By David Hennessy
A new Rose of London will be selected this Friday at the Clayton Hotel in Chiswick.
16 hopefuls are vying to take the sash when Rose of London 2022 Hayley Reynolds passes it on.
The London Rose tour get started last Tuesday at Ye Olde Monken Holt pub in Barnet where the girls were treated to entertainment and a spin in some vintage cars.
On Thursday evening there was a rehearsal where the ladies warmed up for this Friday’s gala ball with some informal interviews.
The Irish World was there on both nights.
London Rose 2022 Hayley Reynolds told us: “I think I still don’t quite believe that I won London Rose last year so handing it over in a week seems surreal.
“Wouldn’t change it, I would recommend it to everybody. Very sad. Trying not to be sad but it is sad.”
Hayley decided to enter last year’s Rose of London after it was suggested to her by some of her team mates at St Colmcilles GAA club in St Alban’s.
“I think I was even late to enter. It was the girls at the football club that I play for.
“They were like, You should do it’.
“And I entered and they were like, ‘Oh, we’ve just closed but we’ll let you come in’.
“So it all happened for a reason.
“I blame them (girls at football club) and I thank them at the same time,” she laughs.
Asked for her highlight of her year as London Rose Hayley says: “That’s the hardest question I think I’ve ever been asked.
“The highlights definitely have to be meeting the girls. I think everyone says that, but everyone says it for a reason because it is such an important part of it: The people you meet in life, and meeting those people has been the most wonderful part of it.
“So to have the opportunity to go to Frankfurt and New York and Philadelphia, I never imagined doing that especially with people that you get on with so well.
“The tour with Ireland before Tralee was my most memorable part because you’re with all the girls and you’re getting to know each other and you’re doing things that you would never do before and then you get to Tralee and that’s another whirlwind.
“I’m excited to go back this year as a past Rose.
“It will be really good.”
What advice have you been giving the candidates? “I think the only advice you can give anyone going into it is, be yourself.
“I didn’t have any notion of getting it or winning it. I just came here, I was myself, I’ve been myself the whole time and that’s what it is. That’s what it is all about, enjoying yourself, being yourself and everything happens for a reason.
“So if you get it or you don’t, you’re here for a reason and your path will be whatever it will be.”
To anyone thinking of entering it in the future Hayley says: “What are you waiting for? The people who are here tonight, all the girls, everyone is always so lovely. Everyone will just be friends for life so I would recommend it to anyone.
“Whoever gets it is going to have an unreal time.
“I know how fabulous the whole experience is but I’ll be here to guide them and you’re part of a family forever. I am part of a family forever.
“Whoever gets it and whoever’s taking part now, you are doing something momentous for yourself and for whatever you want to achieve in life and that’s the beauty of it.”
Meet this year’s Rose of London finalists
From: Ballintubber, Co. Roscommon.
Sponsor: JJ Rhatigan
Aoife is a community liaison officer with JJ Rhatigan.
She told us: “I’ve watched the Rose of Tralee since I was a little girl, I think most girls in Ireland have.
“I think it’s come on leaps and bounds. It’s not a beauty pageant, it’s not that kind of thing. It moves with the times, it’s about a woman’s ambition, their Irishness and I just think it’s an incredible thing to be part of.
“Winning, none of that really matters. Even tonight we’ve been here an hour and I’ve already met incredible girls so I’m very excited for the whole journey.”
Aoife is a singer and sang with Daniel O’Donnell as a child as her uncle John Staunton is Daniel’s guitar player.
Aisling Breslin Peel
From: Barnet with family in Mountbellew, Co. Galway.
Sponsor: Friends and Family
Aisling is a room leader in a nursery.
Aisling told us: “I think when you’re a kid and you’re in Ireland for the summer holidays being there for the Rose of Tralee is just the most exciting thing.
“I think it’s probably something I wanted to do since I was old enough to watch it on TV so it’s pretty exciting and it’s pretty exciting to be back in Barnet for the first event.
“My whole life I’ve watched it on TV and I’ve absolutely loved it, always drawn to it.”
Aisling has a degree in hair and make up from London College of Fashion before being drawn to child care.
From: South London with family in Ballycroy, Co. Mayo.
Sponsor: Friends and Family
Cara is studying fine art at University of Art London.
Cara told us: “Growing up I was always told by my nan, ‘The red hair, the curls, you’ve got to go forward for it (The Rose Tralee)’.
“And the older I’ve got I’ve realised it’s more something I want to do for myself. It’s a big pride to be here.”
Cara also works at London Dungeons and Sea Life as she is a big lover of animals.
From: Acton with family from Limavady, Achill Island and Inismore
Sponsor: Jig and a Swig
Roisin was an extra in The Banshees of Inisherin.
She is also in another film coming to Netflix in 2024.
Roisin told us: “We always used to spend all summer in Achill and every summer, it was a big thing to watch the Rose of Tralee.
“My sister took part in the selection in 2009 and seeing that firsthand I was like, ‘One day I want to do that’.
“I just think it’s such a good celebration of Irish culture in London and a great way to meet loads of other girls that appreciate that too.”
Roisin did Irish dancing as a child and has recently returned to it with Jig and a Swig who are her sponsors.
As a child she also played GAA with Harlesden Harps and was a goalkeeper.
Sponsor: Clann na Mara
Aine studied for her masters in artificial intelligence Cambridge and has been working in Cambridge since.
She told us: “I’ve always been so intrigued by the festival. I spent all my summers in Castlegregory which is close to Tralee so we would pop in to see all the girls and they all looked fantastic.
“It’s a great celebration of women, it’s a celebration of all different types of people from different backgrounds and I would love to be involved to share my experiences, to meet those other people.”
Aine speaks Irish, plays classical piano and has been learning the violin.
From: Croydon with family in Galway, Kerry and Limerick
Sponsor: The Swan
Kerrianne is a student paramedic.
She did Irish dancing when she was little, now she does cheerleading at her uni
Her cousin Séan Andy Ó Ceallaigh plays football for Galway.
Kerrianne told us what the Rose of Tralee means to her: “I think it’s an absolute honour.
“My family always said, ‘Why don’t you go for it? Why don’t you try Rose of Tralee?’
“I thought, ‘You know what? I might go for it’.
“It would be an absolute honour to be the London Rose and represent London and all the Irish community in London, I absolutely love it, it’s such an exciting and wild journey. I’m very excited for what’s ahead.”
From: Dungarvan, Waterford
Sponsor: Tara Camogie Club
Rachel is an English and history teacher.
She told us: “The Rose of Tralee is something I always wanted to do. Funnily enough I entered the Waterford Rose when I was 19, obviously just a baby. I had never even left Ireland and hadn’t even finished uni.
“My nana had always loved the Rose of Tralee and I’d always watched it with her.
“She died that year so I entered it for her and then I saw it being advertised it here.
“I was like, ‘If not now, when?’
“I just really love being Irish in London, I always get told, ‘You wouldn’t know you’re Irish at all’, because all I do is talk about how lovely Ireland is and how everyone should visit it.
“That’s why I would love to be get involved, be the London Rose.”
Rachel plays camogie with Tara.
She has also started a girls Gaelic football team at the school where she teaches.
She has also started clubs for mental health and charity fundraising there.
From: London with family in Kerry, Longford, Cork and Sligo
Sponsor: The Sheephaven Bay
Abbie is a primary school teacher.
Abbie told us: “I spent so many summers in Kerry growing up and I was always watching the festival, was always going to it and the family was always joking, ‘It might be your time one day to go for the London Rose’.
“I thought this was the year to go for it and give it a shot.”
From: Borehamwood family in Kerry and Cork
Sponsor: KPM Construction Limited
Shannon is an art and technology teacher.
Shannon told us: “About ten years ago I printed off the (Rose of Tralee) form and I never sent it actually.
“I went off and I studied fine art and I became a teacher and I thought I didn’t have the confidence but I realise now it’s not about that, it’s about meeting like minded women, and having good morals.
“I teach at an all girls Catholic school so every day it’s about empowering young women anyway and just being here tonight I’ve met such lovely people and I know that this is the right thing to do.”
Shannon did Irish dancing when she was younger so she took part in a lot of feises but now loves a sing song instead.
The kids at Loreto College in St Albans have already been making supportive banners for her.
From: Upminster, Ballinasloe, Galway
Sponsor: Philip Treacy
Cara told us: “The Rose of Tralee has always been an important part of our family and it’s nice to see the Irish community represented internationally.
“To be part of the Irish tradition somewhere like London is really exciting.”
“It was really good to get to know all the different girls and all their different lives and what they’re doing at the minute. It was really, really good fun.”
Cara is studying for her A levels and hopes to study English literature.
She has been doing ballet since she was 3.
Eileen De Sousa
From: Born in India before moving to Tullamore, Co. Offaly.
Sponsor: Friends and Family
Eileen told us: “I think the Rose of Tralee is just such a unique experience.
“My life is a bit different.
“I am Irish because I’m naturalised.
“I thought it’s an excellent opportunity for me.
“It’s a once in a lifetime kind of opportunity and I think I would be gutted if I didn’t have a go.
“It’s been so exciting.”
After being born in India, Eileen grew up in Kuwait before she moved to Tullamore at the age of 11.
Eileen has played rugby and is a good shot with a rifle.
She works in finance and enjoys opera and classical music concerts.
Roisin O Riordon
From: Barnet, with family from Tralee.
Sponsor: Friends and Family
Roisin told us what the Rose of Tralee means to her: “I’ve been to every single festival since I was born bar one.
“It’s always just been this big part of my life. It’s like Christmas but with better weather.
“It would just be brilliant.”
Roisin is studying optometry and is involved with drama and music societies at her university.
She used to do Irish dancing and Gaelic football in primary school.
From: London with family from Belmullet, Co. Mayo, Roscommon and Clare
Sponsor: BRD Builders
Niamh told us: “I thought it would just be such a lovely opportunity to meet lots of different girls, like minded girls as well from across the board nice and local as well, just a really nice opportunity to re-enforce that connection to Ireland.
“I don’t want to lose it, I want to make sure I’m reaffirming that past I have.”
Niamh is a primary teacher and has been ballet dancing 20 years.
From: Bridgetown, Donegal
Sponsor: Falcon Green
Amy told us: “I really wanted to be part of the Rose of Tralee festival and the London Rose to meet other empowering women, to hear their stories because I love meeting people, I love finding out what they do and I just thought it would be a great opportunity to do that and just to share experiences so I’m really looking forward to all the events and getting the know the other London Roses better because it’s been a pleasure this evening already.”
Amy is a flutist and graduated from the Royal College of Music in London.
She was awarded the Tagore Gold Medal by HRH King Charles lll at the Royal College of Music.
She also performed for the King at Windsor Castle.
She recently released her debut album.
From: Kilnaleck, Cavan
Sponsor: Keaney Brothers Limited
Tara told us: “The Rose of Tralee has always been in my family. My mam did it and my sister did it so I was like, ‘You know what? I always wanted to do it and what better year to do it’.
“It’s my first time meeting all the girls and honestly they’re so, so lovely. It’s always been in my family so I said, ‘I’m going to go for it’.”
Tara is a midwife and plays camogie with Tara.
She did Irish dancing as a child and regrets giving it up.
Mellissa Enya Baptiste
From: Finsbury Park with family from Carlow
Sponsor: John Kenny Motor Factors
Melissa told us: “I watched the Rose of Tralee as a little girl every single summer when I was sat on my auntie’s sofa and she always used to say, ‘Melissa, one day that could be you’.
“I feel like this year I was ready, I want to make new relationships with girls from Ireland and just build lots of friendships with new people be more connected with my Irish heritage.”
Melissa has been in the Metropolitan police for seven years and works on the youth engagement team keeping young people away from crime.
She is also a part time phlebotomist working in GP’s surgeries, in urgent care and in A and E as during the pandemic she felt like she could be doing more.
She did Irish dancing growing up but now enjoys muay thai and kickboxing.