By STEVEN NALLEY
Goodman. McHale. Clinton. McTiernan. McMorrow. Pogue. Ford. Dolan. Keegan. Hughes.
The family lines of 10 Irish clans intersect with Maureen Hughes, a sophomore at Mississippi State University majoring in accounting and theatre. She said she has always had a deep appreciation for Irish culture and her own heritage, but she didn’t find out just how many others in Starkville celebrate that culture until she got involved with the Golden Triangle Celts.
“It’s a really neat community, and I’m really glad to have found it,” Hughes said.
Now the GTC council has named Hughes as their 2011 Irish Rose, and she will be crowned by Mayor Parker Wiseman at 6:30 p.m. during a St. Patrick’s Day party at Mugshots on Thursday.
The party itself begins at 6 p.m., and the public is invited.
Lawes said the title of Irish Rose comes from the Rose of Tralee International Festival in Tralee, Ireland, in which young women of Irish descent from around the world compete to become the Rose. Here, Lawes said, the council simply selects a Rose without a competition, so that she can represent the GTC at events like Starkville’s annual Christmas parade and CelticFest Mississippi in Jackson.
“She’s someone that we deem that has high moral character, someone that personifies her Irish heritage, and someone we like,” Lawes said. “She was chosen because we feel that we see someone that really identifies with the Irish culture.”
Hughes said she and her family had celebrated St. Patrick’s Day and Irish heritage on both her mother’s and father’s sides of the family. She also said she had talked recently with her grandmother, Norah Wallace, about her experience coming to Manhattan from Ireland looking for work at the age of 17.
“It was really hard to find work, especially outside of farm work and things like that, and she said that it was a real eye-opening experience coming over to Manhattan,” Hughes said. “It was in New York that she ended up marrying my grandfather and then having her family, and my mother is one of seven.”
She said it was important to her to know where she had come from, to celebrate family and family values. Even aside from family ties, she said she loved Irish culture.
“The music, the dancing, the singing, everything just seems really happy,” Hughes said. “I just like how they express themselves through music and culture. It’s always been a dream of mine to go to Ireland. I’m hoping maybe in a few years, I can go over there or study abroad.”
That love of music led Hughes to sing at the GTC’s celebration of Robert Burns Day in January. Burns is considered Scotland’s national poet for both his poems and his songs, the latter of which Hughes performed at the event. It was afterward that Lawes told Hughes that the council had selected her as Irish Rose.
“I was surprised, but at the same time just really honored to have been chosen, and I’m hoping to represent them very well,” Hughes said.
Lawes said while the Irish Rose normally represents the GTC in their tent at the Cotton District Arts Festival, there would be no GTC tent this year because CDAF falls on Easter weekend. Lawes also said Hughes’ voice amazed her, but that wasn’t the reason she was chosen.
“We’ve had a couple of them that can’t sing a note,” Hughes said. “She’s just very talented. And it’s not always a young girl. It has been; we’ve had a Phi Mu from Tupelo as our first one, our second one was older, and our third one was in the veterinary school.”
She also said the Irish Rose did not have to be a GTC member. In fact, she said, because they do not require dues, the GTC does not have “memberships” per se, and its meetings and events are open to all who are interested in Celtic culture-- including Celtic culture outside of Ireland, hence the celebration of Scotland’s national poet.
The Golden Triangle Celts was established in 2003 as a free and open organization for the love and the promotion of all things Celtic and Scottish, Irish and Welsh,” Lawes said. “People come when they want to and they don’t come when they don’t want to.”
Lawes also said one other criterion had helped Hughes.
“Irish like pretty girls,” Lawes said, “so we just picked one.”