With the dust settling back around the Vale of Tralee and the weariness wearing off those who wholeheartedly partook of the Rose festivities, one Castleisland man has made enough friends and memories to last him an entire life time.
When Thomas Lynch’s name tripped off Dáithí O Sé’s tongue in ‘The Dome’ that night, it set off a whirl of celebrations in Castleisland that even the Mayo football team couldn’t halt last weekend.
I asked Thomas to give us an insight into the week he spent at the coal-face of one of Ireland’s most enduring and, probably, envied festivals. And, as soon as he got a chance to draw his breath, he sent the following report:
A Whirlwind Couple of Weeks – by Thomas Lynch. Photographs by Dominick Walsh
It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks since the start of the Rose of Tralee International Festival. Now I’m back to work in Grant Thornton.
I have just about caught up on my e-mails as I’m thanking everyone for their congratulations and giving them an insight into what it was like being involved in such an international festival.
That Time in August
As a child, I always watched the Rose of Tralee Festival and like every Kerry person, felt proud that this spectacle was happening in my backyard. I have some great memories of that time in August as a child; going to the bizarre, to the circus, watching the parade, seeing the fireworks and of course watching the Roses on television and arguing over who was going to win.
Probably one of my highlights as a child was 15 years ago, when I first worked with my parents in the Brandon, and I got to see the Rose Escorts walking with the Roses to the elevators, and watching that fast paced march that’s more of a performance than a walk. I have to say I am delighted that this year I was able to play a role in the performance.
I made my application last year, and put it to the back of my mind, not sure what the next steps were. In March of this year, I did a 15 minute skype interview which is really just an opportunity for Colm Croffy, the Rose Escort’s sworn leader, to give us a quick vetting.
Once you pass that minor hurdle, there were extensive interviews conducted at the Glenroyal Hotel in Maynooth where we had both individual and group interviews.
It seems like a lot, but the interviews are really only to gauge our personalities, and are much less formal than a job interview and the interviewers did a great job in relaxing all of us.
Soon after these interviews the 64 Rose Escorts were announced, and the journey to find sponsors began.
Grant Thornton Sponsors
I was extremely fortunate the Partners in the Business Consulting Unit in Grant Thornton agreed to sponsor the full amount so I had little work in the way of finding a sponsor.
My attention immediately turned to organising myself for the festival and organising my wardrobe. In order to look the part of a Rose of Tralee International Festival Rose Escort, there’s preparation that people don’t see behind the scenes in terms of having tuxes and suits ready to go.
Earrings, Bracelets and Necklaces
Luckily there was no preparation needed for certain items, as Tipperary Crystal not only bejewelled the Roses with earrings, bracelets and necklaces, they also presented the Rose Escorts with beautiful watches and cufflinks.
We also need to put together a Rose kit, which includes safety pins, hair-clips, Strepsils, plasters, baby wipes, tissues, and double sided body tape!!
Once all the prep was done, it was down to Tralee for the Festival. It was nerve wracking at first, but then again, everything that’s worth doing puts you out of your comfort zone.
I had an added advantage of attending the Killarney Races two weeks before the Festival, where I got to meet some of the Roses and Rose Escorts and have a trial run of escorting duties.
Breda O’Mahony, our beautiful Kerry Rose, also organised a three day trip to nursing homes in Kerry which I got to be a part of, where I got to meet a few more of my Rose Escort brothers.
These pre-festival activities helped me overcome any nervousness I had around having missed Bootcamp, and once I met the other 63 Rose Escorts I knew we were going to have a great time no matter what.
Worked as a Team
With a group this size, it was natural for personalities to gravitate towards each other, but everyone got on so well over the week long festival, and we all worked as a team.
I was so fortunate with the apartment pairings to have had two absolute heroes in my apartment. We saw the Festival the same way, and when we were given five hours to sleep, we used three of them to have our infamous de-briefs over cups of tea.
Rose Escort-only trips to CH Chemist and the Rose Hotel really helped to give all the Rose Escorts something to laugh about, and went a long way to gel the 64 large group.
Meeting the Roses and finding out who we were going to be paired with filled us all with excitement and nervousness. I was initially paired with Tara Roche, the Kilkenny Rose.
Tara was so genuinely nice, and made it so easy for me to do my job as a Rose Escort.
Attended Various Events
For the first few days, we attended various events. We attended a solemn commemorative event at the Recovery Haven; a Swing Dance Workshop; a Nathan Carter Concert and the Tralee Hospice just to name a few.
Although I had to take the lead at the Dance Workshop, Tara was fantastic at events, and particularly at the Hospice she did a great job at making the two patients she met feel at ease.
I only had two days with Tara, before they switched all the pairings and from Friday onwards I was escorting Lisa O’Donohue, the Dubai Rose, who is originally from Galway.
Fears Fell Away
The Rose Ball was the first event I escorted Lisa to, and while it can be difficult switching Roses at first, worrying if the Rose thinks the last Rose Escort did a better job, those fears soon fell away and the Rose Ball was a fantastic night out, and a highlight for many at the festival.
Lisa and I attended an event at John Mitchell’s GAA Club, pub twinning in Betty’s, the Parades and the Live Shows together.
It was a great pairing and I was delighted to have had Lisa as a Rose for the festival. Despite not making it onto the live shows, Lisa was genuinely thrilled for me when I was announced as Rose Escort of the Year.
Highlight of the Festival
Lisa may not be the 2017 Rose of Tralee, but she was my highlight of the Festival, and it was an absolute pleasure to have been her Rose Escort for five days.
I look forward to the friendship to come, which is likely to include a sneaky trip to Dubai.
Straight away after the announcement on Monday night, my role was to keep everyone focused and enthusiastic for the remainder of the Festival.
It’s such a hectic schedule and a long week, so it’s easy for the adrenaline that buoyed us to run out towards the end and it was my new job to keep everyone’s spirits high.
Speech in the Greenroom
I was asked to give a speech in the green room to all of the Roses and Rose Escorts, who were lovingly calling the Class of ’17, and I can’t really remember exactly what I said in the excitement of it all, but everyone had the revitalisation needed for Tuesday’s schedule.
Tuesday was such a special night, particularly when it came to the end of the show and the suspense was built as to who was going to be crowned the International Rose of Tralee.
We all waited anxiously, and I had a particular interest knowing that I would be escorting the winner to a number of events throughout the year.
But when Jennifer Byrne’s name was called, everyone had a wave of sheer delight wash over them.
She is Lovely and Fair
Even though I wasn’t grouped with Jennifer for many of the events and didn’t have the opportunity to get to know her as well as some of the others, I knew that she was a genuine and humble person who really embodied the traits of ‘lovely and fair’.
For me, she is summed up by the words of a previous Rose of Tralee who told me ‘Offaly doesn’t know how good she is.’
Now with the Festival behind me, I’m looking forward to the year ahead and what’s in store now that we have a 128 strong whatsapp group with the Roses and Rose Escorts – and we’ve already begun discussing plans of American road trips, German holidays and Irish reunions.
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