Mary O' Connor, born about 1820, was the original "Rose of Tralee". Her parents' house was in Brogue Lane in the Rock. Her father was a brogue (shoe) maker. Her mother worked as a dairymaid at Cloghers House owned by the Mulchinocks, a wealthy merchant family. One of their sons was William Pembroke, a dreamer and poet.
Mary was a dark haired beauty with very alluring eyes, but beautiful or not, she would only obtain a position as a maid or helper. At seventeen, she was employed as a kitchen maid to the Mulchinocks. Later, Maria Mulchinock chose her as maid to two small children.
William occupied himself with pastimes that wealthy young gentlemen pursued, one being a trip to the horse fair at Ballinasloe. At a ball there, he met Alice Keogh. In spite of his protestations of love, he soon returned home. When he arrived home, his sister Maria took him to see her children in the nursery where he got his first glimpse of Mary O' Connor and was completely smitten by her. He used every opportunity to meet her and eventually, they became a couple. He spent many evenings in her parents' house where he was well liked. But his family disapproved, after all she was a Catholic peasant and he a wealthy Protestant.
One night by the pure crystal fountain, he took her in his arms and asked her to marry him. She declined because she was afraid that such a marriage would end in disaster even though she loved him. One evening, he took her to the same place and sang to her the first two verses of "The Rose of Tralee".
The following evening, Daniel O' Connell held a meeting in Denny Street and William was the leader of one of the repealer groups. A fracas broke out between involving a man called Leggett, who was badly hurt. One of the policemen informed Mulchinock that he would be held responsible if Leggett died.
After the meeting, he went home where he met Mary and produced a ring, which she accepted. They were now betrothed. Suddenly his best friend, Bob Blenerhasset rushed in and told him Leggett was dead and the police would arrest him. Bob gave William a hundred gold sovereigns and his horse and told him ride to Barrow Harbour and take a ship anchored there.
William ended up in India in 1843 as a war correspondent. He became friendly with the British Commander in Chief known as "Old Gough". When Mulchinock told him the story of what happened, the general saw the injustice of it all and used his influence to enable William to return to Tralee.
In 1849, he checked into the King's Arms in the Rock. The proprietor, George Cameron served him a Cognac and then drew the curtains as a funeral was passing by. When Mulchinock inquired who was dead, the landlord said it was Mary O'Connor, The Rose of Tralee. She was approximately 29 years of age.
The only thing left to him now was to visit the grave constantly at Clogherbrien. In time he became reacquainted with Alice Keogh and married her and they eventually went to America in 1849 where they had two girls, Alice and Bernadette. But eventually, they separated and he returned to Ireland in 1855 where he found solace in drink. He never forgot his one true love and he wrote the final verse for her.
William Mulchinock lived in a lodging house in Ashe Street run by a woman named Old Biddy. He died on 13th October 1864 and was buried in Clogherbrien beside his "Rose of Tralee".
There is even a "Rose of Tralee" song
The Rose of Tralee in New Zealand is at http://www.roseoftralee.co.nz
The Rose of Tralee in Ireland is at http://www.roseoftralee.ie