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Rose of Tralee

Last Tuesday night saw the climax of the annual Rose of Tralee Festival. The festival is now in its 53rd year. Although originally a type of carnival queen competition, it is has since become a week long festival of music (James Brown and INXS amongst others), pageantry, and a variety of other entertainments.

The festival has had a number of formats over the years (and in truth has perhaps become a little kitsch), but at its centre is the selection of the ‘Rose’. The selection is mainly based on personality – this is no ‘Miss World’ and there is no swim-suit section! The contestants come from as far as New Zealand, Australia and Dubai, and are usually drawn from the Irish diaspora. From the states, New York, Boston, Texas, Arizona, Florida, Southern California, Philadelphia, and Chicago, amongst others, are usually represented.

The idea behind the name is based on the love song ‘The Rose of Tralee’, by William Mulchinock a 19th century wealthy merchant who was in love with Mary O’Connor, his family’s maid. Mary was born in Broguemaker’s Lane in Tralee and worked as a nanny. When William first saw Mary he fell in love with her, but because of the difference in social class and religion between the two families, their love affair was discouraged. William emigrated, and some years later returned to Tralee only to find Mary had died of tuberculosis. He was broken hearted and expressed his love for her in the words of the song.

The role of compere of the festival has moved from the more established presenters of yesteryear, to Daithí Ó Sé, the man voted ‘Sexiest Man on TV’ two years running, but who also has a cult following for his comedic (not always intentional) approach to such events. Thus the show, taken seriously by some and not at all by others, has seen a resurgence in its ratings, with a quarter of the population tuning in for the finale on Tuesday evening.

Last Tuesday saw the London Rose, Clare Kambamettu, crowned as Rose of Tralee 2010. Miss Kambamettu is currently studying for a Ph.D. in psychology with a particular emphasis on self-harming children at King’s College, University of London. Miss Kambamettu was delighted with the win ‘but mostly I am excited about the work I can do with charities in Ireland and in other countries and especially India over the year ahead.’ All of the roses then partied well into the night.

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