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Story of first Rose told in new book

From first hearing the story of Mary O'Connor from her mother when she was 13 years old to seeing the finished version of her novel about her life on book shelves, it's been a long labour of love for author Patricia O'Reilly.

Entitled 'The First Rose of Tralee', the book is a historical fiction novel based on the love story of servant Mary O'Connor and merchant William Mulchinock - a story that Patricia admits is a darker story than many people realise. 

Sitting inside The Kerryman offices last Wednesday, the finished book sitting in front her, Patricia could not keep the smile from her face as she discussed how the book came to be.

"As a child or teenager, I used to spend a lot of summers in Tralee and one day I heard some old woman talking about a Mary O'Connor and they told me the story and I remember thinking at the time that I would die of excitement, it was like a Cinderella story," said Patricia.

"But of course, I knew nothing about the darker side of the story until I started researching it," she continued. Four years in the making, Patricia said that writing historical fiction about such a well known story was an interesting experience.

"I took both Mary O'Connor and William Pembroke Mulchinock who obviously existed, his mother and some of the other characters who existed as well and I wrote about them what I could find through research and the era of the time and then I, should I say, breathed creative life into other characters that I created," she said.

"It was great to have Mary O'Connor there from the start, she is a brilliant character and then you have William Mulchinock who is the exact opposite to her," said Patricia.

When writing the book, Patricia took many trips down to Tralee and she admits that there were more than a few afternoons where she lost herself in wandering the town and picturing it how it would have been during Mary's time.

With the 60th anniversary of the Rose of Tralee Festival now only a few months away, Patricia feels that festival organisers should make sure that each new Rose is supplied with a copy of the book before the start of the festival in an effort to connect them more with the story that started it all. As to seeing her book out on shelves, Patricia admits that it is a feeling that never gets old.

"It is so exciting. Coming down here again with the book in my hand, I was like a child. I was just so excited, to be coming to the hometown of where the story took place. Being here again and seeing all of the settings from the story, it's very special," she said. The book is now available to buy from all good book shops in Tralee and Kerry.