Still blooming after all these years

Staying active is key to positive ageing, a former Rose of Tralee tells Rachel Borrill.

IT’S 47 years since Therese Gillespie Collins was crowned the Rose of Tralee, but she still remembers the day vividly and will cry “happy tears’’ on Sunday, August 19, when the winner is announced as she knows how exciting their life will become.

“I cry every year when the Rose is selected,’’ she admits. “They are tears of happiness and joy for them. There are only 52 Roses in the whole world so it is a very proud moment and I know the excitement that lies ahead for them. Once a Rose always a Rose.”

Since winning the Rose of Tralee in 1965 for Belfast, Therese has never missed a Festival. She loves the atmosphere, meeting the girls and catching up with all the Roses.

“I would never miss it,’’ she says. “It is like an extended family. Joise Ruane who won in 1961 for Cork always comes and stays with me for the Festival. It is lovely to meet up with all the other Roses, catch up with their lives.

“I always say to the current Roses not to forget how far they have come. They will have been selected from more than 100 people to get to Tralee. So they are all winners in their own right.’’

Therese was only 20 and working as a dental nurse in Belfast when she won. Initially, she had not wanted to take part in the selection and had to be persuaded as it wasn’t her “scene”. But once she got to Tralee, and met the other Roses, she was thrilled to be part of it.

The 1965 Festival was the first time the show was televised live and it only lasted for an hour. Therese believes she won because she was “so relaxed’. After introducing herself, the then host Kevin Hilton asked her if she liked Kerry men, and would she take one home.

“I replied that I would like to take them all home with me,’’ she laughs. “I was so relaxed because I thought I hadn’t got a hope of winning. It was a really great experience.’’

Now age 67, retired, a grandmother of four and living in Tralee, Therese believes it is important to remain active. She is still recognised, often being asked to judge local fashion shows. “I think people expect to see me looking well, so I do try my best. I would never go out without putting on a bit of make-up,’’ she says.

“It is lovely to be recognised, people still call me ‘their Rose’ because I am living in Tralee.’’

Therese believes it is important to be positive about the ageing process, after all you cannot stop the clock. Her advice is to look after your health, make the most of yourself, always smile.

“A smile goes a long, long way,’’ she says. “People say to me are you bored now that I am retired. I say: ‘Bored, I don’t know even know what the word means.’ I think you have to be positive, don’t let age get in the way, get out there.’’

And she is right. All the research suggests positive thinking in older age will improve quality of life and can extend it by up to nearly eight years because stress levels are reduced.

“Our study carries two messages. The discouraging one is that negative self-perceptions can diminish life expectancy. The encouraging one is that positive self-perceptions can prolong life expectancy,’’ concluded researchers at Yale University.


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