A Californian with strong South Galway roots took to the stage at the regional finals of the 2014 Rose of Tralee at the weekend.
Supporters from South Galway and North Clare travelled to Portlaoise to support Rosie Keehan, the San Francisco Rose, who was one of 60 young women vying for just 23 positions in the August finals in Tralee.
Roses representing 29 counties in Ireland, 13 regions in the USA, Melbourne, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Oman, Canada, Luxembourg, Germany, Scotland and seven major cities in England, all took part in the regional festival.
Rosie is a University of San Francisco graduate, having obtained a BA in Arts Management and Art History. As part of that, she spent six months in Ireland, studying Arts and Celtic Studies at UCD.
“My Irish heritage stems from my father, Vincent Keehan, who hails from Shanaglish in South Galway, where I have visited every summer since I was a baby,” explained Rosie, who attributes her love of Irish culture to these holidays and the family’s involvement in the San Francisco Irish community.
“I would say it comes mostly through my father and mother. They have kept bringing us back home to Ireland and we are very much part of the Irish community at home. It is not a culture shock when we come here because we have always come and we are just with our family. Being Irish is part of our lives in San Francisco too, it is just inherent in us I think,” she said.
At the weekend, Rosie performed a song which is close to her heart. Working the Streets was written by her father Vincent and has been recorded by her aunt, Mary Noonan.
“It is a beautiful song and I love it. I don’t get in front of a big crowd often, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to sing one of his songs,” she explained.
While Rosie will not be taking part in the Rose of Tralee finals in Kerry later this summer, she is hoping to remain involved in the festival back in San Francisco.
“In San Francisco, the Rose of Tralee is a good bit smaller than it was a few years ago. It had been much bigger but, in recent years, it has fallen off people’s radars a bit. One of the reasons I wanted to partake in the festival was to take over responsibility at the centre myself after completing my role as San Francisco Rose and to try to improve the centre and encourage greater participation in the Rose of Tralee,” she outlined.
“In San Francisco, it is not very well known to people and there hasn’t been a lot of focus on the festival in the last few years. Part of the reason for this might be that a lot of the recent girls who went through to represent San Francisco weren’t from the area itself but were the San Francisco Rose because this was their nearest centre. I am the first in a few years to be from the city, so I have a lot of ties to the community,” she added.
The thing that attracted Rosie to the festival originally, turned out to be one of the highlights for her as a Rose.
“A good friend of mine, a neighbour at home, was the 2008 San Francisco Rose. She was the first person I knew to do it and I was really impressed by the calibre of young ladies who took part and I thought maybe, one day, I would do it myself,” she said.
“I was a little bit nervous going in because I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know if it would be for me or something I would enjoy but it was wonderful. I am delighted to have been a part of it. I was so impressed by the other young women there and I hope to stay friends with them. Even the people who were working for the festival were wonderful and lovely and I hope to stay in touch with them as I go forward in my role with the centre,” she added.
“I have no regrets having taken part in it and would definitely recommend it to anyone. Best of luck to the Clare Rose, Joanne O’Gorman, too. My dad was so glad to meet her because her dad (Jackie) is famous in hurling.
“I will be watching the finals in August, especially now that I know the girls and have so many friends involved,” Rosie concluded.