By David Hennessy
Amy Gillen from Donegal was crowned the new Rose of London at the Rose of London ball at Clayton Hotel in Chiswick on Friday 26 May.
Amy was selected from the 16 finalists and will now go on to represent London at the international Rose of Tralee Festival in August.
Amy, 27, was born in Letterkenny and grew up in Bridgetown, Co. Donegal.
An accomplished musician, Amy graduated from the Royal College of Music in London and was awarded the Tagore Gold Medal by HRH King Charles lll.
She also performed for the King at Windsor Castle and recently released her debut album.
Amy played The Town I Love So Well on the flute on the night as her party piece.
Amy told The Irish World after the announcement: “It’s still sinking in. I cannot believe it. I’m in shock really. I didn’t expect it because there were such amazing ladies that had such inspirational stories here this evening and it’s been such a brilliant night.
“I’m just delighted. I’m over the moon to have been crowned the London Rose 2023. It is honestly a dream. I am just so happy right now.”
Asked what made her want to enter, Amy said: “It was years and years ago up in my granny’s house in Letterkenny. Myself and my cousin Elysha Brennan who was the 2015 Rose of Tralee, we actually sat in my granny’s sitting room.
“We were like, ‘We must go for the Rose of Tralee at some stage’.
“So she went for it in 2015 and for many years I was, ‘I would like to go for that at some stage, I’d love to go for the London Rose’, and I put it off for ages and I said, ‘Why not in 2023 do something different? Throw myself in and just embrace new things and new opportunities?’
“I just really wanted to meet a new group of friends and amazing ladies that I have met as part of the whole process.
“I’m grateful now for the friendships I’ve made that hopefully will continue for many years to come.
“I’ll have big shoes to fill with the amazing Hayley London Rose 2022 but I am so looking forward to this incredible journey.
“I wasn’t expecting it because it’s been such a brilliant night, a brilliant week on the London Rose tour, it’s surreal and I did get emotional.
“I did not expect it and I’m just so proud because I get to bring my Donegal roots along with my London hometown now along to the Rose of Tralee festival- I can’t believe I’m saying that, but I’m really looking forward to it.
“It seems surreal but I’m really looking forward to being the London Rose and representing London and bringing that sense of community that I’ve built in London to the Rose of Tralee festival.”
Looking ahead to Tralee Amy said: “It’s going to be absolutely unreal and to meet so many amazing people down in Tralee and to meet the other roses from all around the world, the other escorts, everyone, it’s going to be an amazing experience and I just want to enjoy it all.”
Asked what she looks forward to about the festival in Tralee Amy said: “I think it’s everything. It’s meeting the girls and building a bigger community of women that you have all around the world that you can call friends and I think that’s one of the main things but just enjoying the whole experience and representing Donegal and London
“I thought at some stage I would love to be part of it in some way but never would I have expected this, I’m just so grateful to everyone as part of the London Rose Centre for this incredible experience so far and I cannot wait to represent London in the Rose of Tralee.
“I would really like to thank my amazing sponsors Falcon Green construction recruitment company, also the Donegal Association of London, they’re amazing and Luna by Lisa sponsored me for make up for the London Rose final so I’m grateful to be wearing such an amazing Irish make up brand and also everybody who came to support me tonight, Irish Heritage charitable organization and also the ladies from the Lillington and Longmore Community Centre in my local borough of Westminster and of course my amazing family because I couldn’t be here without their incredible support.
“I’m grateful for this experience.”
Amy took the sash from 2022 Rose Hayley Reynolds.
Hayley told us: “It’s sad because the experience has been so great. You don’t want it to end because it’s been so fab but someone else has to enjoy what I’ve enjoyed, I can’t have it forever and whoever takes it on will have the best time and I’m so excited for them but I am very sad. Very, very sad.”
Asked for her highlight of her year as London Rose Hayley said: “Meeting the girls who are now friends, some of them are here tonight, people that I hadn’t known a year ago who are now very much so part of my life, that I speak to daily.
“I think it just goes to show whatever stage of life you’re at, you’re always gonna meet someone else who will make such an impact on your life at a different time and that’s exactly what’s happened.”
Also a guest on the night was the newly crowned Mayo Rose Kate Heneghan who will join Amy in Tralee at this year’s festival.
Kate, who lives in Islington, told The Irish World: “It’s a dream come true to be heading down to Tralee in August, I’ve heard so many great things about the festival and I can’t wait to experience it first hand so I’ll be really, really looking forward to August.”