Celebrated Kerry footballer, beard wearer and fashion aficionado Paul Galvin gives us a little local insight into the Rose of Tralee.
It took quite a while to achieve full erection. Almost a week in fact. It had never taken so long before and I was getting worried.
It was only by pure chance as I was coming out of The Aquadome after a good hour riding the waves in the wave-simulator that I bumped into the foreman on the job who reminded me that last year it took almost a week to fully erect The Dome also. That comforted me.
If there’s one sight that signals the beginning of the Rose Of Tralee it’s the erection of The Dome. The people of Tralee look upon its construction with a mixture of confusion and pride. We’re not quite sure what to make of it but goddamit we care. And we enquire because we care.
Come July every year its all you’ll hear around the town. “Is The Dome up yet?”, “Have they started The Dome yet?,” “When’s The Dome going up?”, “Where’s The Dome?”, “Is that The Dome?”, “They’d want to start throwing up The Dome fairly fast.” And every year without fail there is a false alarm as rumours circulate the town that “The Dome is up” only to wake and discover that Fossetts Circus have begun pitching the Big Top in the adjacent car-park.
Fully Erect At Last
Eventually The Dome is up and we all breathe a sigh of relief. We know the eyes of the world will be watching and wondering. Mainly wondering why we don’t hold the event in a hotel or conference centre instead of a tent. Our answer to that is we’re just too big for hotels. I’m glad to report that The Dome now stands fully erect on the grounds of The Carlton Hotel in between The Aquadome and Fossett’s Big Top, in what is known locally as The Dome Quarter.
The older generation in Kerry are especially aware of the importance of The Festival. For them its steeped in nostalgia and the keen awareness that this is our only opportunity this year to get Tralee trending on Twitter. Its just a pity about the unattractive Twitter hashtag for the Rose Of Tralee. #ROT doesn’t quite capture the romance of it all I always feel. I wondered throughout last years live broadcast what exactly was the nature of the #ROT outbreak and where in the world it had taken place. It was only when I spotted a tweet about our own Daithí Ó Sé accompanied by #ROT did the penny drop.
Speaking of Daithí I cant help thinking we’d have turned our holes to The Festival altogether in Kerry if it wasn’t for the fact that he’s actually one of us. It was touch and go there for a while until he took the reins. We looked on suspiciously for years as Darcy and Tubridy came down to our land and chatted up our women right in front of us.
Then along came Daithí with his Gaeltacht charm and all was ok again. We have re-claimed our land. We never minded Gaybo so much as he was old and always brought Kathleen with him. Derek Davis was a safe enough bet he wasn’t gonna show us up. Marty was just Magnum P.I. up there. It was our mothers we worried about.
Those other two were different. Young and flirty. And when they weren’t showing us Kerrymen up on national television, those fucking escorts were inside in our pubs drinking our drink and cordoning off the general area around the Roses in every pub we followed them into. Making it very difficult for us to get near enough a Rose for even a chat never mind the shift. Shitehawks from all over Ireland “escorting” them. Taking the piss out of us more like it. Rubbing our noses in the whiff of their expensive Davidoff Blue Water.
A Rose by any other name..
It all got too much for a friend of mine one year. He was a quiet type. Shy, but determined. He took a shine to the Toronto Rose. We ended up following her entourage to every pub just for him. Sean Ogs, Paddy Macs, Teach Beag, The Blasket. Everywhere we went the Toronto Rose’s escort thwarted my friends efforts to get close. He moved, he mooched and he maneuvered but my mate couldn’t get near her.
Eventually the preceived rejection got too much for him and he snapped. “YOU’RE JUST A F*CKING PROSTITUTE!!” he screamed in her direction. The pub fell into shocked silence and the Toronto Rose left in floods of tears. No one was more shocked than me to be honest as it was the most he had spoken in years.
The irony of the situation was that my friend was actually shouting at the escort who he reasoned was a prostitute getting paid to sleep with his Rose. To be fair no one was buying that. There was further irony when my lifelong pal was “escorted” out of the premises. I mosied off towards the jacks whilst this was happening lest anyone think I was a friend of his or anything, which I was of course, but hey show some class right?? You’ll never pull a Rose like that.
You see escorts would be a major bone of contention amongst us Kerrymen. An elderly neighbour of mine told me a very interesting story one time. Being a historian he has a keen interest in the history of the Festival. As long as he is following it there is no known record of a local Kerryman bedding a Rose.
“Is it any wonder” he asked, “shur what’s the difference between courting and escorting only the letter ‘s’……?” I didn’t point out the fact that there was also an ‘e’ at the beginning of “escorting” and a ‘u’ in the middle of “courting” marking two quite obvious differences between the two words as overall I felt he had a good point. It raised a valid question. Surely only Kerrymen should be escorts? What can a pilgrim from Louth tell a Rose about the land upon which she blossoms? The land of Kerry. What knows a dingo from Cork of the true qualities of one Mary O’ Connor?
In fact so strong was the feeling of… well, jealousy really, towards the Rose Of Tralee escorts amongst North Kerrymen in particular, that there was talk amongst a band of North Kerry farmers circa 1989, at their wits end due to a scarcity of womenfolk in the parish, of setting up their very own escort service.
It was time to fight back and reclaim their land, their manhood, their self-respect and of course claim a few bob out of the Rose Of Tralee Festival while they were at it. That they did. They were true to their pledge and an escort service was born. For 10 years gigolos thrived in the North Kerry countryside. Barns danced, bushes rustled and business boomed, never moreso around Festival time when women flocked from every part of Ireland to “de-stress” and avail of the escort services the streets of Tralee offered.
Hungry farmers from the North Kerry hinterlands owned the night. Of course it could never last and the crackdown on the sex industry in Ireland in the noughties saw the head honchos of the operation jailed and stripped of their assets which mainly included their farms, their Lamborghini tractors and their knee-high wellingtons. But they made their stand and a fun stand it was too. Us Kerrymen lost faith in the Festival again in the intervening years but then along came Daithí to restore our faith and put an end to the grief.