County Longford will be represented on an international scale in style at this year’s Rose of Tralee festival after Longford town’s very own James Duignan was selected as one of the 32 escorts for next month’s event.
Son of John and Assumpta and resident of Deanscurragh, 22-year-old James beat off stiff competition during the bootcamp finale in Ballinasloe last weekend where 40 hopeful men from all over the country battled it out for 32 prestigious places at the Dome in Tralee.
“I got a phonecall last Monday to tell me that I was successful,” a delighted James told the Leader. “I was the only Longford escort and there were 40 of us in total battling it out for the 32 places.”
Following his arrival in Ballinasloe, James and the other contestants were introduced to each other and so followed a weekend of team-building and a battle of wits.
“When we arrived we were introduced to Escort Chief Co-ordinator, Colm Croffy. We were also introduced to a drill sergeant and we engaged in a number of activities as the weekend wore on. We were given canoes with an uneven amount of oars and we then had to work out how were were going to paddle them.
“We also participated in zorb balling and other bonding exercises which helped us to interact with each other better and build on our team work.”
Kayaking and ‘the bog’ were also on the weekend’s agenda, although it wasn’t until James and his team mates actually arrived in the bog that they realised their task involved footing turf!
“We went for what we thought was a run and we were brought to a nearby bog where we had to foot turf,” laughed James, who then added, “It certainly didn’t turn out to be a typical day at the bog either. Every year they foot turf for the Ballinasloe branch of the St Vincent de Paul, so we were given two plots to foot that day. For some it was a difficult task but for us lads in the midlands, we had no problems!”
On the Saturday night, the escort hopefuls were given the spa treatment and provided with some much needed advice on how to keep spruced up during the week long festival in Tralee. Then it was down to the hotel restaurant where they were introduced to six roses and the judges.
“I was sitting beside the Tipperary Rose,” said James. “She was lovely and it was great to meet up with some of the roses at this early stage.”
In the coming weeks, James will run a fundraising event in conjunction with the Rose of Tralee Festival, for 1 Life, an organisation that provides support and intervention to young people who feel suicidal.
“The festival supports 1 Life and all the escorts will be running a fundraiser to raise funds for the organisation,” said James.
“The roses and escorts are similar in age to the young people that avail of the services of 1 Life, so it helps to make all of us more aware of suicide and the difficulties facing young people. I will be running a charity night in the coming weeks to raise some funds for the organisation.”
So with just weeks to go to the big night, how is James feeling? “I can’t wait now for the festival to begin,” he said.
“I was delighted to be selected. It is a great honour to represent Longford on the international stage and I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Longford Rose Committee for all their help.”