It's all 50/50 as escorts get set for roses on 50th anniversary


THE 50 escorts for the 50 roses for the 50th Rose of Tralee festival were yesterday fine-tuning their diplomacy skills, their chivalry and the dance steps they learned at a “boot camp for rose escorts”.

At the Kerry Technology Park attached to the town’s third-level campus, there were two hours to go before the escorts were due to be paired off with their roses for the traditional start to the half-century-old Rose of Tralee festival.

Former roses, former broadcasters and former organisers are gathering from around the world for the anniversary event.

This year’s training camp for escorts is a novel event and included a lesson in James Bond-style cocktail making, powering in a speed boat on the Shannon, getting instruction on chivalry from the medieval butler at Bunratty Castle, carrying out water rescue, and security details. The escorts also got a rugby lesson at Thomond Park.

Some 300 young men expressed an interest and 50 were chosen. Martin Murphy (25), a manufacturing engineer from Enniscorthy, said his application had started out as a joke when the girls in the office in Clearwater Technology put his name forward.

“It’s getting serious now,” he said nervously. “The worst thing would be having to dance before 1,400 people just before midnight at the . . . rose ball.” Denis Healy from Cork added: “I don’t know how I’m going to do that . . .”

At the Earl of Desmond hotel, 42 former roses and 50 young “rosebuds”, a new category who will play bridesmaid to the roses, were waiting for the rose coach to arrive from Limerick. The event will be broadcast live on Tuesday and Wednesday night.