There may be no sandwich-making contest or Thai meal with Ted on offer to the lady with the ‘loveliest bottom’ but fans of Father Ted who tune into Ireland’s beauty pageant The Rose of Tralee could be forgiven for thinking they’d switched on a live broadcast of the Lovely Girls competition.
Every August, the town of Tralee in Co Kerry plays host to the Festival. It’s a joyous event, with music, culture and, of course, ‘craic’:
The Rose of Tralee was the must-see end of summer TV I grew up watching with my mammy of a Monday and Tuesday in mid August, just to have a gawk at the nicest gown and a cheeky chocolate biscuit gamble on who would wear the crown. It’s not your average ‘beauty pageant’ though.
Sure, it seems to follow the template: women from the four corners of the globe compete, with Rose Centres everywhere from Dubai to Derby selecting their own ‘Rose’ to go forward to the Regional stages of the competition, where more than 60 will be whittled down to just 32 for the International Festival.
You’ll often find Roses from Derby, Newcastle, Manchester, Sunderland and Liverpool in the line-up: London and Scotland will fly their respective flags this year, competing for the chance to represent the organisation and do charity work across the globe for various good causes.
Ireland may have slightly sneered at the competition for a while, but the world of streaming and YouTube set the stage for one of the greatest revivals of all time: The Rose of Tralee is now a cult classic, thanks in no small part to the legacy of Father Ted’s ladies with lovely bottoms.
Every year the contest is streamed across the globe, so the world can watch as those charmingly mortifying “only in Ireland” moments unfold on stage.
Like the Rose who said no to her fella about a million times when he proposed.
Or dashing host, Dáithí Ó Sé (that’s Daw-hee O’Shaaay for those of you who don’t speak the lingo), who sometimes runs the risk of being unintelligible to anyone born outside the Emerald Isle, making an absolute eejit of himself in the name of entertainment.
These are modern women though and, despite the competition being closed to anyone who’s married or over the age of 28 by September 1st in that year, it does know how to roll with the times.
Last year, they got in on the whole ice bucket challenge craze.
They embraced the Harlem Shake business back in 2013.
And the ladies have been known to cast off the traditional beauty pageant talent shackles to throw a few shapes.
Or – if you’re the Sunderland Rose – sing a song about bananas… just because.
And it’s not just about the women either, y’know: every year one of the 32 sweaty faced fellas in penguin suits (charged with carrying their individual Rose’s handbag and making sure she has a lovely time in Tralee) is plucked for the prestigious title of ‘Escort of The Year’.
Who needs a crown when you can go home with a canteen of silver cutlery? Yep, they win a massive box of silver knives, forks and spoons for their trouble. It’s no Thai meal with Ted, but it’s safe to say they’re #Set4Lyf.
It’s barmy, it’s bonkers, it’s beautifully bizarre, and you quite simply would not find anything like it anywhere else on the planet. But there’s something endlessly endearing and charming about The Rose of Tralee’s kookiness that has to be seen to be believed.
And of course, in the words of Father Ted Crilly himself…