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.
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
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.