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The First Rose of Tralee by Patricia O’ Reilly

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Article by Swirl and Thread ©.
Posted in | | .

‘The love story that inspired Ireland’s famous festival.’

‘She was lovely and fair as the rose of the summer
Yet ’twas not her beauty alone that won me
Oh no ’twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning
that made me love Mary, the Rose of Tralee’

The First Rose of Tralee is the latest novel from Irish writer Patricia O’ Reilly and has just been published by Poolbeg Press. It is described as ‘captivating and compelling….the spellbinding account of the young girl, as beautiful as she was innocent, whose attributes live on in the annual Rose of Tralee International Festival’ The festival is celebrating it’s Diamond Anniversary this year, 2019, sixty years on.

Who hasn’t heard of The Rose of Tralee Festival? It’s international appeal brings folk in their droves to the town of Tralee and it’s surroundings. It’s success over the years has it’s roots in the story of Mary O’ Connor and William Pembroke Mulchinock. Theirs was a romance that was never to be and their story has been recounted by many over the years, passed on from generation to generation. Tralee pays homage to their love with a beautiful and specially commissioned sculpture of both Mary and William set in the surroundings of The Rose Garden in Tralee Town Park. Patricia O’ Reilly brings alive the story of Mary O’ Connor and William Pembroke Mulchinock gently weaving fact with fiction in this beautiful tribute of a novel.

Mary O’ Connor was a servant girl, reared in the poverty of the back lanes of Tralee. Her father was a shoemaker with a taste for the drop and over the years Mary’s earning became vital to the family’s survival. Ireland at that time, mid eighteen hundreds, was a country that was in the midst of political upheaval. Local Kerry man, Daniel O’ Connell, The Liberator, was once again rallying his supporters. Following his success in bringing Catholic Emancipation to Ireland, he was now pushing for Repeal of the Union, in the hope of achieving ‘an Irish parliament for the Irish people’. There was a shift in thinking among the local population leading to unrest and upheaval.

As the spirits were raised and speeches continued on the streets of Tralee, Mary O’ Connor took up a role in West Villa, the home of the Mulchinocks. Initially working in the kitchen, Mary was a fast learner soon garnering the respect of her superiors. Over time her general attitude and demeanor was noticed by many, including the Mistress of the house, Margaret Mulchinock, and her son, William Pembroke Mulchinock, now heir to West Villa. William was a romantic, a dreamer, a poet and the workings of the estate were of no interest to him, causing his mother many a sleepless night. With the tragic passing of his father, it was expected that William would take over the running of the estate but William had other ideas. William listened to Daniel O’ Connell’s speeches and was inspired by what he heard. He believed that there was a better future for the Irish and felt very strongly that Repeal was an important next step for the country.

William crossed paths with Mary O’ Connor and was immediately captivated by her beauty and her approach to life. The attraction between both was instant but initially neither could openly reveal their love for the other as society was not accepting of such a match. Over time, their love grew and William felt that his future in this new Ireland would be with Mary O’ Connor by his side.

Their ill-fated love is well documented over the years and their graves are to be found near Fenit in Co. Kerry. Patricia O’ Reilly brings the story of Mary O’ Connor and William Pembroke Mulchinock alive in this captivating tale of our very own star-crossed lovers. It’s a story of passion and pureness, a story of two people whose love could just not conquer all. There have been many stories about the true author of the now infamous song, The Rose of Tralee, but I, like the author, am choosing to believe this one.

A touching tale, The First Rose of Tralee, is an engaging story of romance, set against the instability of a country that was on the verge of the Great Famine and the possibility of self-rule.

The First Rose of Tralee is a beautifully written story about a very poignant and tragic love. It is a wonderful tale that keeps the true magic of the festival alive, as girls from across the globe are preparing to stand up on stage, with the hope of being crowned the next Rose of Tralee.

‘The pale moon was rising above the green mountain
The sun was declining beneath the blue sea
When I strayed with my love to the pure crystal fountain
That stands in the beautiful Vale of Tralee’

(c) Swirl and Thread

Order your copy online here.