Rose of Tralee (festival)
The Rose of Tralee International Festival is an international event which is celebrated among Irish communities all over the world. The Festival, held annually in the town of Tralee in County Kerry, takes its inspiration from a 19th-century ballad of the same name about a woman called Mary, who because of her beauty was called "The Rose of Tralee". The words of the song are credited to C. (or E.) Mordaunt Spencer and the music to Charles William Glover, but a story circulated in connection with the festival claims that the song was written by William Pembroke Mulchinock, a wealthy Protestant, out of love for Mary O'Connor, a poor Catholic maid in service to his parents.
The festival has its origins in the local Carnival Queen, once an annual town event, fallen by the wayside due to post-war emigration. In 1957, the Race Week Carnival was resurrected in Tralee, and it featured a Carnival Queen. The idea for the Rose of Tralee International Festival came when a group of local business people met in Harty's bar, Tralee to come up with ideas to bring more tourists to the town during the horse racing meeting and to encourage expats back to their native Tralee. Led by Dan Nolan, then Managing Director of The Kerryman newspaper, they hit on the idea of the Rose of Tralee Festival. The event started in 1959 on a budget of just £750.
The founders of the organisation were: Billy Clifford, an accountant with the Rank Organisation, who was one of the first recipients of the Golden Rose award (which was inaugurated to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Festival of Kerry); Dan Nolan, involved with the Tralee Races; Jo Hussey, a shopkeeper in Tralee; and Ted Keane Snr, a local restaurateur.
Originally, only women from Tralee were eligible to take part; in the early 1960s it was extended to include any women from Kerry, and in 1967 it was further extended to include any women of Irish birth or ancestry.
In 2004 the Rose of Tralee Regional Finals were introduced to offer more people an opportunity to participate in the Rose of Tralee International Festival. It was held every year until 2015 in Portlaoise, Co. Laois on the June Bank Holiday weekend.
In the inaugural Regional Final 14 girls competed for 3 places in the Rose of Tralee International Festival in August. It became bigger each year and in 2015 the Regional Finals brought together 56 Roses from the USA, Ireland, Britain, Europe, Canada and United Arab Emirates. Over 3 selection nights, seven Irish Roses and sixteen International Roses were then selected to progress and join the other 9 Roses at the Rose of Tralee International Festival in August. From 2004 to 2015, the number of Rose Centres grew to over 65 and the event became well established and was a prestigious part of the process to finding the next Rose of Tralee. In 2014 it was announced that the 2015 Regional Finals would be the last, in favour of a revamped selection process held in Tralee.
The Rose of Tralee festival is held every August in Tralee, County Kerry, to choose a young woman to be crowned the Rose. The winner is the woman deemed to best match the attributes relayed in the song: "lovely and fair". She is selected based on her personality and should be a good role model for the festival and ambassador for Ireland during her travels around the world. It is not a beauty pageant, and the participants (Roses) are not judged on their appearances but on their personality and suitability to serve as ambassadors for the festival. The festival bills itself as a celebration of the "aspirations, ambitions, intellect, social responsibility and Irish heritage" of modern young women.
Each of the 32 counties of Ireland selects a Rose; and the international Roses, chosen from around the world, also participate in the qualifying rounds staged in the Festival Dome in Tralee. Ultimately, 32 Roses are selected to appear in the televised selection finals on RTÉ One, out of whom one lady is crowned the International Rose of Tralee.
The selection, which is broadcast over two nights by RTÉ, has been hosted by Dáithí Ó Sé since 2010. It was previously presented for 17 years by Gay Byrne. Other previous presenters include Terry Wogan, Brendan O'Reilly, Michael Twomey, Kathleen Watkins, Ray D'Arcy, Ryan Tubridy, Marty Whelan and Derek Davis. The first presenter of The Rose of Tralee (before it was televised) was Kevin Hilton.
The festival overcame financial difficulties in 2004, and has strengthened with growing visitor numbers and maintaining strong viewer figures.
Up until the year 2008, unmarried mothers were not allowed to enter the contest.
There is also a male participation in the show in the form of Rose Escorts, who help to assist the roses during their time in the festival. The escort who works hard is named "Escort of the year", and is invited back to the festival the next year.
The Channel 4 comedy Father Ted parodied the festival in the episode "Rock-a-Hula Ted" where the eponymous character is asked to host the local "Lovely Girls" competition. Will Scally produced and directed a Channel Four documentary called Rose of Tralee.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the festival in 2009, 50 Roses took part in the 2009 competition; usually there are about 30.
Michele McCormack (1985 Chicago Rose) has gone on to win an Edward R. Murrow Award in her chosen profession of broadcast journalism. She hosts selection contests in both Philadelphia and the Midwest of the USA. (She credits her interview technique to Gay Byrne, who hosted the contest when she was in Tralee.) Other notable Roses include Aoife Mulholland of Galway (2003) who went on to achieve acclaim as an actor, and Noreen Culhane (New York Rose 1970) now Executive Vice-President of the New York Stock Exchange.
Gabby Logan, the BBC TV Sports Presenter was the Leeds Rose in 1991.
|1963||Geraldine Fitzgerald RIP||Boston|
|1964||Margaret O'Keeffe RIP||Tralee|
|1966||Laraine Stollery||New Zealand|
|1974||Maggie Flaherty||New York|
|1976||Marie Soden||New York|
|1988||Mary Ann Murphy||New Zealand|
|1993||Kirsty Flynn||Midlands UK|
|2000||Róisín Egenton||New York|
|2005||Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin||Mayo|
|2006||Kathryn Anne Feeney||Queensland|
|2007||Lisa Murtagh||New York|
|2015||Elysha Brennan ||Meath|
Notes and references
- "The Rose of Tralee Story". Rose of Tralee website. Retrieved 24 October 2008.
- "'Lovely Girl' festival going strong after half a century despite changing times". Irish Independent. 22 January 2009. Retrieved 22 January 2009.
- "Ó Sé is new Rose of Tralee host". RTÉ Entertainment. 17 May 2010. Retrieved 25 May 2010.
- "Record Audiences in a time of challenges". The Kerryman. 19 August 2009. Retrieved 19 August 2009.
- "Unmarried mothers can be Roses". BBC News. 3 April 2008. Retrieved 26 August 2008.
- Rose of Tralee reveals that she's gay RTÉ News, 24 August 2014.
- Rose of Tralee reveals she's gay Sunday Independent, 24 August 2014.
- Rose heartened by response to revelations that she is gay Irish Times, 25 August 2014.
- "Fit for a Royal County Rose! Elysha takes the crown…". evoke.ie. 19 August 2015.
- "The Chicago Rose has just been crowned the Rose of Tralee". The Journal. 23 August 2016. Retrieved 24 August 2016.
- Official site – Rose of Tralee
- Official site – Dublin Rose of Tralee Centre
- Official site – Philadelphia Rose of Tralee Centre
- Binchy, Maeve. "Rose festival from behind dark spectacles". The Irish Times, 3 September 1969.
- BBC Four, TV documentary programme by Sir Terence Wogan OBE celebrating Ireland, broadcast, 21 October 2015.