Sunday 20 October 2019

Obituary: Paddy McClintock

Martin McCarthy recalls the hugely talented rally driver and RTE film-maker

CHARM: Paddy McClintock
CHARM: Paddy McClintock

Paddy McClintock was the quintessential "man about town" of the rapidly changing Ireland of the 1960s and 1970s. Charming, handsome and blessed with a great sense of humour, he took to the new medium of television like the proverbial duck to water - and also to the exploding motorsport scene in Ireland where champions such as Rosemary Smith and Paddy Hopkirk were making their mark internationally.

No Irish driver can match Paddy McClintock's record in successfully competing in three marathon car rallies - the 1968 London to Sydney, the 1993 London to Sydney 25th and the 1995 London to Mexico.

He competed in many Circuit of Ireland events with drivers such as Sunday Independent motoring writer Cecil Vard, Dalkey ace Peter Cullen, The Star's Gerry Boud and others, in a wide variety of machinery - NSU Prinz, Ford Anglias, Mini Coopers, and even Daihatsu Charades - but the Peugeot 404 he got to Sydney twice was his favourite.

Patrick Foster McClintock was born in Northampton, England, on October 7, 1944 to Alfred and Margaret (nee Thompson). Alfred had served as a captain in the 8th King's Royal Irish Hussars and fought at El Alamein and D-Day. The McClintocks were a distinguished naval family from Termonfeckin, Co Louth - the most notable of whom, Admiral Sir Leopold McClintock, found fame in 1857 as the Arctic explorer who discovered what happened to poor Sir John Franklin in the frozen polar north of Canada on his ill-fated attempt to complete the North-west passage. Adventure was in Paddy's blood.

Alfred worked in the oil industry - for Esso in Belfast and later Jet in Dublin. Paddy attended Portora in Enniskillen, after which he seemed destined to follow the family tradition having secured a cadetship at Royal Navy College in Dartmouth - but six weeks was enough to convince him the navy was not the life for him.

He saw an ad in The Belfast Telegraph for Telefis Eireann looking for staff for its new station and he travelled South for an interview, managing to get a coveted job as a trainee cameraman in 1964. He worked on The Riordans and Tolka Row initially and later directed Seven Days. RTE had a dynamic motor club in Montrose led by Michael O'Carroll and Paul Gleeson and Paddy's navigational skills, good humour and driving made him a popular competitor, always in demand as co-driver.

In 1966, Dubliner John Cotton teamed up with Paddy and entered the RAC Rally. This event had 156 entries, including F1 aces Jim Clark and Graham Hill. The duo finished 27th, an amazing result against vastly better-funded professional teams. Paddy was a top notch co-driver, combining superb navigation with an ability to keep calm in moments of crisis.

In 1968 Bray-based tyre remoulder Cotton wanted to show his Kentredder remoulds could withstand endless hardship and entered the most valuable but toughest motorsport event of the year - the £10,000 Daily Express London to Sydney Marathon.

John and Paddy were accompanied by Sylvia Kay and during seven weeks and 13,000 miles, the trio battled over vicious terrain to get to the finish in a splendid 27th out of 94 entries.

In 1972 Paddy joined motor factor Brian Nelson on a 26-day tour in a Ford Anglia van behind the Iron Curtain, driving through western Russia, Ukraine and 14 other countries and covering 12,000 miles.

After 11 years in RTE, Paddy departed to set up Total Video, making films for RTE and others. His Motorways of 1978-79 was a full blown motoring programme which Paddy expertly wrote, directed and presented. He made some of the first professional marketing films in Ireland - most notably for Guinness-owned Emerald Star line, Fiat and the Irish Dairy Board.

In 1993, he completed the 25th anniversary of the London to Sydney marathon again in the Peugeot, this time partnered with his great friend, the engineer David Dunn, and in 1995 he completed the London to Mexico Rally with Bruce Hodgson.

In 2000, Paddy moved to Surrey, but he made frequent trips home and in later years became an expert on Arctic exploration, especially his own family's part in it.

He made a masterful film commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Dunboyne motor races (2008) and his film of the one-off Dun Laoghaire Motor Races in 1986 remains popular on You Tube and other media. He was back in Dublin in September for the honouring of Rosemary Smith by Mayor Nial Ring.

Paddy died in hospital on December 6 after a fall at his home in Midhurst, Surrey. He is survived by his sister, Fay (Hepworth) and his two nieces, Chantal Jackson and Michelle Woolfenden.

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