Gil­lian Burke looks back on her time so far as the Wick­low Rose

WITH 2014 COM­ING TO AN END, THE TIME WILL SOON BE UPON US TO HAVE A NEW WICK­LOW ROSE. WE CHAT TO CUR­RENT ROSE GIL­LIAN BURKE ABOUT HER WON­DER­FUL YEAR AND PLANS FOR THE FU­TURE.

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IT’S been one hell of a year for Gil­lian Burke.

A na­tive of Tal­bot­stown, Kil­te­gan, and a daugh­ter of Kevin and Mary Burke, Gil­lian was thrust into the spot­light when she was se­lected as the Wick­low Rose back in March 2014.

It’s not an hon­our that she takes lightly ei­ther. Far from just be­ing about all the fun and games that goes on down in Tralee, Gil­lian has been busy try­ing to use her ti­tle to help out across the county and aims to con­tinue this right up un­til the end of her reign in April.

The whole ad­ven­ture be­gan for Gil­lian around this time last year.

‘I was on Face­book and I saw some­thing about the Wick­low se­lec­tion,’ she said. ‘My mam sug­gested I should go for it, but I thought there was no way I could be a rose. I filled out the ap­pli­ca­tion though, which was tough as it’s about eight pages long and you have to talk all about your­self and your qual­i­ties. I felt re­ally vain!’

What­ever Gil­lian put on her form must have caught the eye of the judges, as she was se­lected to com­pete with 15 other hope­fuls for the ti­tle of Wick­low Rose.

‘Once we all met up it was great,’ she said. ‘We got to know each other and had a great time. I never thought I’d ac­tu­ally win it though. When I was on the stage that night and they called out my name, it was like I wasn’t in my body. I was in com­plete shock.’

From there, Gil­lian went on to meet up with all of the other roses from around the coun­try and in­deed around the world and de­spite some of the ru­mours you hear about diva at­ti­tudes and pageants, she as­sures us that every­body was lovely.

‘A lot of us be­came re­ally good friends,’ she said. ‘Straight away when we met up for the first time there was a What­sApp group set up and all of us were send­ing each other mes­sages the whole time.’

It was a surreal mo­ment for Gil­lian when she ar­rived in Tralee, as the com­pe­ti­tion is some­thing which she has been in­ter­ested in since she was a lit­tle girl. ‘I can re­mem­ber go­ing down to Tralee on hol­i­days with the fam­ily when I was lit­tle. We used to go

WHEN I’M FIN­ISHED IN APRIL, I DON’T WANT IT TO BE THE END. I NEED

TO FIND SOME­THING ELSE AND I HOPE IT WILL BE THE START OF SOME­THING EVEN

BIG­GER

around the time the com­pe­ti­tion was on and we al­ways used to be look­ing out for the roses. It was a great feel- ing to be there as a rose, es­pe­cially walk­ing into The Dome it­self. It was some­thing else.’

Maria Walsh, the Philadel­phia Rose, was even­tu­ally crowned win­ner of the com­pe­ti­tion and there was a me­dia frenzy sur­round­ing her after she spoke out about her sex­u­al­ity and the fact that she is a les­bian in the wake of her win.

‘I would’ve known Maria a lit­tle bit and I’ve been chat­ting to her since be­cause I work at New­bridge Sil­ver­ware,’ said Gil­lian. ‘She is a lovely girl. To be hon­est when the sto­ries broke about her sex­u­al­ity, I was think­ing “who cares?” No­body needs to know. I don’t know if it was a bit of a PR stunt or what but I think the is­sue was blown out of pro­por­tion. I don’t think it’s a big deal and I don’t think peo­ple re­ally care. There were some peo­ple un­happy with it I sup­pose, peo­ple who are re­ally caught up with the tra­di­tion, but some­times change is good. I think Maria is a great in­spi­ra­tion for any­one else in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion who might be think­ing about en­ter­ing.’

Since The Rose of Tralee, Gil­lian has been ex­tremely busy ap­pear­ing all over county Wick­low to lend a hand at cer­tain events and help­ing with var­i­ous char­ity fundrais­ers.

‘I sup­pose ev­ery week­end since March re­ally I’ve been try­ing to do what I call my “rose du­ties”. At the be­gin­ning I didn’t re­ally know how the whole thing worked, but it comes to you. I re­alised quickly enough that I was only go­ing to have this ti­tle for a year and it’s im­por­tant to use it.’

Among some of the re­cent high­lights of Gil­lian’s char­ity work were her shoe­box ap­peal which col­lected 54 shoe­boxes in just one week and help­ing to se­cure Christ­mas lights for Balt­in­glass. How­ever, per­haps the one that will live long­est in the mem­ory was a sky­dive in aid of a chil­dren’s char­ity in Peru.

‘It was another girl who en­tered the Wick­low se­lec­tion Sarah Tal­lon’s idea,’ said Gil­lian. ‘She had said she was do­ing this sky­dive for char­ity and we had said that it would be great if who­ever ended up as the Wick­low Rose did it. I didn’t think for one minute that I was go­ing to get it so I said yes. Then when it came down to it I couldn’t back out, even though I’d even be pet­ri­fied go­ing on a roller­coaster. In the end, I loved it though. Go­ing up in the plane was the worst part, but once I was up there I had no choice – I was do­ing it. I’m happy I lived to tell the tale and the group man­aged to raise €10,000 for the char­ity which helps chil­dren with spe­cial needs in Peru.’

Gil­lian will hold the ti­tle of Wick­low Rose un­til April 4 and she’s not quite done with it yet. She hopes to do quite a bit more char­ity work and hope­fully in­spire more young ladies like her­self to en­ter next year. As well as that, she will be head­ing for New York for St Pa­trick’s Day where she will march in the pa­rade along with all other roses.

‘ That will be such a huge hon­our,’ she said. ‘ To be the only one walk­ing in the New York St Pa­trick’s Day Pa­rade wear­ing the Wick­low sash is a huge thing for me. The fam­ily are com­ing over with me and we’re go­ing for a week. Hope­fully we’ll get the chance to get a bit of sight-see­ing done and maybe even a bit of shop­ping. I’m think­ing about bring­ing an empty suit­case with me and filling it up over there.’

How­ever, life will not fin­ish when Gil­lian hands back the fa­mous sash. It will serve as only the be­gin­ning and she hopes to go on to even big­ger and bet­ter things.

‘When I’m fin­ished in April, I don’t want that to be the end,’ she said. ‘I need to find some­thing else and I hope it will be the start of some­thing even big­ger in life. 2014 has been the best year ever and ev­ery­one has been be­hind me 100% - my fam­ily, friends, my spon­sors and the whole com­mu­nity in Wick­low. My fam­ily and friends have sup­ported me all the way and are my foun­da­tion in life. I wouldn’t have been able to do any­thing with­out them. I’d also re­ally like to thank my spon­sors Tekni­color Hair Salon, Melanie’s Beauty clinic, By De­sign, Daisy a Day Florists, Jer­maines and New­bridge Sil­ver­ware as well as ev­ery­one at The Wick­low Peo­ple for sup­port­ing me through­out this amaz­ing jour­ney.’

Gil­lian took part in many char­i­ta­ble en­deav­ours dur­ing the year – in­clud­ing this chilly ice chal­lenge

out­side of Ger­maines in Balt­in­glass.

Wick­low Rose Gil­lian Burke.

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