Rose of Tralee a fitting title

Otago Rose of Tralee representative Rose-Antoinette Gilbert (27) takes a break at the Dunedin...
Otago Rose of Tralee representative Rose-Antoinette Gilbert (27) takes a break at the Dunedin Botanic Garden yesterday. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
She may be "Kiwi as'' now, but this Dunedin nurse has been an Irish Rose since birth.

Rose-Antoinette Gilbert has been chosen as Otago's Rose of Tralee and will vie for the national title in Auckland in late May.

The relevance of her name was not lost on her.

"I like to think it was my destiny or something. I don't know, I'm mainly doing it for the fun.''

Ms Gilbert was born in Tavistock, in England, and moved to Northland when she was 5.

The competition was a very big deal in Ireland, she said.

"Most Irish girls grow up dreaming of being the rose one day.''

The Rose of Tralee is one of Ireland's biggest television events, regularly attracting more than 1.5million viewers.

Judging is not based on looks, but strength of character.

Ms Gilbert grew up with Irish music and learned Irish dancing. That heritage was very important to her.

"A lot of young people move from a country of residence into a new one and you can feel very isolated. Irish people are very welcoming.''

Ms Gilbert's Irish mother spoke to her of the Rose of Tralee from a young age and ran the Northland regional competition for several years.

Otago does not have its own Irish society, so she travelled to Invercargill last weekend for the Southland competition.

Her mother travelled south for support.

"I feel like she's more excited about it than I am. Like, I'm really happy, but she's like over the moon.''

Ms Gilbert plays the harp as part of her entry.

In past years she would busk with it in town as a student at the University of Otago.

"I'm not amazing at it or anything, but it's kind of how I de-stress after a long shift."

Ms Gilbert entered because she liked to do things which were slightly unusual.

Last year she walked 1373km of the Camino de Santiago trail in Europe on her own.

She moved to Dunedin to study in 2010 and, after returning to Northland for a while, now works as a neonatal intensive care unit nurse at Dunedin Hospital.

She also volunteers for St John.

"I think we need good role models for young women, although I'm definitely not saying I'm perfect.''

 

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