Skip to content Skip to footer

 ‘It’s been a whirlwind in the most special way’: Newsletter from Rose of Tralee Róisín Wiley

Newsletter #3, and there’s so much to cover! The last few months have been the busiest few months of my life, so far. I keep thinking, what will I do with myself this time next year when I don’t have half of this going on haha…Since my last Newsletter in February, I’ve celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in New York with the over 100 Rose of Tralee visitors from around the world, I traveled to Ireland for almost three weeks attending the 2024 Rose Selections and much more, and spent a week walking 125km through Northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago with 10 other Roses and Rose Escorts. It’s been a whirlwind in the most special way, and I am excited to share a bit more about the highlights of those experiences with you.

St. Patrick’s Day

I’ll start with St. Patrick’s Day. One of my first conversations with each of the Roses when we met, revolved around everyone’s excitement to come to New York to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Traditionally the New York Rose hosts the group and plans a weekend of events – it can be difficult to plan a dinner for four friends in NYC, never mind a weekend of events for a group of 60 visitors, so I was definitely nervous about everything going off without a hitch. Luckily, I had an amazing group of previous New York Roses (shout out to Cathrena, Sarah, Elena, and Sophie) for providing support and guidance in planning the weekend. 

Over 60 Roses and Rose Escorts traveled to New York to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day from all over the world. We had a jam-packed weekend as a group, and I know everyone sacrificed a lot of sleep to see as much of NYC and spend as much time together as we could.

On Thursday, I kicked the weekend off by meeting the New York Rose Center and New York Selection Judges for lunch. Thank you especially to Kerry Whitaker Townsend, 1979 New York Rose, for gathering us. Later that evening, the Roses and Rose Escorts met for welcome drinks. This was the first surreal moment of the weekend for me. The Roses and Rose Escorts traveled from all over the world to be in New York, and seeing everyone in one room really made things feel real. It really is unbelievable the effort that this group made to be together this weekend, and I feel so thankful to have been able to be a small part of what brought us together. The camaraderie that developed between this group was never more evident than seeing the joy and excitement on everyone’s face to be together that night. I need to shout out a few of our International Roses and Rose Escorts that made a 24 hour+ trip to be in NYC – our New Zealand Rose, Kelsi, South Australia Rose, Charlotte, Sydney Rose, Aoife, Queensland Rose, Imogen, and Rose Escort Aaron from Singapore all made the International trip. 

Along with 60+ Roses and Rose Escorts from the Class of 2023, this year was especially notable because 27 of the previous International Rose’s made the trip to march in the NYC St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The reason for this trip is a beautiful story that encapsulates the sisterhood that develops within the Rose of Tralee. The International Roses decided to take the trip to New York this year, to fulfill the wish of our 1994 Rose of Tralee, Muirne Hurley. Muirne had a wish of walking up 5th Avenue in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade – and when Muirne expressed this wish in a passing conversation to another Rose during chemo treatments back in 2023, I don’t think she expected what was to come next. The group of International Roses rallied behind this wish, and booked the trip to New York to march up 5th Avenue together. To me, this was the most beautiful part of the weekend. I got to witness first hand the decades-long sisterhood that continues to grow within the Rose of Tralee, and I feel so lucky to now be a part of that. 

On Friday morning, the day before the Parade, the New York Rose Center hosted a coffee morning chat in the Bank of Ireland office. It was a wonderful way to get the group of Roses, Rose Escorts, and International Roses together to kick off the special weekend. I’d like to give a big shout out to Sophie Colgan for taking the lead in setting up this event and hosting, as well as Blacktie Transportation for sponsoring the morning. 

That evening, I visited the Irish Consulate to hear Helen McEntee speak. The Consulate was absolutely packed – I was so happy to see the International Roses there as well. We all had our sashes on, everyone definitely knew the Roses were there! One consistent theme across all of these events was the excitement and joy in the air – everyone was just so happy to be together, and I think St. Patrick’s Day brings this wonderful spirit that we felt all weekend. We ended Friday night with a fun group dinner at The Joyce. 

My alarm went off at 5am on Saturday morning, and I was ready for the big day ahead. Tommy Cunninghham, Escort of the Year, and I had a busy morning together before the parade took off. We first attended the New York Mayor’s House for breakfast. We got to hear Helen McEntee speak again, as well as the NYC Mayor himself. After breakfast, we made our way to St. Patrick’s Cathedral for mass. I will never forget the feeling of walking into the church that day – the pews were packed, everyone dolled up in their best green. We sat at the front of the church and had the most beautiful view of the crowd. The mass was very peaceful and in hindsight, it was one of my favorite moments of the day, to have been able to sit and take everything in.

After mass, we made our way to meet up with the Roses and Rose Escorts to line up for the parade. The sun was shining and the crowds were out – the energy on the streets was like nothing I’ve seen before! And then we were off…I will never forget the feeling of marching up 5th Avenue with the Roses of Tralee. What a surreal moment – this time last year I was working, watching the parade on my computer, and now I am marching as the Rose of Tralee in New York with a group of people I could have never dreamed of meeting. The crowds cheered for the Roses as we passed, and we literally danced up 5th Avenue. The saying is true that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, because New York was absolutely alive, and everyone wanted to celebrate. 

It felt like the quickest 30-blocks I have ever walked. By the end of it I was ready to keep going. Although the parade had finished, the day was still getting going at that point. The group made its way to the Upper East Side. The bars were overflowing to the streets, and we were soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the rays. Bagpipers, policemen, firemen, all stopping by to take pictures with the Roses – we loved it. We then made our way to Slattery’s Pub, and the party kept going. I remember seeing everyone laughing, dancing, chatting – we were all just so happy to be together. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NYC will for sure be a day that we will never forget. 

The adrenaline was pumping all weekend, because we woke up on Sunday ready to go again. This time it was for the Brooklyn Parade. We got another beautiful day marching through Brooklyn, and closed out the weekend at The Coronas concert. I could not have asked for a better weekend, and I am so thankful to everyone that made the effort to be there.

The next trip to Ireland! 

About a week after the Roses and Rose Escorts left New York, I was on a flight to Ireland. I just couldn’t stay away. On this trip, my itinerary revolved around attending some of the 2024 Rose Selections and spending time in Limerick making a few special visits. During this trip, I worked remotely, so my mornings were busy with Rose of Tralee duties, and I spent my evenings at my computer – it was a busy few weeks, but my favorite trip to Ireland so far as the Rose of Tralee. 

I’ll first touch on the Rose Selections. I was able to attend four of the 2024 Rose Selections – Sligo, Kilkenny, Westmeath, and Waterford. Having never attended a Rose Selection in Ireland before, I didn’t know what to expect. My first selection was up in Sligo, and I was blown away by the extravagance of each night. The amount of organization that goes into making each selection night happen… between working with sponsors, organising the Roses, managing the hundreds of guests, is unbelievable. And almost all of this work is being done by volunteers. 

At each of the selections, the Rose of Tralee is welcomed into the room with a standing ovation. It is such an honor to hold this title, and I have seen that more and more as I’ve attended the Rose Selections. The prestige that comes with the Rose of Tralee has been built because of the decades of women before me that have held this title. That is the reason I am received with a standing ovation, because of what it means to be the Rose of Tralee. The crowd is standing for me, and every woman before me, and I am glad to have had a moment to take that in during each selection night. 

Watching the 2024 Roses being announced was a very exciting and bittersweet feeling. The year flies by, and it is surreal to think that we are preparing for a new class to get to Tralee. At the same time, I feel so excited for what each Rose has ahead of them. The 2024 Roses that have been selected are absolutely wonderful, and I am so excited to get to know them more! Having attended a few selections, and seen over 50 finalists on stage, I do not envy the judges whatsoever. There were so many extremely deserving Roses, and it’s almost unfortunate that only one can be chosen – my main piece of advice to any of the Roses not selected is to consider applying again. If the experience felt right and this is something you want to pursue, apply again (that’s what I did), you never know where it could lead you. 

During the almost three weeks I was in Ireland, I also spent a lot of time in Limerick with my family. I wanted to dedicate time to visit my cousins in school. I visited Kilmallock National School (where my dad was a student), St Patricks National School Bruree; and Scoil Ailbhe, Caherelly. Later in the week I got to visit the school in Templeglantine with my mom, where she was a student. Not only did I get a tour of the school with my two very own escorts, Templeglatine also welcomed me with a celebration in the town hall and I unveiled a plaque celebrating the 60th anniversary of founding the Templeglantine Community Council.

I also made a special visit to Athy in Kildare, to visit Tir Na NÓg, preschool. Tir Na nÓg sponsored my escort, Tommy Quirke, so I was very happy to have been able to visit and see the wonderful students and establishment in person. Later that day I also visited Rose Escort, Timmy Dunne’s class at Carlow College. This was my first time visiting a Secondary School and I really loved getting to chat to the older students – I hope I encouraged at least 1 of the girls to apply one day. Each of these visits felt so special because I was there for my family and friends. I was blown away by the preparation from each of the schools – whether it was a song to sing for me, or a presentation to be made, or planting a Rose outside the school (thank you Kilmallock), each of the schools took time and effort to prepare for my visit, and I am so thankful for that. 

Another special visit I made in Limerick was to St. Camillus Hospital in Limerick. Thanks to Rose Escort, Paul Ruane, who works at the hospital, I was able to stop in and meet some of his coworkers and patients. It was a bit of a change from visiting primary schools during the week, but I think that made this visit feel all the more special. I sat and had coffee and cake with the patients. During that time, I got the chance to speak to all of the patients one on one, and they had the most encouraging kind words for me. We also sang a few songs, and I was even serenaded with the Rose of Tralee sang for me. Another moment where I need to pinch myself – I feel so much love and support from people that I have not even met before, and I feel so blessed. 

This trip to Ireland was packed with so many different visits, and I loved every second of it. I may be missing a few points above, but I think this covers most of the highlights. One personal highlight was the freedom I felt driving my car around, and getting myself from “A to B”. This is the first trip I really felt comfortable behind the wheel, so I’m already excited to get back driving in Ireland again. My Mom said I’m a better driver in Ireland than in New York… not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, but I’ll take it!

Camino for Cliona

The last big item that I need to mention in this newsletter is the Camino for Clionas. At the end of April, 11 Roses and Rose Escorts including myself, embarked on a trip to Northern Spain to walk 125 km of the Camino de Santiago. We walked the Camino in partnership with Cliona’s Foundation, which is a foundation I am so happy to represent and endorse. Cliona’s Foundation provides financial assistance directly to parents of children with life-limiting or chronic complex care needs across Ireland to help with the non-medical expenses related to caring for their child. As a group, we raised over €3,000, which will help a family in need. 

When I first heard there was a chance that the 2023 Rose Class would have the opportunity to walk the Camino, it became the trip I was most excited for over the year. I am so thankful that it came to fruition. Myself, the Toronto Rose, Erica Daly, Carlow Rose, Caoimhe Deering, Arizona Rose, Ashley Jackson, Boston Rose, Fiona Weir, and Wexford Rose, Bronagh Hogan represented the Roses. And Paul Ruane, Tommy Quirke, Malachy Lynch, Noel Quinn, and Michael Naughton, represented the Rose Escorts. 

I had pictures in my head of what I hoped the Camino would be like – I pictured small man-made bridges in the forest, pathways though fields, and quaint Spanish towns. I felt as though this was wishful thinking, but I was wrong. Each day of the Camino got more and more beautiful, and exceeded my expectations in terms of the scenery and overall experience. As Rose Escort, Noel Quinn put so eloquently, “Along the way, I found myself intrigued by the sudden changes underfoot. One moment you could be walking on a well trodden forest floor, the next moment a cobble paving lay before you. Appearing out of nowhere in total isolation. From completely dry to muddy.” It was spectacular to experience the changing landscape and scenery throughout our week of the Camino. 

The group and I started our Camino in the town of Fortaleza de Valença, Portugal. Shortly after we began our walk, we crossed a bridge that brought us into Spain for the remainder of our camino. Although rain was forecast for the week, the sun began to shine on our first day of walking, and I think this charged us for the rest of the week. We finished our first day of walking in the town of O Porriño, and relaxed and enjoyed the night sitting together, and enjoying each other’s company. This became our routine each night, and is a highlight of the trip for me. The time spent together each evening recapping the day, often laughing, felt so genuine and wholesome and really bonded our group. Each day we walked somewhere between 15km-25km. Some of those days were more difficult than others. We had wonderful sunny weather for the first two days, but the remainder of the trip was wet. Our ponchos were in and out of our bags more often than our water bottles. Around day three, I started to get bad blisters on my feet. I would wake up in the morning not even able to put my feet flat on the ground, and the thought of walking 20km almost felt impossible. I was not the only one powering through pain – but we all pushed through.

As Noel said himself, “Perseverance through friendship. That is what comes to mind when I reflect on our journey from Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis. Waking up to the sound of rain bucketing down did not make for an easy start. Alas, we were all in the same position, feeling the aches and pains and now needing to find the strength to march on through the heavy rain.”

Day four of the Camino was a highlight for the group. On our way to Caldas de Reis, the group stopped at Igrexa de Santa María del Alba and Casa de la MiseriCordia. Some of us actually passed by the church without going in, but made our way back via taxi later that day after hearing about the experience from the group. At Casa de la MiseriCordia we met a priest named Padre Carlos, who blessed our group. He also blessed us individually, and the words he shared with each of us felt so personal and almost exactly what we needed to hear. It was a spontaneous experience, that I think made for one of the most special moments for each of us whilst on the Camino.   

We were lucky enough to be walking the Camino with Terry Ring, Cliona’s Mom. The purpose of this trip is to raise funds and awareness for Cliona’s Foundation, and as a group, I know we felt proud to be wearing Cliona’s Foundation apparel each day. We were often approached by others walking the Camino with different questions about the foundation and so many wanted to donate. Our Camino de Santiago was special on so many levels, and to be able to support and raise funds for Clionas Foundation while doing so, made this experience all the more special. 

On our final day of the Camino, there was a sense of excitement but I think also a bit of sadness as we didn’t want the experience to end. To wake up every day, and your only goal to be to walk to the next destination, was very eye-opening. We spend so much of our regular day to day with so much on our plate whether that be from work, friends, family, personal pressures, etc. This experience stripped so many of those pressures away, and forced us to focus on the most simple of tasks, just walk. I truly feel like I was able to mentally detach from everything else, and immerse myself in the Camino. I hope to travel back to Spain one day and walk another route – I would recommend this experience to anyone, and feel blessed that I was able to be a part of this with the Rose Class of 2023. Not only will I never forget this, but my feet may never fully heal so I’ll have the scars to show it haha…

I’m heading into my last quarter before the next Rose of Tralee is selected. Time has flown, but it also feels like I have been the Rose of Tralee for years. I have experienced so much that I cannot comprehend that it’s only been 9 months! I am truly enjoying it all and will forever look back at this year as one of the most special years of my life. Here’s to continuing to soak it up for the next few months. 

Róisín Wiley, Rose of Tralee 2023

Leave a comment