at 50 yards on each of the two days - were from Britain or Ireland.
Lottie Dod took the lead on the first day (Friday 17 July 1908) with a score of 348 points and 66 hits, with Queenie Newall ten points behind on 338 despite hitting the same number of targets. Nobody else was close. The next day, Newall performed well, scoring 350 points, while Hill-Lowe had climbed into second place with 343 points. Dod's challenge for gold collapsed when she could only manage a score of294. Sybil Fenton "Queenie" Newall's victory makes her the oldest woman to win an Olympic medal - she was four months short of her 54th birthday during the competition.
Beatrice Hill-Lowe (nee Ruxton), the middle child in a family of eight, was born in Ardee House on 1 January 1868. Her father, named as a 'gentleman and justice of the peace' was involved in administration for the county of Cavan. "It is not clear how or why Beatrice Ruxton got involved in archery, but she was aged 40 and married when she won her bronze at the White City Stadium in 1908," says Sean Diffley.
"Her husband was the magnificently-named Commander Arthur Hill Ommanney Peter Hill-Lowe and served in the Royal Navy. He died in Shropshire just two years after Beatrice had competed in the Olympics." It had been a second marriage for Hill-Lowe, who died on 17 April 1910; the couple had married on 15 July 1891 when Beatrice was 23. "Some time later Beatrice got married again. Her new husband was named Thompson and they lived in Pembrokeshire, where our bronze medallist died in 1951 aged 83."
Thanks to Lindie Naughton for this week’s Herstory.