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Funeral director and embalmer among Rose of Tralee 2022 hopefuls

Galway Rose Clare Ann Irwin had always wanted to get stuck into the family business but was discouraged from the profession because it’s typically thought of as a “man’s job”.

Galway Rose Clare Ann Irwin

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

A funeral director and embalmer is in the running to be crowned the Rose of Tralee this year.

Galway Rose Clare Ann Irwin had always wanted to get stuck into the family business but was discouraged from the profession because it’s typically thought of as a “man’s job”.

The 26-year-old trained as a teacher after leaving school but when the pandemic hit, with funerals in high demand, she returned home to help out and has been working at her family’s funeral home full-time ever since.

Clare is now hoping to tell her story on the Rose of Tralee stage next week to encourage young girls to follow their dreams.

Speaking at the media launch alongside host Daithi O Se, she said: “It was a big reason for me going for the Rose as well because stereotypically a funeral director and embalmer is seen as a man’s job and unfortunately like growing up it’s only me and my brother and I was never factored in, you know, to the business at all.

“And even when I did my Leaving Cert, I sat the HPAT (Health Professions Admissions Test) and all I wanted to do was pathology but even then my dad would have never said like you know what, ‘Why don’t you try doing the embalming course?’

“So that’s a big reason I went for the Galway Rose.

“I think there are a lot of jobs, predominantly like the ones that you don’t go to college for like the trades, plumbers, the electricians, that young girls will always grow up believing that they can ever do it.

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“And I just think if there had been like one female funeral director or female embalmer in Galway growing up, that I saw driving a hearse or embalming, I would have had a completely different mindset.”

Clare told the Irish Mirror that people are “gobsmacked” when they learn that she’s in the funeral business but she added that she’s happy because she’s finally doing what she loves.

“I absolutely love it and it is all positive but I still get comments all the time, being a young woman with blonde hair, working in the funeral industry.

“I absolutely love it, like I way prefer it to the teaching. I look back and I think I probably wasn’t being true to myself. I liked it. But I knew it wasn’t like my true passion.

“It’s kind of innate in me, I’ve grown up around it my whole life, but I just love helping families.

“And it’s such an honour, like when someone hands over your loved one to look after them and prepare them for their final journey and the difference you make to a family when they’re going through the worst few days.

“I find it really rewarding.”


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