If there was ever a quintessential idea of what your typical panel beater might look like, Racheal Palmer would most likely not be it. The mother of two, who is originally from Dublin but living in Galway for more than 15 years, has had a huge interest in cars from a young age, meaning her career path made perfect sense.
She believes a negative experience at school is also something that may have led her to choose a more male orientated profession. “I would always have been a bit of a tomboy, people look at me and just see blonde hair so they might not neccessarily think that. I was bullied at school by girls and I suppose that had an effect on me in choosing my career as well.’’
After leaving school at the age of 16, she undertook a light vehicle mechanics course, which involved carrying out work experience in different garages. “The course was an introduction to mechanics, body repairs, welding, and spray painting. I did it to see if I really would enjoy the work and I did. From then I decided to choose body work over mechanics because I like the fact that I can see the finished result. It’s very satisfying.’’
Following on from the course, she managed to secure an apprenticeship at Tom Hogan Motors where she worked for three years. Unfortunately, due to the recession the company was forced to close its doors, but this coincided with Racheal taking some time out of work due to the arrival of her son Daniel and later her daughter Lara. However, she has now finished her apprenticeship and is a fully qualified vehicle body repairer, working at G and P Crash Repairs in the Liosban Industrial Estate.
Her day-to-day work now includes a bit of everything from repairs, filler work, plastic welding, prepping, priming, painting, and polishing. It is certainly fair to say this woman eats, sleeps, and breathes cars. While many Galway ladies were dolling themselves up to attend the Galway Races last month, Racheal was busy working on a new purchase. “Whenever I get free time I like to take on personal project of my own. I have a particular love for Audis. I bought an A4 a few years back. It was wrecked, it had dents on every panel and was a horrible green colour. So I fixed that at a friend’s garage and spray painted the body pink with a black roof. It was a lot of work. I recently bought a newer Audi A4 S line. That had a few small dents and scratches on the body. My boss James gave me permission to work in the garage while it was closed on Race Week, so I spent Ladies Day by myself working away on my Audi in the garage!’’
Challenging the stereotype
Does she consider it tough working in a profession that is dominated by the menfolk? “I have come across a few women doing my job, believe it or not. I do have the odd person surprised to see me working in a garage, but to me it’s not so surprising anymore. I have never experienced any negativity from work colleagues and I get mostly positive comments from customers, which is really nice. I suppose I have seen the odd smirk from a few men - but that’s their problem not mine!’’
This is certainly one busy lady as she has also qualified as a pole fitness instructor. She has performed and travelled with Galway based entertainment group The Dirty Circus. “I took to fitness to get my body back in shape after the kids. So I will be starting my second job in the evenings teaching pole fitness. We have a new studio opening on August 31. It’s called Studio 53 and it’s located above Argos in the Plaza building on the Headford Road.’’