Rose of Tralee juggernaut rumbles on
As far back as I can remember, there are certain things I automatically associate with an Irish summer. Among them is sunburn that peeled; trapping bumblebees in jamjars; 99s that dribbled down the front of your t-shirt in the back of the car on a Sunday afternoon and, of course, The Rose of Tralee.
Now in its 55th year, the festival continues to be a hugely popular feature of the early autumnal season in this country.
My formative years were spent picking a winner from the pictures of the Roses which were printed in the national newspaper, then, as the boy became a man, a flutter in the bookies became an annual tradition (Philadelphia gets the nod this year, by the way).
Like the other approximately 1,000,000 TV viewers that tune in to watch the contest unfold, many of you will enjoy this year's event and the following are some interesting facts about the Rose of Tralee of which you may not be aware.
* The 1991 Leeds Rose was British TV presenter Gabby Yorath, daughter of famous Leeds United footballer and Wales international, Terry Yorath. She is also the wife of former Scotland rugby international, Kenny Logan.
* When Boyzone performed in the Dome in 1995, not only were they three hours late for the concert, but only four of the band performed, as Shane Lynch was sidelined with a broken leg.
* The 1996 Adelaide Rose was Genevieve O'Reilly and she went on to star in such blockbuster movies as Star Wars Episode III Revenge of the Sith, The Matrix Reloaded and also The Matrix Revolutions.
* The Wolfe Tones were given their first taste of stardom by winning the Ballad Contest at one of the early Rose of Tralee International Festivals. The Furey Brothers and Davey Arthur also got their big break in the same competition at the festival a few years later.
* Famed Irish singer/songwriter Christy Moore wrote a song called 'Me and the Rose' in honour of the Rose of Tralee.
* The only Centre to have won the title in successive years is London, in 2010 (Clare Kambamettu) and 2009 (Charmaine Kenny). The closest runner-up is New York which won in 1974 (Maggie Flaherty) and 1976 (Marie Soden). Dublin has won the contest more often than any other Centre – five times – beginning with Alice O'Sullivan (the first Rose) in 1959, Ciara O'Sullivan (1962), Cathy Quinn (1969), Sinead Boyle (1989) and Orla Tobin (2003).
* There is an actual rose named The Rose of Tralee. Sam McGredy was an internationally renowned Portadown rose grower who became involved with the Festival in the 1960s. He bred and registered the Rose of Tralee rose and presented rose bushes to Tralee, which still grow in the Town Park.
* In 1961, when the newly established RTE was holding auditions to assess the talents of potential performers, Arthur Murphy, later of 'Mailbag' fame sang 'The Rose of Tralee' to showcase his singing talents.
STRANGE TRIBUTE BY RTE
I was saddened to hear of the death of famed comedian and actor Robin Williams (pictured) in the past week. The decision by RTE to pay tribute to him by showing one of his films on Thursday night, in which he didn't have the lead role but played an uncharacteristically sinister character who washes up as a corpse in the final scenes, was disturbing. In restrospect, the taste in which the decision was made to show that particular piece of work by someone renowned for comedic genius should be questioned.