Give me a crash course in . . .The Rose of Tralee
Is this thing still on?Yes. This year, the “selection nights”, or the competition itself, take place on Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th, when one of the 32 contestants will be crowned the Rose of Tralee, winning a sash, a fancy crown and 12 months of globetrotting to represent the brand internationally at various events.
Why was it set up in the first place?As a way of attracting more tourists to Tralee during race week. The original group of business people who established the competition did so on a budget of £750 in 1959. Only women originally from Tralee were allowed to compete. Later the competition was opened to Kerry women, and finally to any women who were Irish by birth or ancestry.
Who was the actual Rose of Tralee?According to the 19th-century love song, she was called Mary: she may or not have been a Catholic maid, Mary O’Connor, whom a local wealthy Protestant William Pembroke Mulchinock fancied.
What about, you know, the whole sexism thing?The Rose of Tralee has somehow miraculously managed to jig around the scornful idea of a beauty contest by emphasising tradition and wholesomeness, and generally choosing a smart and lovely winner your mum likes. So don’t expect to see Pussy Riot win any time soon.
Who’s holding the shoes?Newly married to a Rose himself, Daithí O Sé will return and make mild jokes about no longer being single, and about intercounty rivalry. And he will say “divil”.
Who are the awkward looking lads in debs tuxedos?Those would be the escorts – not those kind of escorts – who compete for the Escort of the Year prize, which is worth €5,000.
Can I make money from this?Maybe. The Dublin Rose Arlene O’Neill and the Mayo Rose Dervla Kenny are currently tied at 3/1 as favourites. Dublin has been the most successful county since the inaugural competition in 1959, with five wins.
I do a mean version of Call Me Maybe on the tin whistle, can I enter?Not if you are or have ever been married, or if you’re an aul’ wan (over 28) or a young wan (under 18). Life is cruel like that.