Caitlin McNeill

How It’s New York:  See title:  It’s the BIG APPLE Rose of Tralee!  They are celebrating their new center and encouraging anybody involved with the Festival to attend the brunch; all proceeds go to 1life.  Check their website too!  The Big Apple Rose of Tralee, 21-year old Caitlin McNeill from Brooklyn, will represent New York in Rose of Tralee International Festival in Kerry this month (which means she made it through the Regional Selection and is a Finalist!).
How It’s Irish:   The Rose of Tralee Festival is like a beauty contest ( they say it isn’t, and there is no swimsuit competition) held in Kerry since 1957, and it’s the most popular show on RTÉ.  It  takes its name from the 19th century song by C. Mordaunt Spencer and Charles William Glover, OR possibly written by a Protestant man named William P. Mulchinock proclaiming his love for a Catholic girl named Mary who worked as a maid for his parents  (very romantic story, but probably not true).  The winner of the Festival supposed to be like the woman in the song, “lovely and fair.”  (She also has to be between 18-28, never married, and have some Irish heritage).  Clare Kambamettuwas last year’s winner, a dark haired beauty (and psychologist) who is half-Indian, half-Irish.

What is a Rose?


 The qualities of a Rose are defined by the words of the song The Rose of Tralee and crystallised by the young woman who is chosen as the Rose of  Tralee at the end of the International Festival in County Kerry, Ireland every  August.

 A Rose reflects the intelligence, compassion and independence of modern  Irish women. Over the years our Roses have mirrored a changing Ireland and  the definition of Irishness that is celebrated by so many different people  around the world. Roses have come to reflect the widening of Irish borders  and the embracing of our global diaspora in a positive and refreshing way.

“The rose of” and “The star of” are titles really pretty girls in villages get (at least in songs).  I recap Pretty Little Liars for Speakeasy (here’s my latest one) and sometimes wonder how Irish song would accomodate the surreally gorgeous people of Rosewood (all the kids in school, even the nerds, along with parents, teachers, random townspeople).  Had there been just one of those girls in the Jersey town I grew up in, she would have been “The rose of Millburn.”  
Anyway, lots and lots of people have sung this, including Celtic Woman, Bing Crosby, and Triona ni Domhnaill, with Nightnoise.  It’s also on an album from The Bono Irish Experience which has nothing that I can see to do with Bono. 

Lyrics after the jump!

The pale moon was rising above the green mountains,
The sun was declining beneath the blue sea;
When I strayed with my love by the pure crystal fountain,
That stands in the beautiful Vale of Tralee.
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 cool shades of evening their mantle were spreading,
And Mary all smiling was listening to me;
The moon through the valley her pale rays was shedding,
When I won the heart of the Rose of Tralee.
Though 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.
In the far fields of India, ‘mid wars dreadful thunders,
Her voice was a solace and comfort to me,
But the chill hand of death has now rent us asunder,
I’m lonely tonight for the Rose of Tralee.
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.

Gwen Orel
About the Author

The only New York journalist who writes for both the Forward and Irish Music Magazine.


  1. Avatar
    Anonymous / August 6, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    The Big Apple Rose is not representing New York in the Rose of Tralee, The New York Rose is Representing New York in the Rose of Tralee. The Big Apple Rose, I believe, is representing The Big Apple Feis.

    A concerned New Yorker

  2. Avatar
    Gwen Orel / August 6, 2011 at 2:43 pm

    Hmm… I could be wrong but the invitation they sent had nothing to do with a Feis. Please check the invitation at, it specifically encourages people to bring their memorabilia from the Rose of Tralee Festival, and they link to the Festival page. From their website:

    We are looking for young ladies, age 18-27, of Irish heritage that would like to represent The Big Apple in Tralee Ireland at the Rose of Tralee International Festival. The winner of the Big Apple Rose of Tralee will represent the Irish American community and The Big Apple New York as she competes for the “International Rose of Tralee” title with other candidates from all over the world!

  3. Avatar
    Gwen Orel / August 6, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    The brunch is at the Fitzpatrick Hotel, 141 E. 44th street, at noon.

  4. Avatar
    Anonymous / August 8, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Dear Anonymous,
    Caitlin McNeill is obviously the best choice to represent New York City. NYC is the Big Apple, after all! Maybe you are confused about NYC & NYS.

  5. Avatar
    Gwen Orel / August 8, 2011 at 7:55 pm

    I’m so glad there is this level of interest and the next time there’s a chance to cover something related to this I’ll make sure there’s more detail. Please post with your names, I’d love to know who you are, and thanks for reading!

  6. Avatar
    Anonymous / August 9, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    To Anonymous #2,
    I don’t know how educated you are on the Rose of Tralee Festival but for the past 52, coming 53 years the New York Rose has represented ALL of New York, State and City. A single woman running a feis does not have the authority to decide that she and her feis rose now represent the City of New York. The New York Rose Committee has chosen the best representative for the entire state And city of New York and we as New Yorkers are proud to have her.

    Thanks again,
    A concerned New Yorker

  7. Avatar
    Gwen Orel / August 9, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Anonymous #1, please, again, check out the site for the Big Apple Rose. There is nothing about a Feis. The brunch was about memories of the past 52 years and people were encouraged to bring memorabilia. There was nothing about an alternative rose. I appreciate your concern, but further “anonymous” comments will be deleted.

Comments are closed.