Up to last April, my days in Galway were pretty much like all the other office workers in the City of the Tribes, but things have changed considerably since I was chosen to represent Mayo in this year’s Rose of Tralee contest next month.
Despite all that goes with that honour, I’m still at work ‘9 to 5’ in the accounts department of JJ Rhatigans and Company in Galway, in fact, they have been brilliant and have really gotten on board and helped me in anyway they can over the last few months.
I am really enjoying being back in Galway, I went to college here too, so I know my way around. I’m normally up around 7.30am, and I’m only ten minutes from work (that tends to be a bit longer when the schools are open!). I usually have breakfast in the office and start work around 8.30am through to around 5pm.
The hours fly by in here, we are the headquarters of all the Rhatigan operation, dealing with offices in Sligo, Cork and London too, so its never dull and we have a great team.
Galway is a great city to live in, there is so much to do, but most of my time in the evenings since April have been taken up with planning ahead for the Rose of Tralee.
I’ve had a ball so far. Just this week, 12 Roses and Escorts were brought on a day out to the Killarney Races. It really brought home to me how important the Rose of Tralee event is to Kerry people. Everyone was no nice, we were treated like royalty. We got a Garda escort into the racecourse, and everyone is so into it down in Kerry, people kept coming up looking for autographs and selfies. It was a real taster of what it is going to be like in Tralee.
I ended up as the Mayo Rose of Tralee in a roundabout way I suppose. My Mum and my sisters had the application form half-filled out so when they told me about it, I had to finish off filling the form. You could say I was kinda pushed into it, but at the same time they knew I’d love it.
I have real vivid memories of Aoibhinn’s (Ní Shúilleabháin – the 2005 Rose of Tralee winner) homecoming to Carnacon. I always watched the Rose of Tralee every year so I am delighted I got the gentle push in the right direction. It has been the best thing I have ever done.
I’ve already made friends for life, we are all in it for the same thing, to have a good time and make the most of it.
I was talking to Aoibhinn a few weeks back and she said she is still in touch with loads of Roses from her year, and she has met up with loads of them while she has been on holidays down through the years.
It’s all getting real now as we are only weeks away from Tralee itself. There are still 58 Roses left, and that will be whittled down to 32 for the TV, and we only find out on the Saturday prior to the show. So we head down on August 13 to Tralee, and then we find out the news about the TV appearance on Saturday, August 18.
We had our first round of judging interviews in Dublin two weeks ago, so that was great, we met up with the RTÉ people and met the host, Dáithí Ó Sé, who was great craic.
The interviews were laid back, it’s about getting to know you really, it not like an interrogation, it’s easy going.
I do realise how big a thing it is as I saw it first hand with Aoibhinn, it’s a great opportunity, it’s a platform for people. Aoibhinn has done brilliantly for herself, Maria Walsh is the same.
People can be cynical about the whole thing, but it empowers women and it remains remarkably popular. It really is the furthest thing from a beauty pageant, it’s all about the person. After all, make-up is make-up, and a dress is a dress.
Between now and August 13 I will be kept busy. I have Ladies Day at the Galway Races, and I have been invited to the 100th anniversary of the Claremorris Agricultural Show – the rest of time will be all about getting everything ready for the departure to Tralee.
It’s about making the most of for me, it’s not about stress, I’m trying to take it all in my stride, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity. I’m representing my county, and I saw with my brother (Jason) when he played for Mayo, it really is all about enjoying and making the most of it. Not everyone gets to represent their county on a national stage.
We all know there can only be one Rose of Tralee but all of the girls are really looking forward to the rest of the year after the show in Tralee is over. We have so much to look forward too – we are going to Germany for the Christmas markets, we are going to Chernobyl in February, which will be special, and we will be in New York for Paddy’s Day, marching in the St Patrick’s Day parade. So we all know the week in Tralee is the highlight – but we have so much more to look forward to.
In conversation with Michael Duffy
Name: Rachel Gibbons
Lives: Knocknacarra, Galway (from Annies, Hollymount)
Occupation: Accounts Assistant
If money was no object, what would you do all day?
Travel the world with my family at no expense spared!
Tell us something about yourself we don’t know?
I am extremely accident prone. I was basically a walking plaster of Paris mannequin as a child! I have broken both my legs, both my arms, my toes and fingers. The A&E nurses knew me by name!
What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
I’m not that adventurous when it comes to food, so I suppose beef cheeks is the most exciting I get.
Where’s your favourite place in the world?
Home will always be my favourite place in the world.
What makes you angry?
Sitting in an untidy room – OCD takes over. Also, people that aren’t on time – my aunt-in-law is a disaster for time so I always tell her things are a half hour earlier than they are just so she might not be too late!
Name three things that are always in your fridge?
Peppers, chicken and cheese.
What makes you nervous?
When an unknown number calls!
Favourite TV show?
At the moment Love Island cannot be missed in my house. But I love crime shows like Criminal Minds, Blue Bloods and Bates Motel.
Who’s the most famous person you have met?
I have met Nicky Byrne twice, once at an All-Ireland and once in Westport.
What do you miss about being a kid?
Having no responsibilities and, of course, having long summer holidays – I should have been a teacher!
What’s your most prized possession?
I still have a blanket which I got off my brother as a child – it’s actually about 30 years old at this stage. I would cry if I had to throw it away!
Best advice you ever got?
My parents give the best advice ever, even though sometimes it may not be exactly what you want to hear! But definitely - ‘what’s for you won’t pass you’ is a motto I live by.
Describe yourself in three words?
Chatty, funny and energetic.
How do you unwind?
I love nothing more than to just spend time with my family and play with my nephew. We are a really close family so it’s the best way to unwind. But I would never say no to a spa day!