Niall and Linda Trainor are used to changes in their lives, and now he's come up with a novelty baby gifts business
By his own admission, Niall Trainor isn't the most romantic of men. He proposed to his then girlfriend Linda in 1996 by stopping outside a jewellery shop in Florida and asking her if she wanted a ring, but she was, unsurprisingly, unimpressed, and said no. Shortly afterwards, he stepped up his game by booking a weekend away to Paris, where he planned to propose at the top of the Eiffel Tower.
"When we woke up, it was lashing rain, so I decided to propose in the hotel bedroom in my pyjamas," he laughs.
Happily, Linda said yes and they were married in her hometown of Sligo in 1998. They first met in a nightclub in the town in 1992 on a works night out. Linda was working in the pharmaceutical company Abbott Ireland alongside Niall's brother, whom he was visiting that weekend.
Niall comes in the middle of Pat and Alice Trainor's three sons, and grew up in Tullamore. He studied electronic engineering and telecommunications in Athlone, and used to hitch to Sligo at weekends to hang out with his brother. At 21, he spotted Linda, 23, in the nightclub, and thought she "looked gorgeous". He went straight over to chat to her, and won her over with his gregarious nature.
"He was a really cheeky chappie and very witty, and that's what got me," she says. They started dating straight away, and while Niall was attracted to her physically at first, as he got to know her he decided she was a lovely person as well.
"I'd never met a more generous, caring person in my life," he says.
After graduating, Niall took a job with telecommunications company Ericsson, and spent 17 years with them, travelling all over the world. He and Linda conducted a long-distance relationship for the first five years, and then she made the decision to move to Dublin, where Niall was based. It was a big step for her, as she was close to her six siblings and parents Phyllis and John. Upon moving to Dublin, she got a job with medical company Hospital Services, where she worked in a supervisory capacity for 10 years.
Niall spent long periods working abroad, and Linda visited him in Florida, Canada and South Africa. Linda took six months' leave of absence to be with him in 1997, and by the time it came through, he had been posted from Toronto to Libya. They lived in a compound with 100 expats and had great fun, and Linda even made clothes for the other women from gorgeous Libyan fabrics on a sewing machine she had brought over with her.
The couple now have two sons, David, 9, and Daniel, 2. David was born with painful renal complications and hip problems, resulting in the removal of one of his kidneys when he was two. It took a couple of months for the diagnosis to be made and treatment instigated, and the stress of dealing with a sick child, plus a bout of post-natal depression that Linda subsequently experienced, accounts for the gap between the two boys. Thankfully David is doing amazingly well these days and is a super soccer player, according to his parents.
The family moved from Dublin to Tullamore when David was four, and Linda worked at a variety of jobs, including a contract with MABS, the Money Advice and Budgeting Service. Meanwhile, Niall was still on the road a lot, and the travelling eventually took its toll on him. When the telecoms firm he worked for was taken over and later liquidated, he decided not to stay in the telecommunications industry.
The idea for the business Prints4Gifts that the pair now run came about a year and a half ago, after Niall did a FAS course in graphic design. While trying to come up with an unusual present for his brother's new baby, Niall bought a frame and designed a fun, underwater scene containing baby Zoe's name, date and time of birth, weight and a message from himself and Linda. His brother loved it so much that he commissioned five more for friends' babies, and the business snowballed.
Niall invested his redundancy money in frames and equipment, came up with new designs and products, and completed a 'start your own business' course and business development programme. The company now does fabulous personalised gifts for babies and family members, including celebratory frames, CDs with songs containing the child's name, funky soother clips and handcrafted jewellery, and its products are perfect for anyone wanting to give something different and personal.
Linda says Niall is the networker, and is determined to make the fledgling business a success. A perfectionist, who is very thorough and precise about the quality of the products, his stellar ability at sales came as a surprise to his wife.
"Niall is a very good dad and husband," she says. "He can be a bit blunt and tactless at times, and needs a kick up the bum every now and then, like most men, but he has a heart of gold underneath it. I'd definitely be the more serious one and the worrier, but Niall lightens things up and tells me not to worry."
Niall says that while he's running the show out front, Linda is the one who keeps everything moving behind the scenes. "
I don't know how she does it," he marvels, adding that the only thing that drives him mad about his wife is that she likes to leave the lights on everywhere and the heating on the whole time.
"Linda is very selfless and always puts me and the children before herself, and she's involved with the school and community. The house and the business just wouldn't function without her."
Check out Linda and Niall's range of personalised baby and family gifts on www.prints4gifts.com