Mary, The Rose of Tralee

The Rose of Tralee lived in Brogue Lane, a busy hive of brogue-makers who lived and worked there. There, in a thatched cabin, Mary lived with her parents, two sisters Brigid and Ellen, and a young brother Willie. Mary was a great beauty. She was dark with large lustrous eyes. When she was about seventeen she was employed as a kitchen-maid to the Mulchinock family.

The Mulchinock family were wealthy merchants, when Mary O'Connor was accepted in its kitchen, the master of the house had died and his widow, Margaret Mulchinock, ruled the house with her sons William Pembroke, Edward and Henry and her married daughter, Maria.

Margaret's daughter, Maria, seeing that Mary O'Connor was intelligent and kind to her children chose her as children's maid for little Anne and Margaret. By this time William Mulchinock, however, was becoming a dreamer, a good-for-nothing and what was worse in the eyes of the family, a poet. After a spell away, William returned to family and was soon partaking in the usual pastimes that occupied wealthy young gentlemen of the time. One such pastime was the October fair of Ballinasloe. It was there at a Ball that he met Alice Keogh. Despite his protestations of love to Alice, however, William soon returned back home again.

Back at home, William was ushered into the nursery to see the children, Anne and Margaret. They ran to him to be lifted up. But somehow William was not heeding them. He was gazing instead at a wonderful pair of eyes that had utterly transfixed him. There was some power in them which held him there looking at her. Such lovely dark hair too and skin so delicately white. She was so calm and self-possessed, so graceful, that all he could do was to draw his breath in uneven gasps and stare and wonder.

He saw Mary again next day, sitting by the well with the children. This well was in a field a little distance to the west of the house in a great open space with a splendid view of the mountains and the sea. Day after day he met her there. Sometimes he waited for her outside West Villa and they would walk down lover's lane and cross the fields . It was children's recreation time they loved to play about the well.

As the weeks went on they would wander to the dance platform in Clahane at the top of the glen. Mary, though modest and retiring, had innumerable friends who smiled on the happy couple and wished them well. Then amid many a cheer and many a deferential nod they would take the floor and go up the middle and down again.

Winter came and with it the snow. Often in those winter evenings Mary brought William back with her to her own home in Brogue Lane, where he met her hardworking father and mother. The only cloud on the horizon of their love was that his family disapproved of the relationship after all Mary was a Catholic peasant, and the Mulchinock's were staunch members of the Protestant Church of Ireland. One night beneath a silvery moon the lovers paused for a few moments to gaze at each other, and then suddenly taking her in his arms he asked her to marry him. Mary told him however that though she loved him very much and would dare all to stand by his side before Dean McEnnery down in the Chapel, yet she knew such a marriage could never be it would eventually make him rue the day he had ever met her.

Thus the months passed. His thoughts were a jumbled mass about nothing in particular, except well - Mary. He wondered if he could make her see sense and marry him. On a particular evening they stood at the stile by the well. The sun was setting in a blaze of glory beneath the sea; the young moon had just come above the mountain and all the valley was hushed. And then for the first time he sang for her those lovely words:

The pale moon was rising above the green mountains,
The sun was declining beneath the blue sea;
When I strayed with my love by the pure crystal fountain,
That stands in the beautiful Vale of Tralee.
She was lovely and fair as the rose of the summer,
Yet 'twas not her beauty alone that won me;
Oh no, 'twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning,
that made me love Mary, the Rose of Tralee.

The cool shades of evening their mantle were spreading,
And Mary all smiling was listening to me;
The moon through the valley her pale rays was shedding,
When I won the heart of the Rose of Tralee.
Though lovely and fair as the Rose of the summer,
Yet 'twas not her beauty alone that won me;
Oh no, 'twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning,
that made me love Mary, the Rose of Tralee.

'Oh William it's the most beautiful song I've ever heard in my life,' she said at length, 'Listen, will you marry me?' William said.
'I'll give you my answer tomorrow evening after the counselors's meeting,' she replied.

Next evening Dan O'Connell held a political meeting in Denny street. In the forthcoming election, Maurice O'Connell, Dan's son, was to contest the seat. Tens of thousands came from all parts of Kerry and beyond, some in marching order with many here and there brandishing a pike or rusty sword, Mulchinock was leader of one of the repealer contingents.

On this evening as Mulchinock passed, one of the repealers shouted at a little man called Leggett, 'Leggett, will you be Pope's Legate?' Pope was a leading Repealer of the time who came from Causeway. Leggett, whose patience was well-nigh exhausted, made a run at his tormentor with a pike. His tormentor to defend himself made a thrust at Leggett with a rusty sword, wounding him seriously. Mulchinock saw what happened but did not realize its gravity. He was more than astonished however when Captain Fairfield with some of the dragoons approached him later and warned him that if Leggett died he, Mulchinock, would be held responsible.

When The meeting was over William made his way to see Mary. As soon as Anne and Margaret saw him they rushed to him exclaiming 'Uncle William, Uncle William, tell us a story.' He quietened them with promises of a story a little later. Then, turning to Mary, He took a small red case from his pocket and opened it. Taking out the ring it held he held it up to the light to examine it. 'Do you like it?' he asked Mary. 'It is very beautiful.' she answered. 'Would you like to wear it?'

There was a long pause . Mary looked at the ring and then to William. He held out his arms and almost before she had realized it he had caught her in an embrace. And then putting the ring on her finger he sealed their betrothal with a kiss.

Suddenly the door burst open and a friend, Bob, rushed in. The lovers moved apart. William threw Bob an anxious look. 'Anything wrong, Bob?' he asked. 'It's Leggett.' said Bob. 'He's dead. You're wanted for murder. There's a warrant out for your arrest,' William turned to Mary. 'I'm sorry to have brought this on you,' he said. 'Don't mind me , William,' she replied, 'Take care of yourself - you'd better go,' Bob gave him a hundred gold sovereigns to help him on his way. Mulchinock took Mary in his arms once more to kiss her good bye. 'Good bye my own,' he said, 'and don't grieve. Ill be back soon.' Tears welled up in her eyes but she kept brave to the last. Not a flickering of an eyelid did she betray her breaking heart. Suddenly news came that two policemen where approaching up the lane. William fled taking Bob's horse as transport.

William made his way to India where he worked as a war correspondent mainly on the northwest frontier region. The British were then - 1843 - having a difficult time in the northwest frontier. But amidst all the shot and shell and blinding heat Mulchinock would imagine a soft June day in Ireland. After one particular battle, upon nightfall, during an attempt to bring in the wounded and collect and bury the dead, William recognized a fellow Tralee man among the fallen,a Lt. Collis. He requested an interview with the Commander-in-Chief, known as 'Old Gough', to request that William be allowed to take possession of the young Lt. Collis's personal belongings to return them home , if William ever returned there. 'Of course you may,' the old man replied to the request. He then went on to enquire what a Mulchinock was doing so far from home. To which William told Old Gough the story of Leggett and how William was held responsible for the assault. Old Gough saw the injustice of it all and since the Gough's hailed from Limerick He had some influence and would see what he could do. So this was how William Pembroke Mulchinock returned to His native Tralee.

One afternoon in early spring in the year 1849 a distinguished-looking stranger descended from the mail coach that had arrived in Tralee. The coach had deposited him outside The Kings Arms in the Rock and just a little further up was Brogue Lane. First William needed to shake off the dust from that interminable journey, and entered the hostelry. 'Landlord,' he called going to the door way. The landlord had not been there very long having only taking over the Kings Arms on marrying into the family. 'How may I serve you Sir?' 'A cognac my good man,' replied William, 'The old place has not changed much,' he added. 'You know of it of old then Sir?' Cameron asked. 'I was born here and I've come back for a very special purpose. To marry a girl whose lovely eyes held my soul captive during six long years in India. We pledged that we would be true, and I know she has been as true to me as I have been to her.' 'Indeed, it must be true love for it to span the years till now good Sir, But now if you'll excuse me I'll have to pull across the curtains for a few moments as there is a funeral coming down the street.' the landlord said. 'A funeral , Landlord?' asked Mulchinock. 'Yes, but don't let it disturb you. I'll bring you your drink and you can sit here.' 'By all means, Landlord, said William, but it seems a bad omen , a funeral on the day of my return.' The landlord returned quickly with the cognac and William gulped deeply at the brandy and went over to where George Cameron stood. 'May she rest in peace' murmured the Landlord. William felt a chill run up his back and turned to the Landlord 'Who is the funeral being held for? Landlord.' 'Why a local girl from Brogue Lane. Mary O'Connor, The Rose of Tralee.

There was nothing left for him now but Mary's grave at Clogherbrien. In his despair his friends saw to it that he was re-aquainted with a girl he met in Ballinasloe Alicia Keogh. In time he grew to think that he loved Alicia and eventually married her. But it was not long before he discovered his mistake. To escape the place of so many painful memories he and Alicia took the boat to the land of the free - America, reaching New York in 1849.

America suited him and soon he was well again and even took up writing again. He stayed with Alicia and had two little girls Alice and Bernadette. But in the end the inevitable happened and William and Alicia separated, and William returned to Ireland in 1855. This was not quite the end of William Mulchinock. He sought solace in alcohol and the habit did not decrease. Never did he forget his one true love, and in his misery one of the last things he penned was another verse to a song he had sung many years before.

In the far fields of India, 'mid wars dreadful thunders,
Her voice was a solace and comfort to me,
But the chill hand of death has now rent us asunder,
I'm lonely tonight for the Rose of Tralee.
She was lovely and fair as the rose of the summer,
Yet 'twas not her beauty alone that won me;
Oh no, 'twas the truth in her eyes ever dawning,
that made me love Mary, the Rose of Tralee.

William spent the rest of his life in a lodging house in Ashe street. Alas there was not much time left to William and on October 13 1864, He breathed his last at the age of forty four. His last wish was to be buried where he now lies in Clogherbrien beside his true love. . . Mary, The Rose Of Tralee